All of us went through some periods where he philosophized. When we philosophise, we use normally, and naturally, expressions like: In my opinion, In my point of view, I think, I propose, I suppose and the like.

Are these expressions healthy in philosophy, or do they dilute it, perhaps its seriousness?

While there must be hundreds of thousands of instances of these phrases in philosophical literature, is its use at all frowned upon or limited to a certain type of philosophy (perhaps meta-philosophy or ethics). And, if so, why>

  • you do find these phrases (not really imho, it's too informal) in philosophy. rhetorical questions are more common, tho
    – user38026
    Oct 7 '19 at 16:56
  • A case be made that they have a proper place in philosophy. Below I try to explain how.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Oct 10 '19 at 13:39

This is one of the most difficult issues for all of us because of the connection between opinion and knowledge or certainty. Much less attention has been given to the question of what opinions are, and much more to how to ascend from them to knowledge.

In our own time the problem is largely neglected because of the assumption that the authority of the experimental sciences, and the standard of testing, settles the matter of what counts as real knowledge. Even though it, the modern science, has no moral content, and so is profoundly wanting from the ancient perspective or the perspective of metaphysical science.

In an ethical context opinion is very problematic because to condemn a person to death on an opinion seems wrong. If opinion implies that there are other opinions, including one where the one on trial is not found guilty or not found deserving of death.

For metaphysics the problem is very great because even the distinction between matters of moral importance, and matters that are not, is either a matter of opinion or knowledge. In our own time a large number of issues of daily life are regarded as outside the realm of ethics or morals. Whereas, in former times, the whole of life was considered an ethical question as it still is among traditional peoples and those who live under religious orders rather than liberal.

The shadows of Plato are the classical expression of the problem. We rely on the shadows, but aspire to the truth above. Aristotle, the great doxologist, puts vastly more weight on the opinions of the population, and correspondingly less on the claims of certain men to have more sound views. Especially Socrates with his wild claim that Justice is what makes men better, a general opinion, much contradicting the more widely held opinion, that Justice concerns chiefly contracts and property or giving to each what is theirs.

The issue of raising an equivocation when speaking shows a philosophic awareness of the problem that we don't know if our views are truths. One often absent in political people and the so-called boasters which Socrates discloses.

"The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." Russell

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    +1. Your approach differs from mine and is in some respects deeper. I was only offering reflections, fragments towards an answer. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Oct 10 '19 at 15:57

It depends on how they are used. Their role may be to avoid, quite properly in some cases, the appearance of uncivil dogmatism. Another possibility is that given how in philosophy there are so many legitimately different lines to take - ideas and arguments which are neither uncontroversially obviously true or false, valid or invalid - that a phrase such as 'In my view' is perfectly appropriate when something is one's view and one wants to present and defend it but one recognises that a tolerance of diversity is due, especially since there's no guarantee that one is not mistaken.

  • Thanks Geoffrey. But it goes further than that. Eg eprime is an extreme attempt at ensuring the (explicit) opinion by obviating the alternative. Most of us may not wish to go that far... That's another matter! Oct 10 '19 at 14:15
  • Glad you can agree with what I said even if my answer omitted the eprime possibility. I'll need to let emprime run through my head for a while. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Oct 10 '19 at 15:54

It depends on whether or not the opinion is held by an expert or not. Many people and institutions recognize the idea that there is a property called expertise, and that includes jurisprudential reckoning which include expert witnesses. In philosophy the venues tend to be philosophical journals and commercial publishers. Obviously, were Willard V.O. Quine to invoke the phrase, it would like to be seen differently than a civilian philosopher.

Is it healthy for discourse? It depends largely on the speakers involved. This online essay brings to the fore the issue of the distinctions among subjectivity, objectivity, and intersubjectivity. Since the very philosophical positive grounds of 'opinion' are in dispute, it is likely making normative claims won't resolve simply.

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