Thinking Is Power.
DEFINITION AND EXPLANATION: It is true that everyone is (legally) entitled to their opinion. However, “I’m entitled to my opinion,” is often used to shield an unsupported position. And being entitled to your opinion doesn’t mean you’re right, or that anyone needs to take your opinion seriously.
There are several problems with this fallacy.
1. An opinion doesn’t mean what they think it means. Opinions are subjective judgements or viewpoints. When someone claims they are “entitled to their opinion,” it’s often because they are trying to shield factually incorrect assertions.
2. All opinions aren’t equal. Expert opinions are interpretations of evidence based on years of study and experience, and are significantly more robust and reliable than non-expert opinions. “I’m entitled to my opinion” suggests that their opinion is just as good as anyone else’s.
3. We should all be open to changing our minds if the evidence suggests we should. “I’m entitled to my opinion” is essentially an admission that they can’t justify their position… but yet they’re unwilling to entertain contradictory evidence or other points of view.
In the face of facts that contradict a belief, especially one central to our identity or values, we use motivated reasoning to reduce the cognitive dissonance that arises when reality and our beliefs are in conflict. When that fails, our Get Out of Jail Free Card is to defend the belief by rendering it unfalsifiable and therefore immune to evidence. We move the goalposts. Discount sources or deny evidence. Proclaim that it’s our opinion.
It’s important to remember that the purpose of arguing isn’t to be right, it’s to get it right. “I’m entitled to my opinion” shuts down any further disagreement. We simply don’t want to be wrong.
HOW TO COUNTER: I tell my students on the first day of class that they are not entitled to their opinions. (At least not in class!) They are only entitled to what they can support with evidence.
It’s a bit trickier in the “real world.” Remember that people are often unfamiliar with the basics of critical thinking, so they may not be used to having to support their positions with evidence. Consider explaining why “I’m entitled to my opinion” is fallacious, and the benefits of healthy disagreement. The best approach is probably to ask them why they hold this particular opinion, and why they think they’re “entitled” to it.
MORE ABOUT THIS AND OTHER FALLACIES: thinkingispower.com/logical-fallacies/
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