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.
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.
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?