CRITICAL THINKING


WOULD YOU TAKE THAT OPINION SERIOUSLY?

There is a saying that “everyone is entitled to their opinions.” But Professor Patrick Stokes, a professor of philosophy at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, would disagree with that statement. According to Stokes, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can legitimately argue for.”


When he says that you’re not entitled to your opinion, he doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to have tastes and preferences. Maybe you prefer the mystery genre over the science fiction genre or vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream. That’s totally fine. He is also not saying that you’re not allowed to say whatever you want about any topic you choose, nor that someone will stop you if you try. You’re free to hop on Twitter, for example, and insist that the world is flat if you feel like doing so.


What Professor Stokes is saying, however, is that when you express opinions about subjects for which you don’t have the requisite education, training, or deep knowledge in, you shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously, at least not by anyone who genuinely understands those subjects. That’s what he means when he states that you’re not “entitled” to those opinions—you are not entitled to those opinions to be taken seriously.


That is not an elitist position. That is simply a position that recognizes that no one can be an expert on everything, and like it or not, certain subject matters do require many years of study and training. If, for example, someone didn’t read a book but told you that book was bad, would you take that opinion seriously?


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NL #18