Opinionated Blinders

Ideas vs. Opinions

What’s your take on these words? Are they the same? Or do they have different meanings?

In a college English class a million years ago (at least it feels like that long), we delved into this subject. I thought I’d share my thoughts and see if you have any wisdom to add.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an Idea is “a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do; a belief; something that you imagine or picture in your mind; a formulated thought or opinion.”

(The word “opinion” is thrown in there…but I don’t agree)

Opinion is defined as “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something; a belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge; a generally held view.”

To me, the difference lies in one word—Judgment. Opinions are often held and offered with an underlying judgment attached to them.

Opinions

An opinion, in my opinion (ha ha), has a closed viewpoint. Whereas an idea may be persuaded by reason and logic, an opinion digs stubbornly into one’s psyche and doesn’t budge. They’re formed by one’s culture, environment, and heritage, and are accepted as truth without being scrutinized. The problem with them is that they’re usually rooted in prejudice.

When someone accept opinions without question, they’re kind of like a horse wearing blinders. They can’t see the world in full…just a very narrow part of it. And if the blinders never come off, they don’t know what they’re missing.

Ideas

Unlike opinions, ideas seem to have the potential to foster true learning and growth and, at the same time, be a weapon for defending against attacks on reason so prevalent today. I really like this definition from Wayne C. Booth in a speech entitled Knowledge and Opinion.

“…To know the reasons for believing an opinion makes it something more than a mere opinion: it makes of it an idea, and only a body of ideas can give us knowledge. Everybody has opinions, but only the man who can think for himself, or at the very least reconstruct the living process of thought pioneered by others, has ideas.”

So Take off the Blinders

Be proactive instead of reactive. Think for yourself. Don’t read the newspaper and accept another writer’s opinion as fact. Don’t read a boring textbook full of opinions and accept it as gospel. Don’t mistake a friend’s gossip for truth. And for heavens sake, don’t vote for someone just because a ‘knowledgeable’ acquaintance told you to.

It’s easier to hide behind opinions rather than working hard to formulate your own ideas. But it’s a lot more rewarding to read the paper, study in school and talk to others NOT with the lazy notion of repeating their opinions, but rather to use their opinions as a springboard to form your own ideas and beliefs?

I think that’s the only way to truly get to know ourselves…what we believe deep down…and why. That’s one reason why I love writing, It helps me challenge my opinions and transform them into beautiful ideas.

What do you think? Are you opinionated…or Idea-ated? Or are you just craving some type of chocolate?

char2a

33 thoughts on “Opinionated Blinders

  1. “To me, the difference lies in one word—Judgment”—Before I even came across this line in your post, I was thinking it’s the judgment that makes them different. Next thing I know, you said the same thing, so I agree with you completely. Ideas leave room for growth; opinions not so much. Oh, and I also crave chocolate.

  2. Interesting, I hadn’t really thought about ideas and opinions as being things that could be confused with each other, or even interchangeable. My first thought before reading everything you wrote was that an opinion is solid and closed, and an idea is light and open and more fluid, which is pretty much what you went on to say. The longer an opinion is held, the tighter it is closed. If I read a newspaper article that was very persuasive, I might form an immediate opinion that the person is right, but if I then read an equally persuasive article with an opposing view, then again I might immediately change, or reassess my opinion. However, if the first newspaper article supported an opinion that I have already held for years, then I will see it as reinforcing it, and the second article alone is unlikely to make me change my opinion just like that, it would take a lot more.

    • I love your example. My teacher in college wanted us to write to figure out where we actually stood on issues, and he always encouraged us to challenge our opinions and closely held beliefs to see WHY we felt the way we did. He said once we could elaborate on the WHY, we weren’t just spouting off mindless opinions we had been raised with.

  3. This is a blog post I plan to read a couple of times to let sink in. Great thought provoking stuff. I’d never even thought about the difference and I agree with everything you said, 100%. I’ve always had a contention with political radio talk shows. Those hosts blare their opinions across the airwaves and people take it as education…fact. Instead of making up their own minds, they just swallow the opinion pablum like babies. But most people don’t want to read and study facts so they can form their own ideas.
    Again…a very good piece. Thanks for jump-starting my brain this morning. Good work.

    • I’m glad you liked it. I was afraid readers would think I was writing ‘too deep.’ But I love writing like this. It helps me figure out my own thoughts and feelings better. I, too, am not a fan of talk shows. Don’t get me wrong. I feel that the people hosting them are passionate about what they believe…enough to shout it out with gusto over the airwaves. But it’s the listeners who accept without doing their own inquiry and research that bother me.

  4. These are interesting points. I tend to agree that opinions are somewhat closed as compared to ideas. However, that is not always the case. Opinions seem to have some ‘force’ in them, almost a drive to sell the listener/reader. I brought the peanut butter. Where’s the chocolate?

  5. You had me at CHOCOLATE – that is a Great IDEA – ha! I think I am a bit of both and try to reign in the opinions and judgments as much as possible or at least change my attitude, ego or perspective at times. Great Post – Great Reminder to Give Ourselves a Self Check! Happy Day:)

    • I think when we question why we have certain opinions, we can be very surprised when we find the answers–for good or bad. Always we will understand ourselves better. Have a great weekend. It’s almost here.

  6. The more I think about things like this, the more confused I get. 🙂 My opinions and ideas are always changing unless we’re talking about chocolate.

    • I think ideas and opinions are bound to change as we have different experiences in life. That’s why it’s important now and then to look at them and see if we’re holding onto a prejudice formed in our youth that has no place in our life now. But you’re right, through it all, chocolate can be that concrete stable structure in the food kingdom.

  7. Some really good thoughts, Charissa. One of my pet peeves is when someone hears something from one person–whether it be a friend, teacher, from TV or radio–and then accepts it as fact.

    But in the end, all I really care about is chocolate.

    • Yes, I know I’ve been guilty before of accepting things as fact just from hearing from one source. I usually do that when I’m too lazy to go figure out something for myself…and I’m not proud of it. I just started thinking of this and thought I would write it up to push myself to do better at developing ideas instead of blindly following opinions. And my best idea right now is that chocolate rocks!

  8. Opinions and ideas definitely are two different things, even though some of your ideas can turn into opinions down the road. Ideas to me express open-mindedness, creativity, variety of options. You can come up with tons of ideas about a subject but usually have a single opinion on it. Great food for thought!

  9. Opinions do have that weight of judgement in my mind and ideas are more open. Depending on the circumstances, it saddens or angers me when people won’t listen to other ideas or take the time to question the validity of ideas and opinions that are presented. It’s easy to be “lazy” and let someone else do the hard thinking for us. And yet, it’s so much better for us to do the research and thus make informed decisions for ourselves.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes people are so focused on saying their own opinion, that their ears stop working…and that’s too bad for them.

  10. I agree! I think opinions can be dangerous when misused. Supporting opinions with facts is the best way to speak one’s mind! I think it can still be an opinion, because there are always two ( or more) sides to a controversy, and both sides can find facts to support their way of thinking.

    • So true. The one who takes the time to view both sides has so much more knowledge and gains true wisdom. That’s why I loved George Washington. He surrounded himself with people from two opposite standpoints so that he could weigh matters with all the knowledge available to him. He’s my hero.

  11. Chocolate with hazelnuts, please 😀

    It’s so true that anyone can have an opinion and if there’s one thing that irks me it’s people who are overly opinionated. To me the word ‘opinion’ seems like tunnel vision. I’d much prefer to play tennis with ideas than opinions 😉

    • I like the tennis visual. I can see opinions knocking you in the head and hurting. Yes, the hazelnuts sound divine with chocolate. My favorite candy concoction is Toffifay (hazelnut and chocolate and caramel together). Yum!

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