A Call to Reasoned Judgement

A judge making a decision in court is not expected to base his judgements on his subjective preferences or on his personal opinions.

Judgement based on sound reasoning go beyond facts alone or mere opinion alone.

Facts are typically used in reasoning, but good reasoning does more than state facts so a judgement that is well-reasoned

is not described as simply "opinion"; we demand that it be based on relevant and sound reasoning.

Here's a somewhat different way to put this same point. There are three different kinds of question.

1. Those with one right answer (factual questions fall into this category).

eg What is the boiling point of water?

eg. How far is it from Doha to Dubai?

2 Those with as many answers as there are different human preferences.
eg. Which would you prefer, a vacation in the mountains or one at the seashore.
eg. Who was the best football player of all time?

These kinds of question are mostly a matter of personal opinion, though some facts and data may be used as support.

3. Questions with answers that should be well-reasoned, with factual support.
eg How can we solve the problem of poverty in the world today?

eg. Do animals have the same rights as humans?

This is a matter of reasoned judgement - so we can rationally evaluate answers to the question
using universal intellectual standards such as clarity, depth, consistency and so forth.

When questions that require reasoned answers are treated as matters of opinion, then bad thinking happens.

If students come to assume that everyone's "opinion" is of equal value, we can expect to hear views such as these:

That's just your point of view. We do things differently where I come from!

That was then. Things are different now...

I know what's right, and I don't have to justify it!

Whose standards? Why shouldn't we have our own standards?

Don't I have a right to my own opinion?

What if I don't believe in being "rational?"

Sloppy thinkers fail to see the difference between simply asserting a view as true, and offering solid reasons and evidence in support of it.

We want to teach students to recognize good reasoning, to value it and respect it.