Opinion vs. fact

There's an article on Theconversation.edu.au called No, you're not entitled to your opinion. It's a great piece, and I recommend all of it. But this part in particular stuck out to me, and I want to talk about it.

Plato distinguished between opinion or common belief (doxa) and certain knowledge, and that’s still a workable distinction today: unlike “1+1=2” or “there are no square circles,” an opinion has a degree of subjectivity and uncertainty to it. But “opinion” ranges from tastes or preferences, through views about questions that concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions.

First of all, it's a well-established fact that I strongly dislike Plato.  But moving on from that,

I don't think that the fact/opinion dichotomy is as worthy of dichotomy status as we treat it.  I think, rather, that opinions are a type of fact.  Specifically, opinions are facts about an individual's preferences.  Opinions have truth-value, just like every other kind of fact.  The problem is, most of the time we phrase statements that should be opinion statements as metaphysical claims.

If I say "Strawberry ice cream is good," I'm wrong.  I'm not saying I'm wrong because there's no one who likes strawberry ice cream.  I like strawberry ice cream.  I'm wrong because strawberry ice cream does not posses intrinsic metaphysical value.  It is not good, people just like it.

If I say "I dislike strawberry ice cream," I'm still wrong.  Or, I'm lying.  This time it's phrased as an opinion statement, but the statement I'm making is a lie about the fact of my experience.

To use a more common manifestation of this argument, let's try this with God.

  • "God is real" is not an opinion.  It's a fact-claim.  Its truth or falsehood is external to individual beliefs.  (Unless you believe in a fairly complicated metaphysics, but it's still not an opinion.)
  • "I believe in God" is not an opinion.  It's a statement about your internal set of presumed fact-claims.
  • "I love God" is an opinion.  Now, we're talking about your emotional relationship to something external. Just like I can say "I love Batman" as easily as I can say "I love Terry Pratchett," whether God is real or not doesn't affect your ability to have feelings relating to that concept.

So, yeah.  That's how I feel about all that.