Philosophy: Personal Opinion vs. Critical Argument

A response to the Misunderstood Activity
created by Andrew Molas (@amolas)

Number of views: 62

One misunderstood concept that some students in philosophy encounter is what constitutes an argument. Some students believe philosophy is just a matter of stating personal opinion with no further justification or argument to support their belief. But a philosophical argument involves a critical reflection and justification (showing evidence) to support their belief.

An analogy would be asking someone to describe their favourite flavour of ice cream. If you say “I personally believe that chocolate is the better than vanilla ice cream” and offer no justification or support to their belief. That is merely stating a personal opinion and does not expand on why they believe this claim over a different claim. But if someone said “I believe that vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream because vanilla is the most popular flavour around the globe, because vanilla serves as a foundation for other flavours to build upon, and because vanilla is more readily available” then they would be providing a justification for their argument.

I would use this example to demonstrate to students that even if they have opposing viewpoints on a certain topic, the ability to critical reflect and provide reasons for a claim is what transforms a personal opinion into an argument (which can then, in turn, be critiqued or expanded upon by others).


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