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I have a long-running argument with friends that the word "opinion" has more to do with how something is expressed, not whether it is true or not. That is, "I think it is raining outside" sounds like an opinion, but is actually fact, because I do in fact think it. And "The Beatles are my favorite band" is a fact. Further, if someone sprays water in front of my window right before I look out, and I claim "It is raining outside," then that is still a statement of fact. It happens to not be true.

And finally, claiming "The Beatles are the best band in the world" is a statement of fact. Most people automatically assume you are quietly adding "I believe that..." in front of that statement, so they assume that you are stating an opinion. I would argue that it is an incorrect fact, as opposed to being an opinion.

Am I simply misunderstanding the generally accepted meaning of those words? Is this just a semantic issue? Does being a "fact" require validity? If so, then when new evidence comes to light, like it does in science all the time, do facts change, do they simply lose their correctness, do they cease being facts? Other than time-related statements, like "my cat is alive", I have a hard time accepting that facts change this way.

The problem I have with my own argument is that it does away with the existence of opinions. Since I really do think anything I claim I think, then everything I preface with "I think that" is by definition a fact. But that just feels dumb and pointless. Am I just behaving like a 5 year old philosopher?

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    If "the Beatles are the best band in the world" is an incorrect fact, you should be able to substitute some other band name to get a correct fact. Can you prove for a fact that band X is the best band in the world? Or that the Beatles are not the best band in the world? If you can't support your claim, why do you think those are facts and not opinions? – Nuclear Hoagie Jan 25 at 21:27
  • @Nuclear Hoagie: I guess the problem I have is thinking of whether facts and opinions differ only in their formulation, or in their correctness. But I also believe that my failure to prove something does not make it an opinion. – MJB Jan 25 at 22:01
  • The fact that you believe the Beatles to be the best is the opinion. – armand Jan 25 at 22:20
  • @armand: but the statement "I believe the Beatles to be the best band" must be a fact, no? If I honestly believe it? – MJB Jan 25 at 22:27
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    Absolutely. It is a fact that you have an opinion. – armand Jan 25 at 22:37
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An opinion is a statement of your attitude about something.

A fact could mean one of two things. Any state of affairs of the world may be a fact; it is a fact that the Moon orbits the Earth. Or in a more journalistic sense, a proposition may be called a fact if it is firmly supported by available and generally accepted empirical evidence.

There is not necessarily a clear distinction between facts of the first sense and opinions. If you have an attitude about something, it's also a fact that you have that attitude about that thing.

There is a clearer distinction between facts of the second sense and opinions. Just because you have an opinion does not firmly establish to all that you have that opinion. You're claiming you do, but other people can't verify that for themselves, and nor can they use empirical evidence to verify that your opinion is a "correct" one. Generally, opinions are not facts of the second sense.

When someone makes a distinction between facts and opinions, such as in journalism, they are usually referring to the second sense of fact.

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  • There is an issue here with your conceptual definition. What happens if x is the current state of affairs in 1994 but in 2021 x is no longer the same state of affairs. That is x was true bit now x is false. What would you call x now? Would it make sense to say x was a fact but now x is no longer a fact? In such a context fact would be a temporal term. Would you agree that the term fact should always be true & never ever false under any circumstances under a specific domain? The way you define fact involves scientific verification. Plenty of scientific theories of the past have been corrected. – Logikal Jan 26 at 15:16
  • @logikal -- that's kind of where I am coming from; I don't understand if facts are immutable. If they eventually end up not being facts, were they ever facts? – MJB Jan 26 at 16:51
  • @MJB, yes if x is true temporarily then x is NOT an objective fact. Objective here means constantly true. That is an objective fact can never be false. The only context one can say x is a fact is to state specifically when it occurred and then it was true. X could be false now but the fact of consistency remains if I say x was true 20 years ago under these circumstances . . . . Now you can pull that off as a fact. Get more specific whe. You want facts. Go extreme detail & see if it remains true always. Otherwise we have temporal truths. – Logikal Jan 26 at 18:29

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