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On the nature of "opinions" and effective disagreements
#1
I'm posting this in the Philosophy section because, while it pertains to the practical business of how we communicate with and express disagreements to one another, the ensuing discussion that I'd like to see take place will inevitably touch on "philosophical" questions about the nature of "opinion" as such and the purposes that opinions serve in both our daily lives as individuals and in our joint capacities to affect a broader project of radical social change. My hope for this thread is to not only develop strategies for communicating effectively and approaching disagreements constructively within the confines of this forum, but also to take a critical look at "opinion" as a concept, its purposes, its uses, and its limitations.

I'm not proposing that we develop any set of codified "rules" for how we engage in discussion with each other, but that we examine more closely how we each relate to our own opinions on a subjective level, why we feel the need to hold them in the first place (if, in fact, we do), and how we think that the opinions we hold may or may not limit our ability to see things from other points of view. Just keep in mind that the purpose of this thread is not to discuss the specifics of what you believe or don't believe, but the role that "belief" in general plays in your life and how you relate to your environment. With all of this preamble out of the way, I'd like to propose the following questions for discussion:

1) What do you think an "opinion" actually is what purposes do opinions serve on both a social and psychological level?

2) Do you see yourself as possessing definite opinions about why the world is the way it is and how it ought to be? If so, what do you feel that your opinions bring to your life that you wouldn't otherwise have if you held no opinions whatsoever?

3) Do you feel that your opinions ever play a negative or limiting role in how you relate to yourself, the world, and other people? If so, how do you attempt to mitigate these negative/limiting aspects?

4) What do you think productive disagreements look like and have you ever had a disagreement (either online or in the "real world") where both you and the person(s) you disagreed with went away from it feeling respected and that you actually learned something from each other? If so, what strategies or attitudes made this possible?

5) Do you think its actually possible and/or desirable to hold no opinions whatsoever? If so, what would this look like and how might it be achieved?

For further reading on why I'm raising these questions to begin with, you may want to check out a very short article called "Belief: The Enemy of Thinking," from Willful Disobedience, Vol. 1, No. 2, which can be found here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/v...-1-2#toc25
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#2
Interesting thread. Thanks you for starting it.

(Sat, 08 Jul 2017 02:59:42 +0000, 02:59 AM)Matt Wrote: 1) What do you think an "opinion" actually is what purposes do opinions serve on both a social and psychological level?
I am not a language prescriptivist, but let me define "opinion" nevertheless, so that you may arrest me if I am talking about something which you aren't. An opinion is an idea, conclusion, belief, and so on, that some*one* has formed — from thought — about something. The someone can be anyone capable of forming an opinion, and the something can be anything that someone is capable of forming an opinion about.

An opinion, or conclusion, is the response of memory. Let us perhaps begin with "what is thinking." Thinking is the movement of thought through time, the response of memory. Thinking is recognition — to re-cognise. Memory is formed when we think about our observations and experiences, and about our previous thoughts — the thoughts kind of snowball on each other. Ideas, opinions, conclusions, all come from this process called thinking.

The purposes they serve are many, and intersectional. So I'll leave that until later into the discussion, lest I'll be writing here forever — I am quite hungry, you know.

But I will say that as long as there are ideas, there is conflict. Thoughts are from the past, as I said above, whereas the things we want to observe are in the present. And just like I cannot observe into the future, my thoughts, which are in the past, cannot think into the present. When I look at a mountain, and have some sort of idea about what the mountain is, I cannot observe the mountain, because I am stuck in my idea, my image of what the mountain is. "If I have my hand in front of my eyes, I cannot see the sun" is usually used to mean that if you have an image of God, you cannot see God — but the quote will do just fine for my mountain as well. Furthermore, if you are standing beside me, with your own image of the mountain, then not only is there conflict between me and the mountain, and you and the mountain — the observers and the observed — but there's even conflict between us, because our observations and experiences are different, and so our images are different. There's a conflict even between the observers.

Opinions and conclusions are ideas — man-made, reifications, and so on. And in order to form an opinion, there must be something to form an opinion on. You cannot have an opinion if you do not have an idea that you can have an opinion on. Opinions are as such one step further alienated. An opinion is an idea about an idea, if you will. The word "mountain" is not the mountain, and your opinion on the word "mountain" is *definitely* not the mountain.

If we are to end conflict, we must come together as friends, put away our ideas and conclusions and opinions and so on, and *observe*. We cannot go into the unknown through the known. Once we see what really is, not what we think it should be, we are free, together in our creative nothings (to borrow a phrase), to act spontaneously and freely.

Quote:2) Do you see yourself as possessing definite opinions about why the world is the way it is and how it ought to be?
No.

Quote:3) Do you feel that your opinions ever play a negative or limiting role in how you relate to yourself, the world, and other people?
Always!

Quote:If so, how do you attempt to mitigate these negative/limiting aspects?
By realising that the opinion is absurd, which in turn makes it powerless.


Quote:4) What do you think productive disagreements look like and have you ever had a disagreement (either online or in the "real world") where both you and the person(s) you disagreed with went away from it feeling respected and that you actually learned something from each other? If so, what strategies or attitudes made this possible?
As I said above, when there are opinions there are conflict — both between the observers and the observed, and between the would-be observers themselves. Persuasion is the violence in which X tries to convince, via rhetoric, Y that X's opinions are somehow superior, and that Y should accept and adopt them. This is authoritarian. There is no connection. But if we put away these conclusions, and come together as friends inquiring for truth by observing the world, there is connection and relationship, and then there is the freedom to spontaneously act.

Quote:5) Do you think its actually possible and/or desirable to hold no opinions whatsoever? If so, what would this look like and how might it be achieved?
Perhaps it is desirable — it is in any event not possible, so the desirability isn't that interesting to talk about, to me. You'll note that I described forming ideas, and opinions by extension, as the *response* of memory, above. I chose that word intentionally, because it conveys what I mean. Thinking is a reaction. Much like urinating. We cannot avoid forming opinions altogether. Someone plays an instrument, most immediately think "I like that" or "I do not like that." We must defecate, so, sooner or rather, we defecate.

But what we can do is realise the absurdity of it all, and make our opinions and ideas powerless. There is no reason you should accept any authority whatsoever. When you accept an idea or opinion, perhaps especially when you accept your own ideas or opinions, you are feebly submitting yourself to self-imposed slavery. Catch yourself thinking, and realise how absurd that is. Then reject all authority.

Quote:For further reading on why I'm raising these questions to begin with, you may want to check out a very short article called "Belief: The Enemy of Thinking," from Willful Disobedience, Vol. 1, No. 2, which can be found here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/v...-1-2#toc25

I read that article at some point, because someone else shared it with me. I would not be surprised if I am as alien to the author(s) as those that believe in fairies, because I see no real distinction between believing and thinking. Side note: in my native language, you'd say "I believe…" instead of "I think…" because there is no distinction.
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#3
Thanks for the provocative response, Alexander. I don't have a whole lot to add at the moment because so much of your comment resonates with my own thinking and because I wanted to give others an opportunity to chime in. But, seeing as that hasn't happened yet, I at least wanted to acknowledge your post and offer up a few brief thoughts of my own.

Your point about the formation of opinions being a response to memory is well received. This made me think of a quote I once heard that I only recently learned was by Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." I could go on at length about the interesting questions that this raises about the movement of time itself as it relates to the unconscious mind and the process of thinking; but, for now, I'll just mention in passing that it really does a number on the whole idea of linear temporality and a "science" of historical processes.

On recognizing the absurdity of one's own opinions, I would certainly tend to agree with you that this is a more practical approach than attempting to abandon them entirely. I would also add that, at least for me, the recognition of this absurdity is where my broader critique of "ideology" begins. I remember when I first started taking an interest in post-left and anti-civ ideas, a lot of the literature that I encountered would seemingly base their critiques of ideology on the premise that adopting an oppositional stance toward it is tantamount to escaping it entirely.

While a lot of this literature (Wolfi Landstreicher being a notable example) was and remains a profound influence on my own thinking, I was never completely sold on the idea that "rejecting" ideology was as simple as shrugging it off and being done with it. Acknowledging one's own opinions and refusing to be a slave to them by recognizing their inherent absurdity seems like a far more reasonable response to me. Still, as absurd as opinions admittedly are, I am hesitant to say that there is nothing in them that is of value. Perhaps not the opinion itself but something the opinion glosses over - an unacknowledged desire, a disproportionate emotional investment in a particular idea or potential outcome, etc.

As much as open-mindedness and flexibility in one's viewpoint is a worthwhile aspiration to have, I think even the most most open-minded people can slide back into dogmatism from time to time. I know I sometimes catch myself doing it, and I don't think I'd be going too far out on a limb by saying that others commenting here probably catch themselves doing it as well. We are, after all, posting on a website called "anti-civ.org," the very title of which posits a definite opinion on the undesirability of "civilization" as such. I guess, on some level, I would have to acknowledge that even this opinion is absurd; but, nonetheless, it doesn't stop me from holding it.
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#4
I pretty much totally agree with Alexander here, except on a few points.

On the definition of opinion, I think it would be best to just define it as "an idea about the nature of reality." Analyzing where it comes from is pointless. Opinions are created, and when I notice their existence, I can choose to ignore them, or hold onto them. I find it funny that there were so many words put into Alexander's laying out of his opinion of opinions, only to later say that opinions are always negative. I'm not trying to condemning the apparent hypocrisy, but show a path to less burden.

And I'd like to answer for myself question 5 (although Alexander hits the nail on the head with this one too, just in a more broad way than I like). I think there are times when opinions are good and when they're an impediment. I use opinions in this post, for example. They help with getting ideas across, and I enjoy writing this. So here they aid My enjoyment. That's good as far as I can tell. And most of the time our ideas of the mountain are a decent representation of the mountain. I use this every day, and would hate to give up continuity (not to say it shouldn't be kept in check). But along with these, opinions often lead to misunderstanding. Or even worse, people submit their agency to their ideas. In these times, opinions should be given up as best as possible. I think that it's important for us to value our opinions (not by a standard, but by attempting to tear them down and seeing which ones stay and which ones aren't helpful). Unlike Alexander, who thinks this question is uninteresting, I think it's the biggest question here. I'm not willing to accept that all opinions must be discarded, because I see My own enjoyment in them. And I don't trust only instinct to be My guide in what opinions are worth keeping. I'd like to consciously scrutinize them.

(Sun, 16 Jul 2017 02:53:35 +0000, 02:53 AM)Matt Wrote: We are, after all, posting on a website called "anti-civ.org," the very title of which posits a definite opinion on the undesirability of "civilization" as such. I guess, on some level, I would have to acknowledge that even this opinion is absurd; but, nonetheless, it doesn't stop me from holding it.

This is an especially dangerous opinion. When an idea changes into an identity (by way of being openly shared by many people), it becomes something that is often not criticized. And of course, you could charge this forum with any typical anti-society arguments as well. For example, it exists outside of the relations that create it, and it has a doctrine (the central theme of anti-civ), etc.
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#5
Thanks to both of you for disagreeing with me in good faith.

(Sun, 16 Jul 2017 02:53:35 +0000, 02:53 AM)Matt Wrote: Your point about the formation of opinions being a response to memory is well received. This made me think of a quote I once heard that I only recently learned was by Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." I could go on at length about the interesting questions that this raises about the movement of time itself as it relates to the unconscious mind and the process of thinking; but, for now, I'll just mention in passing that it really does a number on the whole idea of linear temporality and a "science" of historical processes.

I'm not very familiar with Kierkegaard, although I would like to be. What is the source of your quote?

(Sun, 16 Jul 2017 02:53:35 +0000, 02:53 AM)Matt Wrote: While a lot of this literature (Wolfi Landstreicher being a notable example) was and remains a profound influence on my own thinking, I was never completely sold on the idea that "rejecting" ideology was as simple as shrugging it off and being done with it. Acknowledging one's own opinions and refusing to be a slave to them by recognizing their inherent absurdity seems like a far more reasonable response to me. Still, as absurd as opinions admittedly are, I am hesitant to say that there is nothing in them that is of value. Perhaps not the opinion itself but something the opinion glosses over - an unacknowledged desire, a disproportionate emotional investment in a particular idea or potential outcome, etc.

Value is just an idea. But the effects it can have on your thinking process is real, and so it can be helpful to be exposed to an idea. I am not against being met with new ideas, I am against being ruled by them.

(Sun, 16 Jul 2017 02:53:35 +0000, 02:53 AM)Matt Wrote: As much as open-mindedness and flexibility in one's viewpoint is a worthwhile aspiration to have, I think even the most most open-minded people can slide back into dogmatism from time to time. I know I sometimes catch myself doing it, and I don't think I'd be going too far out on a limb by saying that others commenting here probably catch themselves doing it as well. We are, after all, posting on a website called "anti-civ.org," the very title of which posits a definite opinion on the undesirability of "civilization" as such. I guess, on some level, I would have to acknowledge that even this opinion is absurd; but, nonetheless, it doesn't stop me from holding it.
Is your perceived undesirability rooted in ideas though? Mine is rooted in observation of the effects of civilisation. The word civilisation is of course a reification, an epithet. But the effects of what we call civilisation are real.

(Mon, 17 Jul 2017 07:51:36 +0000, 07:51 AM)Arom Wrote: On the definition of opinion, I think it would be best to just define it as "an idea about the nature of reality." Analyzing where it comes from is pointless. Opinions are created, and when I notice their existence, I can choose to ignore them, or hold onto them. I find it funny that there were so many words put into Alexander's laying out of his opinion of opinions, only to later say that opinions are always negative. I'm not trying to condemning the apparent hypocrisy, but show a path to less burden.

Analysis in general is uninteresting to me, because the analyser is the analysed.

I was not giving my opinion of opinions, I was (trying to) describe what opinions are, and that there is no reason to submit to them. I'm not saying that they are "negative" — another idea — but that they are a form of self-imposed authority that we needn't accept.

Opinions are inescapable. Awareness is key. This is why recognising the absurdity is important.

And it is not like all opinions are equal; your opinion on the latest Transformers film certainly affects you in a different way than Hitler's opinion on Jews affected him. And it is intersectional as well. And, lastly, it goes both ways; Fredy Perlman pointed out that the daily lives of slaves reproduce slavery; we form opinions, opinions condition us.

(Mon, 17 Jul 2017 07:51:36 +0000, 07:51 AM)Arom Wrote: This is an especially dangerous opinion. When an idea changes into an identity (by way of being openly shared by many people), it becomes something that is often not criticized. And of course, you could charge this forum with any typical anti-society arguments as well. For example, it exists outside of the relations that create it, and it has a doctrine (the central theme of anti-civ), etc.

Unrelated to the topic at hand, I'd like to mention that I have tried posting this forum around to "non-anti-civ-people," specifically to help avoid it turning into a circlejerk echo chamber.
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