3.c.8 – Can we distinguish facts from opinions?

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April 9, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Can we distinguish facts from opinions?

The basic information, that are the objective facts, even if not coming by experience, are processed by our minds to become subjective opinions. If the information source is reliable, the facts that it communicates and its personal views will also be so; why should we work hard to build our own subjective opinion based on the raw material of the facts when we can enjoy prepackaged views? In this case, the problem does not stop at the reliability of the source, but also concerns the terminological difference of terms.
If such distinction is not clear, if it confuses opinion with the fact, the consequences for our knowledge and our freedom will be very serious. Make ours the opinion of others is a natural process, but it means to share the development of reasoning on facts that remain objective. How can we not share an opinion, if we do not know the facts on which it is based? The view for example that a government must resign because it has not kept the election promises is certainly acceptable, but requires knowledge of these promises and data on the work of the government
At this point it is obvious that if someone has an interest in manipulating the information, he would need to cover the facts with a wide range of views, giving a sense of pluralism as being contrasting, giving a sense of true opposition raising the tones of interlocutors, giving a sense of authority because broadcasted on television, but always strictly detached from objective facts; we get to absurd debates that are discussed with differing opinions on facts also different; it frequently happens in fact to see discussions between politicians who claim to have governed well because, for example, have decreased the rate of unemployment while others accuse them of having badly governed as they raised the unemployment rate. Aren’t these two opinions both sharable? Does it make sense to follow such a debate without news on slippage in the unemployment rate, on the criteria of comparison of the differences and on the methodologies used to make the calculation?
Another very common method to cover the facts is simply to talk of other issues and it is no coincidence that the TV news, that is our more used source of information, give ample space to sports news, to curiosity about the life of celebrities, events occurring in distant countries, up to live connections with the show that will follow in few minutes.
It can be concluded that not only the information on the facts is necessary, but also the awareness of the need to have these information.

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