Here are some thoughts I had:
AN ILLUSION OF TRUTH – THE “SYSTEMIZATION OF OPINION”
It seems, to me, that most of what is called “knowledge” is nothing but opinion. That means that all the studies and research are just a form of opinion and are not some great truth.
The problem is that these opinions are being passed off as science or as absolute truth. In fact, I think science, in particular, has created a great myth about knowledge and truth. It has given this idea that if there is any form of “systemizing” of knowledge (such as through organizing information, research, and experimentation) then the results are true. In actuality, all that is being created is a “systemizing of opinion”. Its like creating a structure out of opinions much like building blocks. This “systemizing” gives an illusion of truth . . . but it doesn’t mean that it is true. In other words, the “systemization” of knowledge, that science does, is deceiving and misleading.
It seems, to me, that almost all knowledge is opinion. Very few things are “sealed in stone” and absolute. This includes things like biology, history, economics, and so on, that is generally viewed as being absolute. It even includes everything I think and write. In fact, the more I think about things, and look at knowledge, the less “solid” it all appears . . . everything starts to look like opinion.
I’ve often said that everything should be considered opinion unless it can fulfill requirements such as these:
- It can be measured
- It can be controlled
- It can be put in a controlled environment
- It can be repeated
About the only thing that fit these requirements are some aspects of physics and chemistry and, even then, most of those fields are made up of opinion.
Opinions, as I use it here, are points of views that tend to be variable and are forever changing. Because of this, they are not definite, solid, or a science. This means that almost all the “stuff” coming from science, research, studies, the Universities, investigations, etc. are all opinion. It also means that almost all of the classes at the University, textbooks, books at the library, articles, documentaries, etc. are all opinion.
Last year I walked through the library at a University and looked down the aisles at all the books. There were rows and rows of books, one after another. I thought, “and just think . . . these are nothing but opinions!” I then went on to say, ” . . . and the University is trying to make a science out of all these opinions, as if there is some great order in all of them and that they will reveal some great truth.” I wondered what would happen if you could get all those opinions and put them together, if a single image of the world would be created. I felt that what you’d have is endless contradiction and conflict, many of which would have no solution. In this way, I said that the library at the University is not a “library of knowledge”, as I was told, but a “library of irreconcilable opinions”. The opinions that do “fit together” make up what can be called a “school of thought” or, rather, a “school of opinion”. In this way, the University, and knowledge in general, is actually made up of different “schools of opinion” that, in actually, conflict with each other.
I also tend to think that a lot of “new discoveries” are not discoveries at all but, rather, new opinions that offer new interpretations that only appear to be “new”. This is why there are always new discoveries and they keep coming and coming, endlessly.
My feelings is that most everything should be viewed as opinion. The problem with opinions, as I said above, is that they are not “solid” or definite. How, then, does one view opinions? Every day we are being bombarded with opinions that are portrayed as fact. One way to explain how the situation of opinion should be looked at is an interesting thing I said about movie reviews . . .
THE PROBLEM OF MOVIE REVIEWS
I’ve never been impressed by movie reviews. I seldom agree with them. What I found is that it wasn’t that they were wrong or right but that, in actuality, movie reviews reflect the opinion of the reviewer. As a result of this, I began to say that one shouldn’t believe just any reviewer. Instead, a person should find a reviewer that reflects ones likes and dislikes and use them as a guide and disregard all the other reviewers. To listen to anyone else is like being misled, in a way, and only leads to confusion.
A SIMILAR ATTITUDE TOWARD KNOWLEDGE
I tend to feel that this same attitude should be taken with knowledge or, rather, opinion. In other words, a person shouldn’t immediately believe any statement of knowledge that one hears. A person needs to find the knowledge, or perspective, that reflects ones point of view and focus on that. What this means is that one needs to find a “school of opinion” that one can relate to. Otherwise, a person is going to hear a bunch of “stuff” that is contradictory and confusing. If a person does this then a person is only going to get confused listening to all the various opinions. I tend to believe that all the opinions and interpretations people hear, nowadays, are why many people are so confused.
ITS BECOME A DEMOLITION DERBY
To me, assuming all knowledge – that is, opinions – are correct is like being in a demolition derby, with ideas flying here and there crashing into each other and ending up in a big massive heap. As far as I’m concerned, knowledge is becoming one big massive heap. In fact, knowledge and the learning environment, nowadays, is so much like a demolition derby that I jokingly speak of the “learning derby” or “knowledge derby”.
It seems, to me, that this “knowledge derby” is creating a particular quality of stupidity. This is primarily because of the tendency where people believe whatever they hear. But, as I said, all the information and knowledge has become a demolition derby of ideas and principles that clash and conflict with one another. If a person believes all these conflicting ideas then one develops a perception of the world that is a mishmash of conflicting ideas. The result . . . a particular quality of stupidity.
INTERPRETATIONS – PERSONAL RELEVANCE
The reason why a person should follow similar points of view is because knowledge is opinion and opinions are a matter of how a person wants to interpret things. This means a number of things:
- There are different points of view
- There is no single point of view
- Interpretation depends on the person
The point of this is that knowledge, opinions, and interpretations are not a science or absolute. Regardless of how we try to create a “one interpretation” there will always be variations. The reason for this is that opinions are subjective because interpretations are “personal”, reflecting what is personally relevant to a person. In some ways, there is a progression of interpretation, opinion, and knowledge that goes much like this:
- Interpretation . . . find personal relevance in something
- Opinion . . . a statement of what is personally relevant
- Knowledge . . . a formal representation of opinion
In this way, we see that everything rests on personal relevance. Once personal relevance reaches the knowledge stage it tends to become rigid and”dead information” and, as a result, often loses its personal relevance. Because of this, it seems that a person should not seek knowledge but interpretation or, rather, personal relevance. In short, a person must find a “connection” with knowledge, that makes it personally relevant . . .
“LEARNING” AND PERSONAL RELEVANCE
It seems, to me, that a person “learns” by focusing on knowledge, opinions, and interpretations that one relates with and not by believing everything one hears and assuming its true. Because of this, “learning” is closely associated with personal relevance.
In many ways, it is personal relevance that “opens” a person up to learning and exposes them to it. When there is no personal relevance knowledge just become dead “information” and “stuff”. In this way, the need for a relation to something, through personal relevance, shows that “learning” is something that is already “in” the person, so to speak. Knowledge and “learning” basically “brings out” qualities that are already in a person. I’ve always felt that this is one of the main powers of knowledge.
THERE’S NO GUARANTEEING THE BEST INTERPRETATION
I should also point out that things like these don’t necessarily mean that its the best interpretation:
- The time investigating a subject
- Degrees or qualifications
- Systems of measurement
Of course, depending on the subject matter, some of these things can play a critical and important role (such as with a medical doctor or chemist). But, in general, they aren’t as important as it seems. What this means is that nothing guarantees the best opinion and interpretation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INITIAL REFLECTION
Some of the best interpretations I’ve heard are from people who have only “casually” looked at the subject or looked at things for the first time. I often think that there is often a point where a person has “looked at a specific subject too much”. I find that this happens to me often and I will literally cease thinking about a subject for weeks, months, and even years, almost forgetting it. I then have to “rediscover it” and as if see it again with new eyes. In other words, I have to keep seeing subjects with new eyes or else it becomes a “dead subject”. To me, some of the most powerful insight I have comes from this “initial” reflection, when I look at things with new eyes. Because of this, I tend to rotate through subjects, going from here to there, and not seeing some subjects for long periods of time.
OPINIONS AS AN IN-THE-REAL-WORLD PHENOMENA
I should point out that all this doesn’t mean that opinions are bad. How can that be? Everything is opinion. The problem, really, is the tendency to take opinions too seriously, as fact, which is an easy thing to do.
To me, opinions are transitory and reactive. This is because opinions are a phenomena that is reacting to the real world in real time . . . that’s its nature and purpose. As a result, they are ever-changing and varied. It also shows that opinions are a natural way of associating with the world and has helped humanity survive for centuries. In other words, the transitory and reactive quality of opinion is natural and a part of self-preservation.
My own observation is that I can say one thing one day and contradict it the next or that one seemed right one day is wrong the next day. This shows that its not the idea of the opinion that matters but, rather, the reaction to the event-as-it-happens. In this society, which worships knowledge, we are told that the idea is what’s important. But, it seems to me, that it is the event that’s important and dictates what we do and how we view things. This means that the nature of opinion is that it is a second-by-second reacting to the event-as-it-happens. Things that affect this second-by-second reacting include:
- The cause of the event
- The subtleties of the event
- The mood of the times
- Ones mood
- Ones character
- Ones experience
- Ones knowledge of oneself
All these can make opinions change from day to day.
The problem is that the “systemization of opinion”, which is so prevalent nowadays, destroys that in-the-real-world quality of opinion and turns it into rigid and dead information which causes a dilemma. The more “systemization of opinion” we have the less in-the-real world we become. In addition, we become less natural and lose the self-preserving quality of opinion. In short, the “systemization of opinion” tends to alienate.
All this means that this point of view is a refuting of the authority of studies, research, knowledge, science, and education. They are not what they seem or pretend to be. In fact, I seem to feel that we need to begin to refute all these. I know that I am.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen