Humans spend about 50% of their speaking time arguing. What if I told you that we almost always take part in arguments without having a real opinion of our own?
Knowing where you stand ≠ having an opinion
When we argue, we do so because we have a gut feeling, an ethical intuition on what is right. Have a look at the following issues:
- Should marijuana be legalized?
- Should guns be banned?
- Should euthanasia be legal?
- Should the death penalty be banned?
You probably have a position on those issues. This doesn’t mean that we have an opinion – far from it. Having an opinion requires to meet two criteria:
1) You need to be able to give the reasons why your position is workable, useful and moral
2) You need to be able to demonstrate that your position is more workable, useful and moral than the alternative option
How to have an opinion?
There is a simple way to test whether you really have an opinion on a given issue. It consists in filing the following table:
In order to file the workability line, you need to think in a very practical way. For instance, if I want to argue that marijuana should be legalized, I need to prove that it is possible to do so. One way would be to provided examples of states where it already happened.
In order to file the usefulness line, you need to figure out the consequences, good and bad, of the decision. For instance, if I want to argue against the legalization of marijuana, I could say: “Young people start to smoke marijuana because it is cool to do something forbidden. If we legalize marijuana, young people will start using stronger and more dangerous drugs”.
In order to file the morality line, you need to ground alternative options on universal values. For instance, if I want to argue against the legalization of marijuana, I could ground my opinion on the value of care: “Smoking marijuana is bad for physical and mental health”. Conversely, I could support legalization by grounding my opinion on the value of equity: “although there are as many users amongst white and blacks people, black people are twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession”.
The more creative you are in finding arguments for both side, the more learned your opinion will be.
Now be honest: have you ever had an opinion? 😉