Friday, July 30, 2010

What is means to say something is a matter of opinion

What does it mean to say that something is a matter of opinion? You could mean

1) Claims about subject matter X can neither be true nor false absolutely. Thus, a typical matter of opinion in this sense would be the question of whether McDonald's burgers are better tasting than Burger King's. There can't be any sense of saying that someone erroneously believes that McDonald's burgers are better when they are not, since each person's personal taste decides it for them. This would be a personal, as opposed to a cultural relativism.

Or, you could mean

2) Rational persons can disagree about subject matter X. An reasonable person, examining all of the relevant evidence, could decide the question either way. So, for example, with the question of whether there is life on other planets equivalent in intelligence to our own, many people think that we are not in a position to settle the question for sure one way or the other. However, the question has a true-or-false answer, but we are not in a position to determine which, because we don't have enough information. The question of whether or not there is a God is sometimes thought of being a matter of opinion in sense 2, but most would agree that either there is a God or there isn't.

5 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'Thus, a typical matter of opinion in this sense would be the question of whether McDonald's burgers are better tasting than Burger King'

Or whether Mozart's music is better music than that cat on You Tube walking up and down the keys?

Some people like Mozart. Some like the cat. Philosophers claim nobody can say that Mozart is better than the cat.

Eric said...

Here's another clear exposition from Ed Feser on what it means to say that something is a matter of opinion (or fact).

Eric said...

"Philosophers claim nobody can say that Mozart is better than the cat."

Many do, but far from all. According to the recent Philpapers survey, about 40% of philosophers think aesthetic value is objective, while about 36% think it's subjective (the remaining 24% are classified as "other"). If you haven't yet seen Roger Scruton's "Beauty" (or better yet, read his book by the same name), I'd highly recommend it. You can find it on youtube.

John W. Loftus said...

"Thus, a typical matter of opinion in this sense would be the question of whether McDonald's burgers are better tasting than Burger King's."

Would a scientific poll help answer this question with a yes or no? Think: The Pepsi challenge in the 80's where it was shown that people liked Pepsi over Coke which made Coke change their formula and had a backlash with die hard Coke fans.

Earl McGuire said...

Mozart rocks on!!!!