Truth, Opinions and Points of View

I am sure you’ve had a lot of expe­ri­ences where your opin­ion about some­thing was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to other people’s point of view. It can be quite frus­trat­ing to have some­one argue against what you know to be true. When­ever some­one dis­agrees with your point of view you are quite cer­tain that that per­son either does not under­stand, is stu­pid, not as well informed as you are, did not have the expe­ri­ence you’ve had or that he knows that you are right, but does not want to admit it. All these jus­ti­fi­ca­tions – and feel free to add your own – are the proof that your point of view is cor­rect and that other peo­ple are at least wrong if not down­right delu­sional. So how is it pos­si­ble that other peo­ple do not see some­thing that is so obvi­ous to you? How can they be so short­sighted or illog­i­cal, lack com­pas­sion or love, be so incon­sid­er­ate and cruel or what­ever the par­tic­u­lar case may be? Some­times you find your­self won­der­ing whether the whole world has gone mad or if it is just you.

In order to be able to explain this phe­nom­e­non we must first dis­tin­guish what we are talk­ing about, i.e. , point of view and opin­ion. Def­i­n­i­tions from the dic­tio­nary may be of assis­tance here:

opin­ion |əˈpinyən|

noun

a view or judg­ment formed about some­thing, not nec­es­sar­ily based on fact or knowl­edge : I’m writ­ing to voice my opin­ion on an issue of great impor­tance | that, in my opin­ion, is dead right.

the beliefs or views of a large num­ber or major­ity of peo­ple about a par­tic­u­lar thing : the chang­ing cli­mate of opinion.

( opin­ion of) an esti­ma­tion of the qual­ity or worth of some­one or some­thing : I had a higher opin­ion of myself than I deserved.

a for­mal state­ment of advice by an expert on a pro­fes­sional mat­ter : seek­ing a sec­ond opin­ion from a specialist.

Law a for­mal state­ment of rea­sons for a judg­ment given.

Law a lawyer’s advice on the mer­its of a case.

PHRASES

be of the opin­ion that believe or main­tain that : econ­o­mists are of the opin­ion that the econ­omy could contract.

a mat­ter of opin­ion some­thing not capa­ble of being proven either way.

ORIGIN Mid­dle Eng­lish : via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’

THE RIGHT WORD

When you give your opin­ion on some­thing, you offer a con­clu­sion or a judg­ment that, although it may be open to ques­tion, seems true or prob­a­ble to you at the time (: she was known for her strong opin­ions on women in the work­place).

A view is an opin­ion that is affected by your per­sonal feel­ings or biases (: his views on life were essen­tially opti­mistic), while a sen­ti­ment is a more or less set­tled opin­ion that may still be col­ored by emo­tion (: her sen­ti­ments on aging were shared by many other women approach­ing fifty).

A belief dif­fers from an opin­ion or a view in that it is not nec­es­sar­ily the cre­ation of the per­son who holds it; the empha­sis here is on the men­tal accep­tance of an idea, a propo­si­tion, or a doc­trine and on the assur­ance of its truth (: reli­gious beliefs; his belief in the power of the body to heal itself).

A con­vic­tion is a firmly held and unshak­able belief whose truth is not doubted (: she could not be swayed in her con­vic­tions), while a per­sua­sion (in this sense) is a strong belief that is unshak­able because you want to believe that it’s true rather than because there is evi­dence prov­ing it so (: she was of the per­sua­sion that he was inno­cent).

As you might have noticed, nowhere in these def­i­n­i­tions can you find that your opin­ion equals the truth. I heard so many peo­ple say, “It’s my truth”, and they leave it at that, as if their truth some­how becomes true and just as valid as The Truth itself. Of course they find many rea­sons and other opin­ions that attempt to jus­tify their opin­ion, but the bot­tom line is that all these rea­sons and excuses are just plau­si­ble sto­ries that often prove noth­ing. In fact it still boils down to no more that mere over­rated opin­ion. So how do you dis­tin­guish between truth and opin­ion? Let’s start by rec­og­niz­ing that we rarely come face to face with the truth. Objec­tive truth is a very elu­sive con­cept, and it is a con­cept because “the truth” does not exist in the mate­r­ial world. It is always and only an INTERPRETATION and MEANING that we give to any par­tic­u­lar event. Events have no mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions imbed­ded in them, they are not an inte­gral part of ANY event. Inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings are fully and wholly gen­er­ated by human minds and do not exist in nature per se. (Of course this is only my opin­ion.) Nev­er­the­less, like any­thing else, our opin­ions serve a very use­ful role in our lives and like any tool they can be used or abused. Now, how do you know if your opin­ions serve you or not? This is eas­ier said than done, but every bit worth prac­tic­ing. Self-awareness is the first step. Being con­scious and able to per­ceive your behav­ior when you are adamantly assert­ing that your opin­ion is the cor­rect one may make you aware of the futil­ity of your approach to the sit­u­a­tion and open your eyes to other pos­si­bil­i­ties and more effi­cient and effec­tive ways to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. Under­stand­ing that the inter­pre­ta­tions and beliefs we hold so dear come from our past expe­ri­ences and have become part of our per­son­al­i­ties and which we can­not lightly dis­miss, may help us rec­og­nize that other people’s opinions/truths as well as our own are just dif­fer­ent points of view. A point of view is just that: a point from which we view the world. Prob­lems arise when we neglect to rec­og­nize that from the point we see the world or an issue, has one major short­com­ing: we do not see the very point from which we make our obser­va­tion because we are stand­ing on it. Rec­og­niz­ing that there can be more than one point from which the world can be observed and thus be seen in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive will allow us to be more flex­i­ble in our rela­tion­ships with others.

In con­clu­sion, remem­ber that many truths through­out his­tory were debunked and nowa­days make no sense even to a child but in the past were held as irrefutable truths. Think of the earth as being the flat cen­ter of the uni­verse. How about all the gods of ancient Greece and Rome? Newton’s physics is not the final word on our uni­verse any more either. At a more mun­dane level, you may find that what­ever you thought to be true about your par­ents, your part­ner or your chil­dren may not be so, for the time being anyway.

From all this you may be tempted to come to the con­clu­sion that there are many truths and that they all may be equal. That cer­tainly is not so. Some truths are more equal than oth­ers or some opin­ions are bet­ter than oth­ers. Cer­tain truths may be more true to some than to oth­ers depend­ing on the con­text because con­text in which opin­ions and “truths” arise is deci­sive. We’ll talk about con­text some other time. Stay tuned.

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Monogamy isn’t easy, naturally.

Right-wing pro-marriage advo­cates are cor­rect: Monogamy is def­i­nitely under siege. But not from unclos­eted polyamor­ists, ado­les­cent “hook-up” advo­cates, rad­i­cal fem­i­nists, God­less com­mu­nists or some vast homo­sex­ual con­spir­acy. The cul­prit is our own biology.

Researchers in ani­mal behav­ior have long known that monogamy is uncom­mon in the nat­ural world, but only with the advent of DNA “fin­ger­print­ing” have we come to appre­ci­ate how truly rare it is. Genetic test­ing has recently shown that even among many bird species — long touted as the epit­ome of monog­a­mous fidelity — it is not uncom­mon for 6% to 60% of the young to be fathered by some­one other than the mother’s social part­ner. As a result, we now know sci­en­tif­i­cally what most peo­ple have long known pri­vately: that social monogamy does not nec­es­sar­ily imply sex­ual monogamy.

In the movie “Heart­burn,” the lead char­ac­ter com­plains about her husband’s phi­lan­der­ing and gets this response: “You want monogamy? Marry a swan!” But now, sci­en­tists have found that even swans aren’t monog­a­mous. (Nor are those widely admired emperor pen­guins, whose sup­posed march to monogamy was mis­con­strued from another pop­u­lar movie; their domes­tic­ity lasts only for the cur­rent breed­ing sea­son — next year, they’ll find new mates.)

For some, find­ings of this sort may mit­i­gate a bit of the out­rage vis­ited on the cur­rent and future crop of adul­ter­ers du jour, recently includ­ing but assuredly not lim­ited to Eliot Spitzer, Mark San­ford, John Ensign and John Edwards. For oth­ers, it sim­ply shows that men are clue­less, irre­spon­si­ble oafs. The sci­en­tific realty, how­ever, is more nuanced, and more inter­est­ing, espe­cially for those look­ing to their own mat­ri­mo­nial future.

First, there can be no seri­ous debate about whether monogamy is nat­ural for human beings. It isn’t. A Mar­t­ian zool­o­gist vis­it­ing planet Earth would have no doubt: Homo sapi­ens car­ries all the evo­lu­tion­ary stig­mata of a mildly polyg­a­mous mam­mal in which both sexes have a pen­chant for occa­sional “extra-pair copulations.”

But nat­ural isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good. Think about earth­quakes, tsunamis, gan­grene or pneu­mo­nia. Nor is unnat­ural bad, or beyond human poten­tial. Con­sider writ­ing a poem, learn­ing a sec­ond lan­guage or mas­ter­ing a musi­cal instru­ment. Few peo­ple would argue that learn­ing to play the vio­lin is nat­ural; after all, it takes years of ded­i­ca­tion and hard work. A case can be made, in fact, that peo­ple are being max­i­mally human when they do things that con­tra­dict their biol­ogy. “Doing what comes nat­u­rally” is easy. It’s what non­hu­man ani­mals do. Per­haps only human beings can will them­selves to do things that go against their “nature.”

And finally, even though any­one aspir­ing to gen­uine monogamy will, on bal­ance, have to swim upstream against the cur­rent of his or her evo­lu­tion­ar­ily bequeathed incli­na­tions, there are also con­sid­er­able bio­log­i­cal forces sup­port­ing such efforts. Some ani­mals man­age to be monog­a­mous. Cal­i­for­nia mice (Per­omyscus cal­i­for­ni­cus), for exam­ple, pair up and remain paired, for­sak­ing all oth­ers, largely because of the pay­off derived from hav­ing two par­ents to care for off­spring. Beavers estab­lish last­ing pair-bonds that enable them to coop­er­ate in build­ing a valu­able, com­plex home site. The Mala­gasy giant jump­ing rat has evi­dently made the jump to monogamy because of the predator-fighting ben­e­fits thereby pro­vided. And among pygmy mar­mosets, monogamy gives males uncon­scious con­fi­dence of their pater­nity, which in turn sup­ports their incli­na­tion to be unusu­ally paternal.

And human beings? Our species ben­e­fits greatly from bi-parental care. We can profit from shared, rec­i­p­ro­cated effort, espe­cially when we’re con­fi­dent both part­ners will be around for the long term. In addi­tion, human beings are endowed with an array of hard-wired traits that can be used to strengthen monogamy, among them a pen­chant (per­haps even a need) to attach and con­nect so-called mir­ror neu­rons that under­lie empa­thy; hor­monal sys­tems, such as those involv­ing oxy­tocin and vaso­pressin, that relate sex­ual sat­is­fac­tion to pair-bonding; and neural plas­tic­ity that pro­motes the strength­en­ing of brain cir­cuits asso­ci­ated with repeated reward mech­a­nisms — includ­ing, in all like­li­hood, those acti­vated via inter­ac­tions with the same individual.

Add to this the fact that peo­ple have big brains, and hence, an abil­ity to res­cue monogamy from monot­ony, as well as the capac­ity to imag­ine the future and a vis­ceral dis­like of dis­hon­esty, and the effect of biol­ogy on monogamy becomes com­plex indeed. Not to men­tion the adap­tive sig­nif­i­cance of that thing called love.

To be sure, monogamy isn’t easy; nor is it for every­one. But any­one who claims that he or she sim­ply isn’t cut out for monogamy misses the point: No one is. At the same time, no one’s biol­ogy pre­cludes monogamy either.

As Jean-Paul Sartre famously advised (albeit in a dif­fer­ent con­text): “You are free; choose.”

David P. Barash, an evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist, is a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton. His most recent book — coau­thored with Judith Eve Lip­ton — is “Strange Bed­fel­lows: The Sur­pris­ing Con­nec­tion Between Sex, Evo­lu­tion and Monogamy.”

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