Against Opinion

against opinion-elke vogelsang

Image by Elke Vogelsang.

Actually, I have nothing against opinion per se. The question is how do we come by it and what do we do with it?

I am all for knowing yourself and trusting your gut, but the opinion-judgment two-step doesn’t aid the discussion of perfume. “I love this! (therefore) It’s the greatest perfume ever!” and, “I hate this! (therefore) It’s terrible!” are equally unhelpful starting points for a meaningful exchange. Granted, 140 characters or the choice either to “like” or take no action are constraints as well, but I have seen some spectacular creative writing on perfume in just this context.

Oh, I have written some uninformative and remarkably uninteresting reviews of perfumes. Because of this, I am trying to set myself a goal that if I don’t have some point greater point than simply reviewing a perfume, I won’t write about it. I am not looking to persuade anyone to my own opinion and perfume isn’t a consumer product to be rated. Perfume has a different meaning to me than shampoo does.

The explosion of perfume writing and online perfume communities promotes interaction, but much of the discussion is limited by numeric rating systems, thumbs up/thumbs down and recommend/avoid. Opinion as the overriding criterion for viewing perfume leads to a presumption of authority and prejudices judgement over investigation. The medium is the message and calling anyone who cares to make a comment a reviewer mistakes opinion for expertise. A dozen or a hundred reviews doesn’t amount to a discussion, and the lack of interaction highlights how little responsibility is assigned to judgement.

We do have the authority to talk about perfume, but it doesn’t derive from the ability to parley notes and materials or pronounce verdicts. Our love of perfume and our contemplation of it are the sources of our authority. Rating systems like Basenotes’s thumbs-up/thumbs down would have us be jurors pronouncing a verdict and ask us to shape our comments into a justification of our judgement. It’s tough to subvert the system, so I side-step it. I give all perfumes a thumbs-up rating and then write whatever I care to. Having to ‘vote’ in order to make a comment might give an appearance of order, but what’s wrong with a little chaos?