Opinion vs. Fact in Higher Ed - Are All Opinions Worthy of an Audience?

Ashley Thorne

  • Article
  • October 01, 2010

Peter Wood takes on this question in "Nouveau Relativism in Academe":

What is the proper status of “opinion” in the university, as opposed to fact, established knowledge, theory, and belief?   Simply listing these words suggests layers of complication.  Higher education necessarily involves all these modes of knowing or thinking-you-know, and they are often tangled together.  Still, we usually acknowledge a distinction.  Opinions are what we hold when we cannot be sure.  It isn’t a matter of opinion that 2 + 2 = 4.  It is a matter of opinion that King Lear is a more profound play than Hamlet. We get into trouble when we confuse these matters.  And we are courting trouble when we exaggerate the provisional respect due to other people’s opinions and thereby lose sight of some more fundamental goals of liberal education.  Ideally, we teach students how to pursue truth, and where truth itself is unobtainable, to exercise the kind of discernment that separates the better-grounded views from the others.
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