How can I become more opinionated? Newbie asking

First of all: Hello, I’m new. I just signed up today.
Secondly: I wanted to ask for advice. I’ve always enjoyed reading and exploring foreign worlds, but until a week ago this has always been confined to my mind.
I came of age this year. Before last year, I had only twice left this country since I was five. Both times I have visited family with my parents. Before last weak I had never befriended anyone outside my social group/family circle.

Last week I got to know someone who is very different from everyone I know: Agnostic, open-minded, compassionate and passionate. It showed me how utterly ignorant I am.
I have read lots of books about a lot of things, but it never occurred to me that I’ve never tested any of the theories, never had any opinions of my own that couldn’t be changed in a two minute conversation and just believed what I was told to believe.

Now I want to change that, but I cannot ask the person I met for I do not wish to disappoint her. How can I cure myself of my ignorance?

What I’ve thought about so far: I have tried very hard to think of something I definitely believe in and won’t change my opinion about. So I think that life is something good that needs to be preserved. I also don’t believe that there is a downside to life in general.
All other topics I am unsure of. I usually adopt the opinion of the people around me / the books I read.

Honored to be here:

Always keep changing your ideas and opinions for the better, while continuing to seek new ideas and opinions. Ask yourself is this better or worse than what you previously thought. At some point the majority of it will be worse and you’ll have hopefully realized some form of maturity or wisdom.

Are you actually adopting opinions, or merely playing along? Because there’s a difference between (for example) suddenly disbelieving the earth is round due to talking to a flat-earther, and merely refraining from arguing about it because you don’t feel like a fight.

It sounds to me like you need some more critical thinking. I’m not sure how old you are or what opportunities are available, but I recommend learning about Socrates and his method of inquiry.

You say you readily adopt the opinions of other people and books that you read. Next time you read a book or an argumentative article, I suggest you really examine the basis for the claims. For each piece of information you read, you should be asking yourself, “Is this true? Is it relevant? Is it clear and understandable? Is it consistent? If the situation was different, how would that change things?” Then read an opposing argument and do the same thing. “Where do the arguments differ? How did they use information? Was one piece of information more important than another? Did anything get obscured or left out?” By asking these kinds of questions we learn how to critically examine information.

And if you examine an argument and think it is incomplete or inaccurate, you can learn more about a topic so that you have a more comprehensive understanding.

Welcome! Search our threads and read some first before just posting. Different boards have different attitudes and methods. I’d read BBQ Pit entries before getting into one.

Welcome again!

I suggest searching the SDMB forums ‘Great Debates’ and ‘In My Humble Opinion’ on various topics to expand your range and depth of opinionated subject matter. Welcome to the SDMB!

You’re off to a good start: read, read, read! Read novels, read non-fiction, read autobiographies, read textbooks. Read the classics; Orwell, Vonnegut, Dickens, etc. Read wikipedia and get lost in rabbitholes. Read this messageboard, read Reddit. Read newspapers and magazines. Just keep reading!

I suggest starting off by learning about world history. Read about WWI & II. Read about the beginnings of civilization. Read about the history of your home country. Like I said, I like to go to wikipedia, start with one topic, and just start clicking things from there.

I don’t think you’re going to become “compassionate and passionate” like this new friend of yours simply by being “opinionated” purely for the sake of it, as some kind of academic exercise. On the contrary–that might just end up making you an annoying person.

The kind of sentiment which you seem to admire in this person–if it is genuine–comes from direct experience and direct observation of the world, which then is view through the prism of the things your read, and academic thought.

Being opinionated is a negative trait to have, I don’t think that is the word you are looking for.

It is not unusual to find the word used incorrectly.

Welcome to the Dope, Riyali.

Become a barber, or taxi cab driver; you will then possess all knowledge, and will tell anyone/everyone endlessly about how the world should be run.

I know what you mean about wanting to become “more opinionated”, even though that might not sound nice. I had the same thing.

In my situation, I started to know my own opinions after I had a number of difficult experiences. Before the difficult experiences, I wasn’t sure what I thought, about a number of things that other people seem to think are obvious.

In other words, I think “You’ll develop opinions when you need them. Live your life and don’t worry about this.”

ISTM that by “opinionated” you mean that you are seeking truth and want more certainty about your views. This goal is laudable up to a point, but there is a danger in carrying it too far. Indeed, the word “opinionated” carries a negative connotation that reflects that risk.

I think most here on the SDMB would agree that the scientific method is the best route humans have developed for discovering reliable (if not absolutely certain) information about the physical world. I would urge you to read up on the history and process of science, perhaps via the writings of some of its best popularizers, including Asimov, Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Neil Degrasse Tyson, etc.

However, there are vast areas of human experience that science does not address directly, such as ethics, morality, politics, and faith. I believe that a substantial plurality, if not a majority, of Dopers do not wholly accept the tenets of mainstream religion: they are agnostics or atheists. (I count myself among the latter.) We would therefore not recommend turning to religion for a complete worldview, even though we recognize that many of the moral teachings of the world’s religions are valid and worthy. However, most religions include other beliefs that non-believers find unacceptable.

Chief among these, and the most dangerous, is the claim of many religions (or at least of some of the proponents of those religions) that theirs is the only true religion. Certainty of this sort, whether concerning a religious or political worldview, has historically led to the worst atrocities in human history, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and 9/11.

IMHO, among the most important things science can teach us, and this applies to all areas of human experience, is that human knowledge can almost never be considered absolutely true, because humans never have complete knowledge. A wise person (even if he/she is not a Christian) always remembers the exhortation of Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

So as you travel on your journey for truth, rely on science for matters regarding the physical world. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

In the realm of ethics, morality, and politics, search your heart to discover your own values: how do you feel people should treat each other? What is right and what is wrong? Good and bad? Like many, you may be inclined to turn to religion for these answers. You will find that many religious people are good and decent humans who strive to live up to the ideals of their faiths, while others are hypocrites motivated by hatred and fear who use religion to justify acting from their baser instincts. (I believe the former are in the majority, but the latter often attract more attention.)

Note also that, contrary to the claims of some people, agnostics and atheists can be, and often are, just as moral and ethical as believers, and that there is no necessary connection between a person’s professed faith and his/her level of human decency.

Over time, your experience will lead you towards “truths” that seem valid. They will become your guide posts. But I beseech you, beware of believing that any “truth” is the final and absolute Truth. Always remain open to new information that may change your mind.

Welcome to the Dope!

Welcome. :slight_smile:

(Yay! I’m not the newbie anymore!)

First, happy birthday.

Second, I congratulate you on your forward thinking. Very many people very much older than you will go their whole lives without thinking about this at all.

Third, I’m not sure you have anything to worry about (yet), because you haven’t the life experience that comes with exposure to different opinions. As you go about, believe me, you’ll run into plenty of people who will be only too glad to offer you their opinions. Your greatest challenge will be to cut off the noise.

One thing you can do: In conversation, state your opinion (the one you got from books and whatnot) and end with, “But I’m not sure I’m right about that.” This invites the other to answer with, "Well, I’ve always thought . . . " and bingo, you’ve learned somebody else’s opinion, just like that. If you want, you can even ask questions. “Oh? What makes you think so?” “How did you learn about that?” “What made you change your mind?” And so on. Get them talking. (Don’t flood them; let the conversation go along organically.) Then you have new information to think about.

Be careful not to get hidebound; that is, remain flexible, open to change. But cherish what you truly believe.

Lastly, in the end always trust your own observations, your own thought, your own mind. It is obvious you’re quite intelligent. As you go on, you’ll run into plenty of occasions when you’ll learn you were wrong about something. Trust me on that. :rolleyes:

And that will mean you’re exactly like everyone else. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your answers and warm words of welcome! This helps a lot! I also started reading through some of the discussions here, but I probably won’t be leaping for quite some time.

This seems like a good method indeed! Do you have any specific scale or method of measurement for goodness? Because I can never decide what’s good or bad. When someone tells me their opinion, it almost always makes sense and what they say seems valid. Only in rare cases there are obvious contradictions like a is always b, but a is never b. Does having more arguments make something a better opinion? Or having more supporters?

Thank you for those questions, they got me thinking! I’m not sure. I have never really had a fight except for basic things like “Who’s pencil is this?”. And I never win those fights.
I’m not sure whether I adopt their opinions or just never had one in the first place or if I believe them all. After speaking with someone who believes vaccines are harmful it just feels plausible, his arguments seem valid though some are a matter of fact and some of values. But I have heard many arguments pro vaccines so I don’t know. Can you believe that something is harmful and harmless at the same time?

I turned 18 earlier this year and I will finish school in spring next year. I have read the απολογια of Platon with Sokrates in it. What else would you recommend? To me it seems he is asking a lot of questions. I will definitely ask more questions in the future when I’m listening to someone’s opinion, thank you! It never occurred to me before to do this intentionally, do you have any special method of thinking of questions? I always ask how someone knows what he says, but I have no scale of accuracy for different paths to knowledge.

Thank you for those questions! How do I best decide what is important and what is not? Is an argument that is mentioned frequently more important than one that is not? Or did I misunderstand the importance?

I hope I caught the right board and attitude for this thread. I always lurk before I leap and I apologize if I posted this in the wrong place. I read some personal threads here, so I thought this belongs here. The BBQ seems very interesting, I have to admit that I mostly read IMHO and Great Debates.

@Enlightening Meditation
Thank you! This is great because I’ve been attracted to those two right from the start, seems like I’ve been reading in the right places :slight_smile:

I really enjoyed George Orwell, I binge read everything he wrote. His collected essays were sometimes a little out of my time, especially the one about cool mining, but I enjoyed them, too. Will definitely catch up on the World Wars and I’m glad I’ve found another person who enjoys Wiki hopping.
Is Wikipedia always accurate? Because most of the people around me seem to disagree with a lot of things on there.

This person actually admires me for being so open-minded. It just doesn’t feel honest because those opinions I state don’t mean anything to me. I wish to really believe in my opinion and therefore be truly open-minded when I change my opinion. I don’t know if that makes any sense. Thank you for your advice!

@Mean Mr. Mustard
Thank you for telling me, I thought it simply meant having opinions on questions. Maybe the word I’m looking for is the opposite of detached or a yeasayer. None of these seem to fit perfectly.

You made me smile, thank you! This reminds me that I still have to decide my career path. Though I think almost everyone in my life would disapprove of me becoming a taxi driver. I value your humorous opinion and will keep it in mind!

I just want to be able to make my decisions on the basis of some moral or scale or something. Thank you for understanding me. If it comes with time, I am probably just a little behind.

If there is a truth, I would very much like to know it, but I have heard different opinions about whether there is a truth or not, or there are multiple truths. No one seems to agree. But I would be content just having a system to base my decisions on. Mine has been a mixture of “flip a coin”, “do what the most people tell you” and “do what people you are closest related to tell you”. It served me well, but after talking to this new friend, I want to actually have an opinion.

I just finished ‘The Complete Robot’ by Asimov, it was very interesting. Is there anything in particular I should read from him? I am probably going to read all of his works, but I could put a rush on it. And thank you for the other authors, I added them onto my list.

The religion of my environment is Christianity. People have very different opinions on it. Even those who are Christians seem to not agree on many things. But I will read more about religions. I am very ignorant about the topic.

I have been asking myself those questions and I think it will take me a long time to answer them. I just can’t decide. I am looking forward to finding those truths, I think I just need to think about it long enough. I will not forget your opinion and your advice, thank you!

Will I know when I truly believe something? Is it different for everyone? Is there a particular emotion connected to it? And what is the difference between a fact and an opinion?
(I’m sorry if I am doing this wrong, I tried to think of some questions because this seemed like a good opportunity to try some advice.)
And you sound a little like her. So just ignore this question if you think it’s inappropriate. Would you rather have a person tell you that they don’t really have an opinion on a topic, but know some opinions they can talk about? Or have them argue for one opinion?

Thank you! :slight_smile:

(Short answer because I’m running out of time :frowning: )
It was in April :slight_smile: A trouble some time full of decisions is coming closer and closer.
I would guess that is because most people have an opinion, so they probably don’t need to think about it.

And thank you for getting me all excited, I love to collect opinions. How do you decide if an opinion is noise? Do you mean opinions where the person doesn’t tell you any arguments?

(Tries memorizing those sentences) This is great, thank you so much! Most of the later questions I have used before, but it’s great to have it all in one place! :slight_smile:

(This makes me think of “Errare humanum est” or something close to that) I hope that I will soon discover some truths!

My suggestion is not to look for The Truth, but to remember that the definition of “truth” is “the correspondence between a **statement **or **claim **about reality and reality as it is perceived.” Statements can be true or false. People or feelings or pictures (etc.) cannot be “true.” They can be nice or good or bad or sweet or awful, but not true. “Truth” as commonly applied to these other things generally only means, “I like this thing,” which is an opinion and says nothing about its veracity. That said, since people can differ about the nature of reality, people can have conflicting views of truth. When it comes to matters regarding the physical world, science will be the most reliable way of discovering the truth, since it has a method designed to prevent the very human tendency to see what one wants to see.

If you are looking for the “truth” of religious claims, well, that’s going to be a much harder task, with no simple solution, IMHO.

Asimov is rightly regarded as one of the best writers of science fiction ever, and I would never discourage you from reading his SF. But his science and other non-fiction writing makes up the vast majority of his tremendous output, and it was his essays on science to which I was specifically referring. They have been compiled in dozens of collections that are readily available. Unfortunately, since they were written between the 1950s and his death in 1992, some have become outdated as science has progressed over the intervening decades.

You ask some very interesting questions, particularly, “How do we know what we believe? Or decide what to believe?” Most people seem not to ask these questions, but just feel that certain things are true, because they have been told or taught them by parents or teachers or preachers, accepting them with little or no examination or questioning. You are to be lauded for being more thoughtful about the process.

Outside the realm of physical reality, many beliefs can be characterized as “values,” that is, general principles that can serve as a guide for how to deal with particular situations that arise in one’s life. For instance, the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – has been expressed in almost precisely the same way in many religions and cultures throughout time and around the world. This universality tends to support the authority of its message, although philosophers have pointed out that the fact that many people agree about something does not make it true. They could all be mistaken.

Other examples of values are expressed in the Ten Commandments, for instance, and in other religious exhortations and laws.

No one can tell you what your values or beliefs are or should be. In the areas of morality and ethics in particular, most people just feel that some things are right and some are wrong.

Can you express some of the things (beliefs, values) that you think are right or some of the truths that seem to have more validity for you? Or, conversely, things that you feel are wrong or false, or have rejected, and your reasons for doing so?

I said what I said because I am a little behind, or a lot behind. I guessed that you and I may have something like that in common.