"Fact," "Opinion" and "Argument"
In logic and critical thinking studies it is important to denote the differences in these terms. Oddly, this goes over the heads of a lot of modern critics.
- A fact is a statement that is true.
- An opinion is a statement a person holds to be true.
- An argument is a set of statements one makes to prove a conclusion.
- Cats are Animals (Fact).
- I think cats are awesome (Opinion).
- Cats can make meow sounds, I think meow sounds are annoying, therefore cats are annoying (Argument).
- Remember that a statement is often either a "statement of fact" or "statement of opinion". In some cases our "facts" are based on our current understanding, and in some cases we just can't test it yet. Saying "There is life on other planets" is a statement of fact, whether it is actually valid or not is something we can't firmly answer although there clearly would be a factual yes or no answer.
- However remember while that is a statement of fact, "I think there is life on other planets" is a statement of opinion. You hold it to be true. While the subject of the opinion might be true, the statement is of what you think making it your opinion, not a fact.
- Lastly, the most confusing this gets will crop back up later or in your school papers. The statement "I have the opinion _____", is a fact. It is a fact you have the opinion. It inherently says nothing about the opinion itself.
To compare this with another logical set of terms: Sound/Valid/True
- A fact is by default true. You can validate a fact by proving it to be true.
- An opinion is never actually true or false. It can also not be validated. The person who holds it believes it to be true, others may only "accept" or "reject" it.
- An argument can be given the complete round of and could be true, valid or sound as detailed on the other page.
Applying Real Life Examples
- Facts are often found many places. In text books, in documents. This one is the simplest.
- Opinions are of course dealing with anything that is subjective. Art critiques are intentionally opinions. The person is giving the artist their thoughts on the subject. They hold what they say to be true, but that does not make it something that could be validated.
- Arguments are found in critical thinking pieces. In school when you write essays for a grade, you were writing an argument. You were attempting to make a conclusion based on evidence in a text. Your argument could have been true and sound, but you would have been graded on if it was valid. Also making an analysis on a work of art is an argument, as in both cases you put aside your bias and think objectively.
- One thing that should not be taken for granted here is to remember that in some cases the qualifier "I" is important. As if you state something without it, someone would assume you are making a statement of fact, not a statement of opinion.
- Also while we use this theory in a mirco level, you can get a major brainfuzz if you apply it to micro levels, as while you can't make an argument on a opinion, you can make an argument based on the fact someone has a specific opinion. This in a lot of cases if what you do in those above mentioned papers. You could show off by breaking it down into a full logical form, but in that case it's more work then needed.
Applying to Critical Circles
The critical community has changed a lot over time, and this information has been skipped over in more modern times. There has always been room for opinion critics and argument critics, but without the proper definitions many are cherry picking to apply where. In older schools of thought, the argument critics were more profound, but following the industrial revolution critics recommending media to the public saw a rise in opinion critics.
Common Flaws include
- Some People are prone to use the macro level to try to muddy the waters on the line between "fact" and "opinion". But a good way to check for errors here is to see if they use the words "argument" and "statement" as they should.
- A critic makes an opinion but holds it as if it's a fact. (aka saying "this movie sucks because of X" (claim of fact) vs "I think this movie sucks because of X" (claim of opinion))
- A critic makes a statement of opinion but acts as if it's objective argument (usually in defense when someone rejects the opinion)
- A critic will dismiss a fact in favor of claiming it is altered by opinion bias
- A critic will hold their work is to be respected like arguments are (for example in the academic setting) even if all their work are actually opinions.
- A critic will make an opinion that is treated as an argument but keep excluding opposing other viewpoints as being a No True Scotsman
- An addition to this can happen if the critic believes in the Nostalgia Filter, they could attack other opinions if they feel their opinions are not being their so-called "objective" because of blindness to the past.
By contrast, there are also some mistakes of this logical process in rebuttals as well:
- It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: In such examples both parties argue as if opinions are to be held as if they are critical think pieces.
- Moff’s Law: A trope wherein one should understand that both exist and shouldn't have to fight, but lack of knowing so often leads to heated arguments.
- Reviews Are the Gospel: Again treating critiques as higher than opinions.
- True Art: The argument that only works that can be critical thought about are worthy.