Lately, I have encountered several remarkable individuals who are bright, informed, and…opinionated. I use the term “opinionated” with discretion and have given much thought to the selection of this word. I believe it is an appropriate fit for the characters I am describing.
I say “opinionated” because these individuals are not afraid to let their opinions become known. They base their judgment on a good deal of information, so that they are not ignorantly inserting shallow statements into discussion. What I have a problem with is the fact that sometimes, if not most times, they state their opinions almost too conclusively and forcefully.
It is admirable that one can hold a passionate viewpoint on a particular issue, but I believe there is a fine line between an informed perspective and a narrow-minded judgment. The former is willing to accommodate counter-arguments and recognizes that a definitive right-or-wrong verdict does not necessarily exist. The latter precludes other viewpoints and dogmatically insists that only one opinion is possible.
No one I know personally falls into the latter category. The belief that only one point of view is allowed is rare in any kind of informed circle, whether academic or social. But there are individuals who tread dangerously near the one-viewpoint-zone, deviating far from the informed perspective area. Sometimes, the tone of their rhetoric and nature of body language indicates that they are unlikely to accept other opinions even if they are willing to listen to these viewpoints in a discussion. Other times, they hold such a passionate and strong commitment to their beliefs that they are blind to other opinions.
Of course, it is admirable for someone to have strong opinions about issues because they demonstrate enthusiasm and interest towards an issue. But often, I think that issues can be so complex and information so limited that any definite opinion, at least in theory, would be impossible to be formed. I see an opinion as the judgment one makes on a particular issue after evaluating all of the information available — assessing all of the arguments, weighing the costs and benefits, analyzing the processes and outcomes. In practice, many constraints such as time and information prevent us from making a full evaluation of an issue, so what we believe to be our “opinions” are merely preliminary conclusions on a subject.