On Nonfactual Arguments

One of my Econ profs said something to me this summer which I found annoying, because I didn’t really like it, but which I think I’m coming around to.

He said that if you don’t have data to back up what you’re saying, that all you have is an opinion, nothing more, and that’s what distinguishes a religion from a study.

I really didn’t like this then because I thought about law and philosophy, and even religion and literature: these subjects are ones without data. But they’re damn important! So, no, it’s not just an opinion that I have about something.

But as an opinions columnist, I’ve changed my mind a bit. What I’ve found is that if you write an opinion piece, especially if it’s controversial, you want to make sure that it’s built on solid ground. Meaning? That you have evidence to back up your claim. Because then if someone wants to come after you, they have to show yu that your evidence doesn’t support your conclusion. You have to be one abstraction away from the evidence.

In this sense does your evidence do your work for you. If you didn’t have evidence, then you’d have to go through the long exercise of unraveling yourself in front of someone else, and most likely than not, you will end up unwinding yourself to the point that you are exposed for your loose ends.

There are two solutions to this. You either use evidence and data to support your conclusions. Or, you develop a full out philosophy of life, so that you can answer any questions posed to you.

For example, the last article I wrote was about sexual assault. Some of the things I wrote in it could be conceived of as victim blaming, because they suggest that a woman being sexually assaulted or not is partially a consequence of her actions.

I don’t have an answer to this question of whether it is victim blaming or not. All I know is that there are training programs which you can take which teach you to confront the world which lead to you being assaulted less frequently. And that’s something I can support with the data.

As for a whole philosophy of sexuality, and where i should draw the line between a sexual assault being who’s responsibility? I don’t have that. And furthermore, I don’t think that’s for me to decide. If you are sexually assaulted, you have a tragedy story: person a went from a to b, and b was worse. How should person a avoid going to b in the future?

That’s a question which I shouldn’t answer, because it’s not my problem. Perhaps if I am sexually assaulted, I will tell you what interpretation, what answer, I have for that question, and then it would be a worthwhile answer. ┬áBut until then, it might even be better if I just stick to the data – that way I completely avoid the sanctimoniousness of victim blaming, or of blaming the victim blamer.

This will probably get me into trouble. Oh well.

Till next time.

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