From within the confines of human perception, the pursuit of truth is an impossible endeavor. Our pathological beliefs about the world and ourselves inhibit objectivity and obscure reality. If nobody can truly know anything, it is fair to ask “what is the value of opinion?” For me, grappling with existence — whether we exist, or not, whether anything is meaningful, or not — is a practice in interrogating my human experience. Obviously, no truthful conclusions can be reached in this way given that my thoughts are necessarily situated in a given moment. My thoughts are those of an individual with my particular life experience. They are far from objective.
However, that truth eludes my emic sensibilities doesn’t necessarily disqualify the possibility of achieving something satisfactory, something passable. What value is there in truth if truth is impossibly elusive? Is seeking to understand the subjectivity of my existence more valuable then pursing truths I will never find? The existential questions I ask myself as I pace through my two hour work-shifts at the gym aim for truth but achieve something more personally valuable: opinion.
Opinion is so fundamentally flawed that there is no point in even considering briefly its legitimacy as a form of truth. Even the expert-think-tank-professorial-academic types who regularly contribute The New York Times opinion columns are steeped in a regime of reflexive non-truths. Even Paul Krugman, a Princeton graduate, London School of Economics graduate and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, produces opinion articles for The New York Times that provoke John H. Cochrane, a graduate of MIT and Berkeley and the head of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to retort, “let’s just not pretend this has anything to do with economics, or actual truth about how the world works.”
Opinion is valuable as a means of examining epistemological inquiries without the burden of feigned objectivity and truthfulness. Opinion doesn’t require a scientific method of deduction or a mathematical proof to carry validity, although it can be benefited by such. Instead, it knows its own limits, and doesn’t mind them all that much. By engaging with the opinions of others, our own become more nuanced and diverse. By informing our opinions with exposure to the variousness of perception, our opinions become more acknowledging of perceptual and experiential difference among humans.
Conversely, occasions of consensus or common perceptions are cause for examination. What do our shared beliefs tell us about ourselves and our similarities? Does ubiquity constitute truth or just ubiquitous delusion? Interrogating our mutual beliefs and the mutual experiences which inform our beliefs offers an opportunity to analyze how experience gives rise to opinion, and this new understanding can subsequently be applied to other options we hold. Writing on opinion can thus be as cathartic as it is informative. In the writing process, fallacies can be revealed and new perspectives explored. By organizing a belief into a cogent and articulate argument, one is forced to reconcile with the subjectivity of their material and critically analyze the substance of their thoughts, ultimately precipitating a more thoroughly meditated opinion.
One can opine about the state of economic affairs, the goodness or badness of food, art, politics, or the nature of human existence with equitable untruthfulness. In doing so, the opinionated refine their understanding of the world, their understanding of self, and the structures which shape perception. Writing on opinion can be a rewarding and enlightening experience, and requires nothing but senses with which to perceive the world and a personal context with which to interpret it.
Possibly more rewarding than the gratification of expanding the limits of one’s perception is the small sum of money the Old Gold & Black will pay you to compose your opinion into an opinion article. It’s my opinion that you should articulate your existential musings into a roughly 650 word article, and reduce your tuition by five dollars therein.