by Chris Gee

It is imperative that we encourage the separation and definitional understanding of Opinion vs Belief vs Faith in the public narrative. Too often these three concepts are conflated together or used interchangeably, leading our to public narrative (where political capital is manufactured and harvested) becoming vulnerable to manipulation through political, public relations, ideological and marketing sophistry. This is a very bad thing.

It would help to clear things us considerably if we could agree on the definition and ontology of Opinion, vs Belief, vs Faith. Here is how I think they should be defined and understood:

Opinion: A personal preference that states no proposition, and therefore requires no evidence to support it.

For example: “I prefer the taste of Apples over Oranges”. No one can say “No you don’t”. An opinion is empirical to the individual holding that opinion, and is an entirely solipsistic experience (despite the cognitive biases and hidden-exigencies of social interactions and group-think that inform the opinions determined by our subconscious).

Belief: The pronouncement and holding of a proposition that requires premises supported by evidence that support and follow from that premise, and other premises associated with them, in order to be considered true.

For example: “I believe Apples are better for you than Oranges”. This is a proposition, and requires an epistemic chain of evidence that supports the premise that Apples are better for you than Oranges (vitamins, chemical composition, whatever).

Faith: The conscious choice by an individual to believe a proposition without evidence, or despite evidence to the contrary.

For example: “I have faith that Apples are better for you than Oranges”. No one can come along and say “no you don’t”, because Faith is inherently not predicated by any supported premises. You might ask “Why do you have faith that Apples are better for you than oranges?” but they could, in all rights, say “Just because I do. So there.”

Here is the important bit… Only Individuals have the privilege to hold Opinions or have Faith. An institution, such as a Government or a business or a council or a league or whatever, especially one with the power to enact mass-effect policy with consequences for third parties outside their concern, must take epistemic responsibility for the beliefs that inform their actions. An institution cannot hold an opinion, or have faith, even if it is constituted by, and derives its identity from, individuals who hold particular opinions or faiths.

So we have to be very careful when we say “people have the right to believe what they want”. This can only be the case up until the point that those beliefs informs their actions. Because no one has the right to act how they want when those actions affect other people, right? It is obvious and arbitrary that we must take responsibility for how our actions affect others. It is therefore also arbitrary that we must take epistemic responsibility in how we choose to believe propositions and premises, BEFORE they inform action we must then take responsibility for.

This doesn’t seem to be something that is widespread in the public narrative… which is both dangerous and thoroughly depressing.

Given that the concept of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ is so twisted, often ignoring the balance between positive-freedoms (your freedom to do something) versus negative-freedoms (your freedom from the doings of others), the conflation of ‘freedom to believe what you want’ and ‘freedom to act how you want’ is incredibly dangerous.

This is a problem that is found within the dissonant world-views espoused by both the libertarian-right and the hard-left, especially given the perpetual modern collision between real humanitarian concern vs political correctness vs cultural, historical and moral relativism.

We all have an inherent right to hold whatever opinions we have, and to have faith in whatever we have faith in, but NOT to hold whatever beliefs we want, because all belief is for or against a proposition, and all propositions are supported or destroyed by premises that are built upon a foundation of deduced or induced empirical, philosophical or physical evidence.

I have faith that the world would be a much better place if we made a better job of teaching our children the difference between opinions, beliefs, and faith. I induce this from the fact that human beings who are not drowning in public-relations sophistry have a better grip on reality, and therefore make better decisions based on that reality. We need to teach our children defence against marketing sophistry if we want them to make the best decisions, and most of that sophistry is directed not at our conscious persona, but at the animalistic cognitive and identity-protective decisions taken by our subconscious that ‘we’ either take credit for or obfuscate blame to. Marketing, advertising, politics, ideology, all of it preys on the fuddled murky and mysteriously unknowable desires of our subconscious. Belief should not be driven by subconscious desires and filters, because it should derive from a conscious analysis of competing premises. Opinions and Faith are inherently a subconsciously derived experience, so let’s just embrace them as such, instead of pretending they are the result of conscious decision making. That’s what belief is, and through our well considered beliefs, we then train and inform our subconscious to hold better opinions, and have less probabilistically ludicrous faiths.”