Facts And Opinions

Facts and opinions are very different things. I sometimes hear students tell me that all the ideas anyone has are merely their opinions, and that we cannot argue about these. This is not true.

Facts, Opinions and Impersonal Propositional Statements:

Any knowledge claim will be expressed as a factual statement. Factual Statements are necessarily expressed as Impersonal Propositional Statements(IPS). However, not all IPS's are facts. "There is extraterrestrial life on Jupiter" is an IPS, and as such, it has the form of a "statement of fact." However, because I cannot show this statement to be true using our currently accepted methods of justification, it only expresses an opinion. "The earth is the third planet in our solar system" is a valid statement of fact because I can show you that it is true. This is something to be careful of— it is very easy to express opinions as if they were valid statements of fact- it is your job as a TOK student to learn to critically evaluate such claims to knowledge!

- A fact, on the other hand, is something that can be shown to be true using our accepted methods of justification. "The Earth is the third planet in our solar system" is a fact.

- An opinion is a belief that one holds about anything in particular, but which cannot yet be shown to be true using accepted methods of justification. "There is intelligent life on other planets other than earth" is an opinion because I can't demonstrate this to be true.

- Opinions become facts if we show them to be true. For example, I believe that there are aliens
somewhere in the universe. That's my opinion, and many others have a similar belief. If we could
demonstrate this using accepted methods of justification, the existence of extra-terrestrial life would
become a fact. Until then, it is an opinion

- A Matter of opinion is something that cannot possibly be true of false, since it is completely subjective. The truth of the statement depends on me (it isn't independent). You may disagree with me that dark chocolate tastes better than milk chocolate, but there really is no point in arguing that I am wrong. This opinion rests on no belief and requires no justification. Matters of opinion depend on your tastes, and no amount of reasoning will make me think milk chocolate tastes better than dark.

Where things get complicated:

We have seen that a statement becomes a "statement of fact" if it can be shown to be true using our accepted methods of justification. Furthermore, in accordance with our understanding of truth, facts should be independent, public and eternal. The eternal part proves to be somewhat difficult, since, sometimes, what was once a fact no longer is.
"The earth is flat" was once a statement of fact, but it no longer is. If you thought this was true, it would only be your (mistaken) opinion. In much the same way, there are certainly things that we believe to be true now, to be facts, that will be proven mistaken later on.
Furthermore, because our understanding of a valid claim to knowledge is now mainly one of probability, the issue of subjective evaluation becomes important. Facts then quickly become dependent upon our theory of truth.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License