Monday, September 15, 2014

"Just Your Opinion"

In Western society (the society with which I am most familiar and in which I have grown up) there are a stock number of phrases the purpose of which is to dismiss others.

Sometimes dismissal is necessary, part of healthy boundaries—in job applications, when a person is looking to argue just to make a point, when there is some danger that one ought to avoid if one value's one's health.

Sometimes, however, dismissal is used unhealthily when it works against the pursuit of human flourishing as such.

Now, what human flourishing is requires conversation, dialogue, intelligence precisely because its notion is not self-evident but rather must be approached gradually.

Dismissal, then, works against this discussion; it relishes in solipsism, in brute individualism, in a radical ignoring of the other person.

"That's just your opinion"; "You're just being judgmental"; "That's bigoted." All of these statements betray a reaction to an opinion or sentiment strongly expressed. But there is nothing wrong with strong opinion as such on the condition that it is backed by argumentation and the dialectical process mentioned above. And even if strong opinion is not backed by rigor, it is hypocritical to dismiss it with a knee-jerk reaction.

Therefore, there must be more than simply—"that's just opinion." It must rather be: "that's your unfounded opinion," or "that opinion is wrong for these reasons x, y, and z." Two contrary opinions are not necessarily better than each other, and their butting heads do no good to humanity. Good is done when the dialogue is opened and encouraged.

A person, therefore, who dismisses someone else simply with "that's just your opinion" is showing that he is ensconced in a radically anti-human attitude even while he is dismissing what he legitimately believes to be anti-human itself! Sometimes, and this is a sad reality, the best way to deal with such people is to let them be, and that is, of course, a dismissal based on healthy boundaries. If they are not willing to dialogue, to explain, to understand, to humble themselves, to make themselves vulnerable, which is the essence of fruitful connection, nothing more can be done except to dismiss them precisely on the grounds that all has been done on one's end and that the ball is in their court and perhaps may forever stay that way.

We must respect free will but not necessarily the choices made by free will.

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