Fact vs Opinion

For a printable copy, click here: FACTS vs opinions

Contributed by: Patty Illing, Reading Lab, Longview Community College
Michael J. Connelly, Philosophy, Longview Community College

• FACT: Statement of actuality or occurrence. A fact is based on direct evidence, actual experience, or observation.
• OPINION: Statement of belief or feeling. It shows one’s feelings about a subject. Solid opinions, while based on facts, are someone’s views on a subject and not facts themselves.
• REASONED JUDGEMENTS: These are conclusions reached by an individual based on premises which can be either facts or opinions. In Critical Thinking, we are most interested in Well – Reasoned Judgements, since it is these alone which advance our knowledge. The memorization of facts or the impassioned proclamation of opinions will not do this.
When Facts or Opinions are given in the context of an argument, especially as the premises of an argument, we call these Empirical and Conceptual premises, respectively.
Use the following guidelines to help keep fact and opinion apart:
• Does the author use words that interpret or label, such as:
pretty, ugly, safe, dangerous, evil, attractive, well-dressed, good, and so on?
• Are there words that clue you to statements of opinion, such as:
probably, perhaps, usually, often, sometimes, on occasion, I believe, I think, in my opinion, I feel, I suggest?
• Can you identify differing opinions and their effect on the author’s views?
• Does the truth of the premise depend on us accepting a certian definition of key words or concepts? Has the author defined the conditions for using the concepts?
The analysis of these “opinions” or conceptual premises is rather complex, involving the reconstruction of the conceptual theory being offered, and the criticism of that theory. We will approach this analysis in a step -by-step method using a flow chart for analyzing the Conceptual Theories offered by these premises.

• Can the fact be verified by direct observation?
• Can the facts be trusted? How did the author come to the facts?
• Does the author have the skill and experience to make such a statement?
• Are the facts presented in an objective manner? (any bias evident or suspected?)
• Does the author make clear the sources of statements from authorities? Are these authorities reliable?
• Can the study which generates the facts be duplicated?
• Are the facts relevant to the point being made?
• Have unfavorable or negative points been left out? (are there counter-studies?)
• Do the facts prove the claim being made or do they merely suggest that the claim is reasonable?

Click here for Fact vs Opinion Exercises

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