Which opinions should we take into consideration?

“Socrates: But, my dear Crito, why do we care so much for what most people think? For the most reasonable men, whose opinion is more worth considering, will think that things were done as they really will be done. […] By taking up first what you say about opinions and asking whether we were right when we always used to say that we ought to pay attention to some opinions and not to others? […] But it used to be said, I think, by those who thought they were speaking sensibly, just as I was saying now, that of the opinions held by men some ought to be highly esteemed and others not. In God’s name, Crito, do you not think this is correct?”

Plato: Crito, 44c; 46c-e. Translated by Harold North Fowler. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1966.

Too often we take into considerations the thoughts of others and evaluate their opinion, and we are afraid of the opinion of others, but why do we care at all? Why do we care so much for what others think of us? Furthermore, if we have a knowledge of something, it is unlikely that we will be appreciated for it, as nowadays there are many people who are full of envy and behave jealous. They will tell us that we are wrong without having a single argument; they will talk bad of us and as they have no argument they start judging our outside appearance. And if you philosophise and share your results with others, you might just want the best for them and hope they can reflect as well, but instead, some might do not see our goodness, same as the Athenians did not see Socrates’ good intention. He wanted to make his contemporary society reflect and instead of being thankful, the Athenians executed him.

Though we are not executed for our opinions in Western societies today, sharing our reflections also indirectly makes others feel stupid. They see that they did not have the insights, though they have the capability to reflect themselves and feel ashamed that they did not use this capability. Some might have other insights. Their reflections led them to other conclusions, and this is perfectly fine, we can discuss and argue with them. But many people today do not really want to reflect and discuss, they do not want to seriously engage in discussions, and so they try anything to delegitimize us. But we should not hold these opinions in high esteem as they are not constructive. Some even feel to be above others and they do not see the necessity to engage in fruitful discussions, so every argument which speaks against them is seen as a threat, as again this makes them feel stupid in front of others. But if they are not really interested in a serious discussion, should we regard their opinion in high esteem? Should we value ignorance so much?

Even if we are a minority voice, no one can cancel our thoughts and no one can force us to think or agree to what others think if we come to another conclusion. And if our reflections make other people feel stupid, we should not take the blame on us. Of course, we should take all opinions into consideration to be able to engage in discussion, but when we see that an opinion is not directed towards pushing forward a discussion, but directed at us as a person to make us look smaller (just that others feel in a higher place and are able to hide their feeling that they feel stupid in front of us), or if people are arrogant and ignorant in general towards us, then we should not take their opinion into consideration and not care of what they think, no matter whether they are a minority or a majority.

Thus, we should take into consideration all opinions which are directed towards a fruitful discussion, but not take into consideration opinions directed towards us to let us down!

Timo Schmitz, 16 August 2022

Photo Credit: Mattia Ascenzo – Unsplash

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