Nowadays people have a hard time saying things. In the olden days a person could feel perfectly sensible saying something like, "That's a beautiful house." Today, one is better off saying "That's a beautiful house - in my opinion." Today, we recognize that other opinions are just good as our own. But this causes some interesting complications when we come to analyze the meaning of our statements. What does the modern statement mean, "That's a beautiful house - in my opinion"? Or rather what is the meaning of that little addition - "in my opinion"? It seems to mean that other people may take another opinion. But this is true in cases where we would never say in my opinion. For example, we would not say "The earth is round - in my opinion," even though there may be some who hold another opinion. We only add the words "in my opinion" when we believe there is another opinion which might be true. In other words, when we say "That's a beautiful house - in my opinion," what we are really saying is "That's a beautiful house, but it might not be." In other words, we are saying nothing at all.
One could perhaps avoid this by using a different phrase. Sometimes we say "I think that's a beautiful house." Such a phrase could be interpreted exactly as we interpreted the earlier one: the words I think could function simply as an acknowledgement that the house may in fact not be beautiful. But it can also be interpreted as a statement not about the house but about my thoughts. On this view I am not saying that the house is beautiful, but am merely reporting the fact that I think it is. Of course one may be wrong about that. Psychologists will tell us that we do not always understand or report our thoughts accurately. So, we reach the following statement "I think that's a beautiful house - in my opinion." Here we are registering the possibility that we may not really be thinking that it is a beautiful house.
In fact, we probably aren't, because we know full well that there are other opinions about the house and that they may be right. So, if we wish to report our thoughts accurately, we must say, "I think: 'that's a beautiful house - in my opinion'." Here we are not registering any doubts about whether we are thinking this or not, but rather are accurately representing our true thought, which is that the house is either beautiful or not. Or, I think: "nothing".
But of course this may not be what we are really thinking. So, what we must say is the following: "I think: 'that's a beautiful house - in my opinion' - in my opinion." (I think: "nothing" -- in my opinion.") Here we are acknowledging that we may or may not be thinking that the house may or may not be beautiful.
This is one case in which modern philosophy has advanced over ancient philosophy, and in the next lecture I will present another one. Or, I think: 'this is one case in which modern philosophy has advanced over ancient philosophy - in my opinion,' in my opinion and I think: 'in the next lecture I will present another way in which I think: "modern philosophy has improved over ancient philosophy -in my opinion," in my opinion' - in my opinion,' in my opinion.
So you can see that we philosophers have not been wasting the past 2,400 years for nothing - in my opinion.
By Gabriel Danzig 29 February 2008