Fact or Opinion? There are more kinds

The news has oversimplified our brains: that’s fact, that’s opinion. Modern education has supported this model: “let’s increase the amount of facts in your head, then maybe your opinions will be better.”

Aristotle classified five types of knowledge, which are the pillars of the classical liberal arts education (though, hilariously, I’ve worked at classical schools that both didn’t know them and focused primarily on filling heads with facts, just older ones):

  • Nous = Knowledge. Yes, more facts.
  • Sophia = Wisdom. I suppose you could consider this better opinions, but it’s more gravity of decisionmaking.
  • Episteme = First principles; scientific observation. Such as the law of non-contradiction or law of the excluded middle.
  • Techne = Skill.
  • Phronesis = Practical wisdom. Applying knowledge, skill, and wisdom to everyday decisions and actions.

The problem with the last three is they require more difficult work, like value judgment, repetition, patiently coaching experiences, to acquire. It’s much easier to spout facts to try and make opinions better.

Lack of skill, lack of internal consistency with deep matters, and lack of practical wisdom as to what affects human behavior and what doesn’t, are the missing ingredients of the modern work and educational life. Those who acquire them, whether intentionally or accidentally, tend to be protagonists of their own life.


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