I've been wondering this on and off for a while now: Can an opinion without experience be as valuable as one with experience? Assuming there are underlying universals which both parties have experienced? Is any of this a logical fallacy?

For example as a heterosexual, if I wanted to say what constitutes sex but had never experienced non-heterosexual sex could someone who had experienced both provide a more valuable opinion than my own?

Since there are clearly underlying universals here which are common to both I would imagine it wouldn't matter if I had or had not engaged in it.

In regards to the fallacy aspect of the question I've read comments saying that this could be ad hominem or the genetic fallacy -- is this true?

  • 1
    How do you measure the "merit" or "value" of an opinion? An opinion is just the way someone feels about something. I don't see how you can judge one person's feelings as more valuable than another's. Valuable to whom, even? Dec 19 '17 at 15:24
  • It depends on the opinion and the kind of experience. For some academic aspects of sex purely theoretical familiarity or some analogous experience may suffice, but many aspects of it (exaltation, temptation, morality) are emotionally charged and based on judgment calls, so having direct experience does enhance credibility.
    – Conifold
    Dec 19 '17 at 23:25
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    The question is really unclear on a crucial point. "merit" for what? There's a big difference between understanding something and being able to speak to it from personal experience. We've all been born but that doesn't make any of us experts on birthing. / Maybe to apply it to your example, lacking an experience makes one pretty unqualified (in general) to speak to what it's like to have that experience, but having an experience in no one way qualifies someone to explain scientifically (meaning in terms of physics chemistry, etc) what something is.
    – virmaior
    Dec 20 '17 at 5:15

your question could be rephrased "is there at least one known instance of an opinion, which has as at least as much "merit" as one with experience?" I think claiming that there cannot be at least one instance of such a case would be quite an extreme claim.

  • I guess I'm trying to figure out if there's some sort of limit of authority an opinion without that type of specific experience can have. If the two people had really nuanced and well thought out stances would that experienced person be more correct (for lack of a better word). Additionally is the question itself subjective?
    – anon
    Jan 10 '18 at 7:21

Do you mean 'merit' in respect of (probable) truth, 'value' in respect of (probable) truth ? Or do you mean 'knowing what it is like' ? There's a clear sense in which I cannot know what it is like to taste coffee until I have tasted it. One can imagine, use analogies, of course. The same would appear to be the case with your example of non-heterosexual sex.


In general, yes. For example, there is no reason to believe that you need to have robbed a bank to have a valuable opinion on the morality of armed robbery. A felon may be able to offer a more useful opinion on, say, the logistics though.

Similarly with sex. A pansexual may have a more nuanced view of the mechanics on sex but is not inherently wiser on the morality of such.

  • i understand with your example of morality that experience doesn't enhance credibility. but with some cases experience does seem to enhance credibility (like the example above of having a less credible opinion about coffee due to never experiences its taste). whats the distinction between the two where one does require experience and one does not, and can this be generalised?
    – anon
    Jan 14 '18 at 10:35

you cannot possibly generalise the relation between the two. it is possible that the opinion without experience's statement has a higher truth than the latter. if by merit you mean that the opinion given must be tested by experience then it wouldn't be true. it couldn't be accepted as a truth since opinion with the same statement that comes from different source such as with the question wouldn't be the same. As what @Omni said . we cant ask the question without going to extremes. the merit you meant must be which is more credible to you . by which it is normal for a conscious being to find more credibility from experience.


In most cases, one can be said to possess experience when they possess an opinion which was shaped (either positively or negatively) by a preexisting opinion made without experience.

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