Beliefs and Opinions
The first thing to acknowledge is that most people don’t know what the word opinion actually means. It is not simply your random thoughts on a subject. An Opinion is not something to be held without factual supporting evidence. Without evidence to support a position, it is merely a guess, not an actual opinion.
An opinion is a judgment based on things the person perceives as facts, it is an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from “factual evidence”. Unlike an opinion, a belief is an assumption or conviction based on cultural biases, personal or religious faith.
However, with the magnitude of information from sources with varying levels of credibility we are bombarded with daily, what we consider factual evidence has become watered down. We will believe any information that confirms our biases as fact, and any information that is contradictory as a false statement.
What is the difference between justified belief and opinion?
As stated above, an opinion is a judgment based on perceived factual evidence. A justified belief, on the other hand, is simply a belief that is believed to be true because the holder found justification for the belief. But that is exactly what a belief is, there is no difference between a justified belief and a belief.
People do not believe in things without having a justification for believing them. As soon as you have factual evidence to support a belief it becomes an opinion, not a justified belief.
Is a belief a fact?
The simple answer is a belief is not a fact. A belief is a position held based on faith. Faith is belief in spite of any supporting evidence or facts. It is a fact that people hold beliefs, and having beliefs are a fact of life, but by definition, a belief is a belief because it is not a fact.
Very often people misuse the word fact when they mean truth. Truth and facts are different. A belief can be true to the believer, while not being factual. Truth is subjective because the truth is based on perspective and perception.
How is opinion different from truth?
Opinion differs from the truth because opinion is based on factual evidence while the truth is in the eye of the beholder. Because the truth is based on perspective and perception it can mean different things to different people. Two people can see the same thing at the same time and hold two different truths about what they saw.
In the session, I often have clients sitting on the sofa across from me and I’ll have them look from where they are and describe my coffee cup to me. From their perspective, they can usually only see a black cup with a silver stripe across the top in a plastic lid.
I then explain that from my perspective I see a very different cup. I then ask them if they are telling the truth. I’ll show them what I see from my perspective, that there is a logo and handle on the cup as well. This is often when I see a little light bulb go off as they understand that their truth was the cup had no logo or handle, but it didn’t change the fact that the cup actually had both.
This means that their belief that the cup had no logo or handle was not supported by any factual evidence, so they could not legitimately form an opinion about the cup. But in absence of fact, people are often willing to substitute fact for truth, which means they believed the cup was as they saw it. They then formed an opinion about the cup based on their belief.
Because, an opinion must be based on fact, and truth does not require any factual evidence, they are completely opposite.
What are the similarities between fact and opinion?
The first thing to remember about facts and opinions is what each of them means. An opinion as stated above is an honest attempt to draw a reasonable conclusion from factual evidence. Because opinion requires fact to be drawn, you cannot have an opinion without first having fact to draw a conclusion or judgment. Facts, however, do not require opinion at all, so it is a one-way relationship.
Facts and opinions are very different, I like to think of it like this: Imagine that an opinion is like a hamburger patty and that facts are like ground beef. You don’t need hamburger patties to make ground beef, but you have to have ground beef to make a hamburger patty.