Can highly unpopular opinions be "wrong"?

Original Poster
Joined: Jul 2006
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You have to break it down a little more. A claim by itself is not inherently wrong or right. The follow-up rationale points, if easily refuted, can render the opinion wrong.
Nov 10, 2017 12:32 AM
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ERotICYou have to break it down a little more. A claim by itself is not inherently wrong or right. The follow-up rationale points, if easily refuted, can render the opinion wrong.

Depends on the claim.
Nov 10, 2017 12:36 AM
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Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar
ERotICYou have to break it down a little more. A claim by itself is not inherently wrong or right. The follow-up rationale points, if easily refuted, can render the opinion wrong.

Depends on the claim.

Can you give me an example of a claim which is objectively wrong?

Sure,

2 + 2 = 5

This ball is simultaneously red all-over and blue all-over

Death Proof has a satisfying sex life
Nov 10, 2017 12:46 AM
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Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar
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Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar
ERotICYou have to break it down a little more. A claim by itself is not inherently wrong or right. The follow-up rationale points, if easily refuted, can render the opinion wrong.

Depends on the claim.

Can you give me an example of a claim which is objectively wrong?

Sure,

2 + 2 = 5

This ball is simultaneously red all-over and blue all-over

Death Proof has a satisfying sex life

When I created this thread, I was referring to claims based on opinions as that's what Ebert was getting at in his article when he talked about unpopular movie opinions. Not factually wrong claims like the ones you made.

Also, what's with you and Death Proof? Why can't you guys just get along?

Death Proof is OK. I mean he hates me, but I have good fun giving him a hard time. Nothing serious.

At any rate, to the more germane question, we've now narrowed down our universe of claims considerably. We've moved away from statements that are true by definition or which appear to be true a priori. We can narrow things down even more by lumping in some empirical claims which seem to be pretty well nailed down.

George Washington was the first president of the United States, right? Or was he? What about John Hanson? What about Cyrus Griffin? What about the other men who were President of the United States in Congress Assembled? Empirical facts seems to be secure, but if we explore them and poke them, we find that empirical facts answer to criteria for facthood which are normative and contested. Nevertheless, that GW was the first prez seems to be nailed down well-enough that we don't anticipate a full-blown debate every time we mention it. "But it is looser."

The looser things get, the closer we get to the domain which you refer to as opinion. I think we might read Ebert as arguing that there are some claims about art which are well-enough established under community standards of "being a work of art" of "being a member of a genre of art" and even of "being a work of high quality" that they shade into territory which is less subjective.

We need to parse what subjective/objective means here, and Searle provides the answer. We are NOT talking about subjective/objective in the ontological sense (that which depends upon "mind" for its existence). The "funniness" of a joke for example is ontologically subjective in that you have to have a mind to find a joke funny. However, a joke can be objectively funny in the epistemic sense of the term if everyone (or nearly everyone) finds a joke to be funny. I am, for example, married. This is a subjective fact, ontologically, because there is no such construct as marriage without minds. That stated, however, is an epistemically objective fact that I am married. The government recognizes that I am married (and draws taxes from me in terms of this category), as does everyone I know. It is (epistemically) an objective fact that I am married, although this fact is, itself, subjective in the ontological sense.

In short, some claims can be less subjective in an epistemic sense is one way to read Ebert.
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Nov 10, 2017 1:08 AM
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Maybe not quite the way in which he put it, but I do agree with the general sentiment. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion - and those that are well-versed in any given subject are entitled to a much better opinion.
Nov 10, 2017 1:28 AM
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As for Death Proof, if you wouldn't mess with him, maybe he'd warm up to you over time. Or, if you're indifferent to whether you have him as a friend or not, keep doing what you're doing I guess. I probably shouldn't derail this thread too much though, so back to the discussion at hand.

I see what you mean. If you factor in empirical claims, some facts can be questioned for their validity. However, in terms of films, like ERotIC said, if you raise good arguments for why you hated a highly beloved film or loved a widely hated film, that could make your argument fall more into the area of subjective opinion than factually wrong statement. For example, I know a couple users here don't care for The Shawshank Redemption (it holds the #1 spot on IMDb's top 250). However, even though I'm a huge fan of the film, I'm still able to respect their opinions as they backed up their arguments well. Therefore, I don't think they're wrong for not liking the film as much as I do. Also, you don't like Ridley Scott's Alien as much as I do. However, I don't think your criticisms for the film are wrong as you explained them well and I could see where you were coming from.

I think we can extract two senses of epistemic objectivity to bolster our critical discussions.

First, there is raw intersubjective agreement. If not perfect consensus, the virtual consensus. If 95% of people say "X" is a good movie, than we can objectivity say that "X is good" relative to the people. Any individual can disagree with majority, but the burden of proof falls clearly with the one who deny what 95% of people in her community assert. Thus, we can say that "X is good" as a fact (relative to some community). Also, we can order the burden of proof for presumptive reasoning about any dispute we might have about this claim. The denier does not enjoy the status quo and therefore must her case strongly. The member of the 95% enjoys the fortress of presumption and has no burden of proof in this case.

Second, we can appeal to objective community standards which inform our critical judgments. This is where our disagreement about ALIEN comes into the picture (actually, I like Alien quite a bit. I think from the start of the film to the chestbuster scene, it's about as good as a film can get. After that, we're settled firmly into the comfy chair of genre and it's by-the-numbers and I lose interest after having watched the film a gazillion times). If we can agree to critical standards and I can show how ALIEN does not measure up to some of these standards, I can temper and even nudge your evaluation of the film and vice verse. We can have an objective discussion even individual-to-individual so long as we have objective standards (again, objective in the epistemic sense). I know this for a hard fact after having had my ass handed to me in more than a few critical discussions on this board. Despite my "feelings" I have, through chains of argument, found myself to be wrong about some critical judgments. This is depressing in the sense that it melts the snowflake of my appetitive preferences, but MUCH more encouraging because it shows that we can indeed hope to have rational and objective discussions about critical judgments (i.e., we're not always just bullshitting about our opinions). If the price of rationality is finding that I occasionally have a wrong opinion, I am more than willing to pay this price.
Nov 10, 2017 1:51 AM
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The King of AwkwardMaybe not quite the way in which he put it, but I do agree with the general sentiment. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion - and those that are well-versed in any given subject are entitled to a much better opinion.


Opinions can be better informed and still be wrong.

I mean, we just had this debate a few months back.

I still hold that there is no such thing as objective criticism/opinion. There are objective facts and then our criticisms or opinions are our interpretations of those facts. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that match (and are therefore more relevant to) a lot of people. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that don't match (and are therefore less relevant to) a lot of people. But that doesn't make one of those opinions more "right" than the other. It just makes it more aligned and therefore more relevant to a majority. I suppose you could say that makes the opinion more valuable, but it doesn't make it more true.

For example: I am not a dermatologist. I went to see a dermatologist about a skin issue and was told that I had a skin condition that I would continue to have for the rest of my life and that it had just happened to flare up then. I was given two creams to be used twice daily, one of them just until the condition calmed down and the other?FOREVER. I went home kind of dazed, but then looked at those two creams, one of which had a weird warning label that basically said "So, we don't think this cream is cancer-causing, but like, we can't prove that it isn't", and I just thought, "No." I thought about other things that had been happening to me lately (all things I'd mentioned to the doctor). Two weeks later I tried an elimination diet and the rash went away after two days. It was not a lifelong condition--it was an allergic reaction to gluten. Don't eat bread, it's gone. Eat bread, it reappears. This doctor had years more experience and was much more of an expert than I was, and yet his opinion was not better.

But even more broadly, the idea of opinions about films being "right" or "wrong" seems to miss the point of film criticism. I read film criticism to understand more about why I liked or did not like a movie; to experience a "conversation" with someone who is more expert; to find critics with similar taste who might point me toward other movies I might like. As long as a critic explains where he or she is coming from and can defend their claims about a movie, it shouldn't matter if they fall in line with the majority consensus.
Nov 10, 2017 1:53 AM
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Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar
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Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar
ERotICYou have to break it down a little more. A claim by itself is not inherently wrong or right. The follow-up rationale points, if easily refuted, can render the opinion wrong.

Depends on the claim.

Can you give me an example of a claim which is objectively wrong?

Sure,

2 + 2 = 5

This ball is simultaneously red all-over and blue all-over

Death Proof has a satisfying sex life

Aw, get some ointment for that butthurt, bucko.
Nov 10, 2017 1:57 AM
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Joined: Dec 2007
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Sir Digby Chicken CeasarDeath Proof is OK. I mean he hates me, but I have good fun giving him a hard time. Nothing serious.

At any rate, to the more germane question, we've now narrowed down our universe of claims considerably. We've moved away from statements that are true by definition or which appear to be true a priori. We can narrow things down even more by lumping in some empirical claims which seem to be pretty well nailed down.

George Washington was the first president of the United States, right? Or was he? What about John Hanson? What about Cyrus Griffin? What about the other men who were President of the United States in Congress Assembled? Empirical facts seems to be secure, but if we explore them and poke them, we find that empirical facts answer to criteria for facthood which are normative and contested. Nevertheless, that GW was the first prez seems to be nailed down well-enough that we don't anticipate a full-blown debate every time we mention it. "But it is looser."

The looser things get, the closer we get to the domain which you refer to as opinion. I think we might read Ebert as arguing that there are some claims about art which are well-enough established under community standards of "being a work of art" of "being a member of a genre of art" and even of "being a work of high quality" that they shade into territory which is less subjective.

We need to parse what subjective/objective means here, and Searle provides the answer. We are NOT talking about subjective/objective in the ontological sense (that which depends upon "mind" for its existence). The "funniness" of a joke for example is ontologically subjective in that you have to have a mind to find a joke funny. However, a joke can be objectively funny in the epistemic sense of the term if everyone (or nearly everyone) finds a joke to be funny. I am, for example, married. This is a subjective fact, ontologically, because there is no such construct as marriage without minds. That stated, however, is an epistemically objective fact that I am married. The government recognizes that I am married (and draws taxes from me in terms of this category), as does everyone I know. It is (epistemically) an objective fact that I am married, although this fact is, itself, subjective in the ontological sense.

In short, some claims can be less subjective in an epistemic sense is one way to read Ebert.
?

As for Death Proof, if you wouldn't mess with him, maybe he'd warm up to you over time. Or, if you're indifferent to whether you have him as a friend or not, keep doing what you're doing I guess. I probably shouldn't derail this thread too much though, so back to the discussion at hand.

I see what you mean. If you factor in empirical claims, some facts can be questioned for their validity. However, in terms of films, like ERotIC said, if you raise good arguments for why you hated a highly beloved film or loved a widely hated film, that could make your argument fall more into the area of subjective opinion than factually wrong statement. For example, I know a couple users here don't care for The Shawshank Redemption (it holds the #1 spot on IMDb's top 250). However, even though I'm a huge fan of the film, I'm still able to respect their opinions as they backed up their arguments well. Therefore, I don't think they're wrong for not liking the film as much as I do. Also, you don't like Ridley Scott's Alien as much as I do. However, I don't think your criticisms for the film are wrong as you explained them well and I could see where you were coming from.

We mess with each other. Doesn't concern you, boy.
Nov 10, 2017 1:58 AM
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Takoma1
The King of AwkwardMaybe not quite the way in which he put it, but I do agree with the general sentiment. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion - and those that are well-versed in any given subject are entitled to a much better opinion.


Opinions can be better informed and still be wrong.

I mean, we just had this debate a few months back.

I still hold that there is no such thing as objective criticism/opinion. There are objective facts and then our criticisms or opinions are our interpretations of those facts. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that match (and are therefore more relevant to) a lot of people. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that don't match (and are therefore less relevant to) a lot of people. But that doesn't make one of those opinions more "right" than the other. It just makes it more aligned and therefore more relevant to a majority. I suppose you could say that makes the opinion more valuable, but it doesn't make it more true.

For example: I am not a dermatologist. I went to see a dermatologist about a skin issue and was told that I had a skin condition that I would continue to have for the rest of my life and that it had just happened to flare up then. I was given two creams to be used twice daily, one of them just until the condition calmed down and the other?FOREVER. I went home kind of dazed, but then looked at those two creams, one of which had a weird warning label that basically said "So, we don't think this cream is cancer-causing, but like, we can't prove that it isn't", and I just thought, "No." I thought about other things that had been happening to me lately (all things I'd mentioned to the doctor). Two weeks later I tried an elimination diet and the rash went away after two days. It was not a lifelong condition--it was an allergic reaction to gluten. Don't eat bread, it's gone. Eat bread, it reappears. This doctor had years more experience and was much more of an expert than I was, and yet his opinion was not better.

But even more broadly, the idea of opinions about films being "right" or "wrong" seems to miss the point of film criticism. I read film criticism to understand more about why I liked or did not like a movie; to experience a "conversation" with someone who is more expert; to find critics with similar taste who might point me toward other movies I might like. As long as a critic explains where he or she is coming from and can defend their claims about a movie, it shouldn't matter if they fall in line with the majority consensus.

I don't disagree with you. I guess I have to elaborate.

Yes, opinions can be better informed and still be wrong. No, there is no such thing as fully objective criticism/opinion (I do have to diverge here somewhat, as I believe the credibility of any given criticism or opinion comes down to the rationale behind the opinion, the understanding of the subject at hand and whether or not evidence from whatever one is criticizing or voicing their opinion on comes from the object of that critique/opinion, and not simply pulled out of their ass). I read film criticism for the same reasons as you do, and I am not so black and white as to ascribe 'right' and 'wrong' to anyone's particular views - though some are inherently more valuable to me (based on the critic's rationale, backing up claims with evidence presented in the work, understanding of film language, etc.). Critiques are also not more valuable to me based on how well they match the majority opinion. Majority opinion is, in *my own opinion,* often downright horrible.
Nov 10, 2017 2:04 AM
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I'm glad you were able to get down to the bottom of that rash issue, Takoma. It's strange the doc didn't exhaust those dietary options first before prescribing you a potentially cancer-causing agent.
Nov 10, 2017 2:06 AM
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The King of Awkward?I am not so black and white as to ascribe 'right' and 'wrong' to anyone's particular views - though some are inherently more valuable to me (based on the critic's rationale, backing up claims with evidence presented in the work, understanding of film language, etc.). Critiques are also not more valuable to me based on how well they match the majority opinion. Majority opinion, in *my own opinion,* is often downright horrible.

I was responding mostly to the use of the word "better" in describing expert opinion. Like you say above, some criticism is more valuable to us, but it's also I think important to realize that can also be based on what you value as a viewer. For example, if you're really into action sequences, you might value a critic who can talk fluently about the mechanics of how fight scenes are staged. If you are more into the quality of the script, you might seek out critics who seem more attuned to that element of a movie. Different critics can have different values depending on who is reading them.
I do not like the idea that there is an objectively correct interpretation of a work of art or an objectively incorrect interpretation. Unless a critic is actually lying about his/her reaction to a film simply to be contrarian, in which case it isn't really an opinion, it's just trolling.
The King of AwkwardI'm glad you were able to get down to the bottom of that rash issue, Takoma. It's strange the doc didn't exhaust those dietary options first before prescribing you a potentially cancer-causing agent.

I had never experienced side effects from eating food (at least, I didn't think so), but once I cut out the 7 major allergens I was like "Oh, now I no longer have anxiety, insomnia, this rash, headaches, or dry skin." And in the first ten days of the elimination diet I lost 15 pounds, despite actually eating more food than I was before. I also don't know why he didn't talk to me about diet. Maybe because the rash was isolated to one spot (on my cheek/jawline) and not a systemic/whole-body thing? How many people are out there slathering themselves in this cream (which is not cheap!) when they really just need to stop eating sandwiches? In any event, I have a personality where I tend to defer to authority, but I'd say in the last five years especially I've discovered that my instincts are correct as often or more often than that of the "experts".
Nov 10, 2017 2:29 AM
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Opinions can't be wrong, no.

Popcorn Reviews"There is a point when a personal opinion shades off into an error of fact.


Ebert is wrong.

Popcorn ReviewsWhen you say 'The Valachi Papers' is a better film than 'The Godfather,' you are wrong."


This depends on how you are evaluating film; by which criteria you are determining the "better" film. The biggest problem is that people tend to equivocate the ideas of "like/dislike" with the ideas of "good/bad/better/worse" - without objective criteria, there is no "factual" way to determine which movie is "better" and so all opinions are relatively and equally valid, and "wrong" is not a possible claim.

Nov 10, 2017 3:15 AM
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I like to see stuff blowed up real good.
Nov 10, 2017 4:28 AM
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If they are from a 45 cultist politically and Armond White in terms of film, yes.
Nov 10, 2017 5:27 AM
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No, but I might be less inclined to pay attention to them or the person espousing them.

If you're gonna say something like "Dean Koontz is better than Edgar Allan Poe," look, yeah, opinions, but if you aren't coming at me with the best goddamn hot take I've ever read in my life, the only reason I sticking around for the next sentence is pure morbid curiosity.
Nov 10, 2017 6:01 AM
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DaMUIf you're gonna say something like "Dean Koontz is better than Edgar Allan Poe," look, yeah, opinions, but if you aren't coming at me with the best goddamn hot take I've ever read in my life, the only reason I sticking around for the next sentence is pure morbid curiosity.

I loaned you my senior thesis in confidence. IN CONFIDENCE!
Nov 11, 2017 12:51 AM
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Takoma1
The King of AwkwardMaybe not quite the way in which he put it, but I do agree with the general sentiment. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinion - and those that are well-versed in any given subject are entitled to a much better opinion.


Opinions can be better informed and still be wrong.

I mean, we just had this debate a few months back.

I still hold that there is no such thing as objective criticism/opinion. There are objective facts and then our criticisms or opinions are our interpretations of those facts. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that match (and are therefore more relevant to) a lot of people. It's certainly true that some people hold opinions that don't match (and are therefore less relevant to) a lot of people. But that doesn't make one of those opinions more "right" than the other. It just makes it more aligned and therefore more relevant to a majority. I suppose you could say that makes the opinion more valuable, but it doesn't make it more true.

For example: I am not a dermatologist. I went to see a dermatologist about a skin issue and was told that I had a skin condition that I would continue to have for the rest of my life and that it had just happened to flare up then. I was given two creams to be used twice daily, one of them just until the condition calmed down and the other?FOREVER. I went home kind of dazed, but then looked at those two creams, one of which had a weird warning label that basically said "So, we don't think this cream is cancer-causing, but like, we can't prove that it isn't", and I just thought, "No." I thought about other things that had been happening to me lately (all things I'd mentioned to the doctor). Two weeks later I tried an elimination diet and the rash went away after two days. It was not a lifelong condition--it was an allergic reaction to gluten. Don't eat bread, it's gone. Eat bread, it reappears. This doctor had years more experience and was much more of an expert than I was, and yet his opinion was not better.

But even more broadly, the idea of opinions about films being "right" or "wrong" seems to miss the point of film criticism. I read film criticism to understand more about why I liked or did not like a movie; to experience a "conversation" with someone who is more expert; to find critics with similar taste who might point me toward other movies I might like. As long as a critic explains where he or she is coming from and can defend their claims about a movie, it shouldn't matter if they fall in line with the majority consensus.

This is probably one of the best replies written here. Pretty much agree with everything.
Nov 11, 2017 5:06 PM
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Where Siskel and Ebert are off base is by placing more value on an arbitrary hierarchy in art over extending an ear to unorthodox and (sure) possibly untutored opinions. To make the assumption that something by its very nature is incorrect in art (ie Transformers being the best film of the year) is to deny the reasoning before it is even heard. While we all likely do this to some extent (Dean Koontz sure the fuck can never and should never be considered in the same sentence as Edgar Allen Poe!!!) it is an awful reflex to nurture through honest reasoning. This isn't to say that I am not a firm believer that not all art is created equal. It isn't. But value is a malleable thing. I don't believe either consensus or even the powers of any individual critic have the absolute capability of torpedoing all arguments that might happen to bring to light before unseen virtues of crictically reviled or generally ignored films. There shouldn't be the assumption that there can't be anything in there that hasn't been overlooked or neglected or misunderstood. I'm absolutely certain that many critics in the past would have banked their careers on the cultural emptiness and artistic black holes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Pink Flamingoes, and that these could never be considered 'great films'. But, regardless of that, it hasn't stopped many movie fans from writing untold numbers of reviews and essays on exactly how great they really are. To paint oneself critically in a corner by saying some films are absolutely non-starters for even reasoned debate, is a dreadful attitude to bring to art.

My stance towards these things is that there is not a single film out there not worthy of getting a re-appraisal. While I don't think anyone can ever really be wrong championing a film, no matter how dubious it may seem on the surface, I absolutely believe you can be objectively wrong in outright dismissing one.

Nov 11, 2017 6:34 PM
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I also am a fan of unorthodox opinions, but what irks me to no end are those who feel the need to take something deemed 'classic' down a peg, with no real critical skill but more as a simple iconoclastic gesture of rebellion.

The Godfather tends to trigger this. I'm not impressed with how bored people can get while watching great movies, but there's plenty of people who will happily tell you how boring The Godfather is. It's not like it's any more boring than, say, Chariots of Fire, but people don't feel compelled to take Chariots down a peg. It's almost like a political stance.
Nov 12, 2017 2:28 AM
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