a fellow thinker’s thoughts

February 8th, 2010

TheThinkMovement.com by j. sakiya sandifer

By James Garvey

Is being opinionated a virtue or a vice? Is it a good trait in a philosopher?  I’m with Socrates in thinking that definitions really come at the end of an enquiry, not the beginning, so I don’t want to pin the notion down right at the start.  There are, though, two philosophical types.  One gets mentioned to prospective students in the promotional literature: philosophers are open-minded free enquirers, willing to question everything, resolute denouncers of dogmatism, pursuers of the truth, followers of arguments wherever they might lead — at this point you may wish to rise, stare into the middle distance, and allow the wind to blow back your hair.  This creature is mostly fictional. Maybe it’s just our way of luring easy targets to introductory classes.

The other philosophical type, much more common, is the opinionated philosopher, the philosopher who is entirely convinced of her position, presuppositions, worldview, definitions, arguments, etc.  Such a peron will fight her corner constantly, relentlessly, hammering all intuitions to fit her propositions.  Counter-examples make no sense, other views are incoherent, objections unfounded, and on and on.

Who is the better philosopher?  Different question: who is more likely to have tenure?

Zoom out a little and think about the wider world.  Those of us with settled opinions are more likely to speak up, take action, and get results in line with our settled views than head-scratchers reading books in the shade of trees.  The movers and shakers, if we still have those, are largely people who think what they think regardless.  Flexible thinkers look weak by comparison.  I’m told by friends in the states that opinions there are so entrenched and divided that rational debate is no longer possible.  You get a view, a blank stare, and the opposing view, another blank stare and maybe an insult or knowing head shake, and on and on.   How can reason get a hearing when opinion shouts so loudly?

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Entry Filed under: Fellow Thinker, Think About It!

1 Comment

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  • 1. Omphile  |  February 11th, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    Everyone hast an opinion.

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