25 November 2020

5. Distinguish between facts, beliefs, preferences, and opinions.

1: Fact/Matter of fact/Statement of fact: An observable phenomenon that can be independently verified. Facts are the provisionally correct answers to questions of state or questions of cause.

"Who won the 2020 United States presidential election?"
"Joe Biden."

"What caused the 2021 flooding in Europe?"
"Heavy rainfall."
"A poorly designed flood warning system."
"Poor preparation by town planners."
"Climate change."

Note the diverse answers to the last question, reflecting the progression from proximate to ultimate causes. 

2: Belief: A phenomenon that is assumed to be true. The origin of a belief may stem from a combination of facts, misinformation, and/or disinformation.

"I believe God created the universe in six days."
"I believe climate change is happening."

3: Preference: A favoured choice. Values are preferences. The origin of a preference may be known or not -- observation, indoctrination, operant conditioning, delusion.

"I prefer a fixed-rate mortgage over a variable rate, because it gives me greater piece of mind."
"I like chocolate cake. I don't like cheesecake. I don't know why."
"Honesty is important to me."

4: Opinion: A judgement based on beliefs and preferences.

"In my opinion A Moveable Feast is the best book ever written."
"Socialism is superior to both Communism and Capitalism."
"In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government should tax gasoline."

(In my life I have learned three things: First, people do not like to stick to facts, they like to stick to whatever it is they believe. Second, people judge and choose even if they know nothing or only parts of the story. And last, people have two standards, one which they apply to themselves, family, and friends, and another that they apply to everybody else.)