The “O” in Opinions

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“An obstinate man does not hold opinions, but they hold him.”

— Pope

We see in ourselves an egocentric attachment to small devotions and to ideas as things. Two-thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius said, “Today I have escaped from all trouble, or rather, I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside me, but within, and in my opinions.”

“Opinion” is often used as a pejorative word, one that people use to dismiss a viewpoint with which they disagree, the implication being that the one who expressed a thought is perhaps not properly educated on a subject, or lacks good judgment. We might think that the “O” in the thinker’s “opinion” has become a confining circle.  On the other hand, it can be a sign of thought and character to adopt a definite viewpoint. 

“Why don’t you be dominant once in a while, unshakable, sure, masterful?… To defer always, to be nice always, to go along always—this is no high ideal. It is foolishness, it becomes tiresome. Go ahead, be forceful. Make them hear! Have an effect… How will anything be achieved if you don’t assert the facts as you see them? How can you deal with people at all unless you have a thought, say it straight, and give it what it’s worth, make it heard.”

How to Like People, Robert Jackson

Here we see the word “opinion” also has a more benign meaning, namely a judgment or estimation of the merit of a thing or individual—in this sense there is value in having an opinion and speaking it truly. The catch is, that to merit this benevolent sense of the word we would need to be informed on the subject and to have applied some illuminated thought power to it. Yet we often–and rightly–suspect our own diligence and question if the “O” in our opinion is sufficiently large and inclusive.

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