VIEWSnHAVING OPINIONS by Stephen R.L. Clarkn”The pubhc buys its opinions as it buys its meat,nor takes in its milk, on the principle that it isncheaper to do this than to keep a cow. “n—Samuel ButlernWhen opinion polls are conducted on some urgentnmatter of the day (the character of Colonel Qaddafi,nor the compatibility of some soon-to-be-married royalncouple) those polled are permitted to declare themselvesn”Don’t Knows.” It is usually a minority who are sonill-disposed as to forget their civic duty to have an opinionnon each and every subject, and they can usually expect tonbe rebuked as fence-sitters or slugabeds. People confrontednby the demand that they take sides can generally produce an”view,” which they maintain against all comers without thenslightest attempt to seek out confirmatory or counterevidence.nSometimes, no doubt, this view “bubbles up” fromnthe speaker’s entrenched evaluations and opinions; sometimes,nit has simply been selected, off the cuff, from thenavailable alternatives and entered in the speaker’s “axiomset”—thenthings he’ll say when asked, or which he mayneven “act on” in some more material way—without anynimplication that the alternative opinion would not oncenhave done as well.nPeople choose sides in civil, fashionable, moral, ornmetaphysical questions very much as children choosenwhich local football team they will (notionally) support.n”I’m the sort of person who supports Everton rather thannLiverpool, pretends to adore the Queen Mother and dislikenPrincess Anne, thinks that Qaddafi is insane and Gorbachevnis a nicer chap than Brezhnev, and votes for Mrs. Tiggywinklenwhile expressing cautious disapproval of her policies.”nOr in other circles: “I’m the sort that was born undernAquarius, thinks the military-industrial complex controlsnthe Western world, and that ‘the scientists’ are only notnrevealing their solution to death, UFO’s, and telepathynbecause they’re in league with the Freemasons.” Taking anposition, like wearing a particular dress or choosing to drinknlager, is expressing loyalty to a group, an image of oneself, anparticular rhetoric.nThose of us who honestiy don’t know (and often don’tnmuch care) which team or party or celebrity to claim ton”like” suffer from more than pollsters. Hesse’s description ofnthe Age of the Feuilleton, in The Glass Bead Game, comesnto mind: “Noted chemists or piano virtuosos would benqueried about politics, for example, or popular actors.ndancers, gymnasts, aviators or even poets would be drawnnout on the benefit and drawbacks of being a bachelor, or onnthe presumptive causes of financial crises.” Those whonpossess some genuine expertise in one profession or craftnmay even believe that they have superior insights to conveynStephen R.L. Clark is professor of philosophy at thenUniversity of Liverpool. His most recent book is FromnAthens to Jerusalem: The Love of Wisdom and the Lovenof God (Oxford: The Clarendon Press).nnnAPRIL 1387/13n