The Battle of Ideas

Types of Opinions: We can argue there are different kinds of opinion. But the only
opinions of merit in a democratic discussion are those which are both informed by supporting
knowledge and facts constituting valid and reliable evidence that is presented in a disciplined —
critically thought out and presented — fashion. Only a disciplined and informed opinion, offered
in an authentic voice in search of truth, privileges one with a “warrant for discourse ” in
democratic deliberations. Appeals to emotion or beliefs for which there is no evidence are not
sufficient in forming the foundations of democratic values driven decision making. To make
competent decisions about public policy and the future of society, we need a fundamental
commitment to truth . Note, in this regard, there is a continuum of opinion types ranging from
more idea (evolving ideas and living knowledge) systems to belief structures (static beliefs and
dead knowledge):
 Disciplined Informed (Idea Systems or I.S. deal better with reality – “what is” verifiable
truth) – conclusions arrived at through inquiry which follows a discipline and is based
upon evidence – e.g. social scientific rigorous inquiry and/ or critical thinking generally.
 Undisciplined Informed – conclusions based upon unstructured inquiry that is the result
of much reading often driven by the pursuit of pleasure or interest – e.g. being a dilettante
or other general interest pursuit modalities.
 Undisciplined Uninformed – conclusions based upon little or no inquiry at all other than
just a gut reaction – e.g. emotional reaction (often fear) or ignorance or both.
o It is prudent to recall that “going with one’s feelings” is not always an invitation
to being happy the next morning… and
o As the pursuit of happiness is a goal of politics, we might wish to ponder this.
o It is also prudent to recall the founding fathers of the American Republic
explicitly built a system of laws rather than of men to encourage us to manage our
passions such that our passions would not manage us….
o This is disciplined thought tempering passionate exuberance?
 Disciplined Uninformed (Belief Structures – B.S. deal with beliefs about what is
presented as “revealed truth”) – conclusions based upon a system of dogma – e.g.
religions.
o There is the special case of conclusions based upon faith.
o Faith is a belief in things for which there is no evidence. This is not necessarily a
dysfunctional ground upon which to base a belief, however, it may not be a good
ground to formulate policy upon).
o Faith may also be seen as “the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of
things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1); it is a substance, it’s something tangible to
hold onto in the absence of evidence.