Why Objectivity Does Not Objectively Exist

objectivity

 

In order to understand the issues with objectivity we should first look at how the concept and definition have changed over time.

What they used to mean…

Objective – The measurable qualities of an object.
Subjective – The qualities of relationship between object, observer and environment.

What they have come to mean…

Objective – Absolutely true beyond individual observation, perception and analysis.
Subjective – Just, like, your opinion, man.

As a method of empirical investigation, objectivity is the best possible attempt to create a reliable map of reality based on consensus. A map that gives us the best predictive power for future navigation of the territory. That map, however, is not the territory.

The modern thinking about objectivity is that it is an infallible method that produces absolutely True results. Those things which we say are objective have come to be endowed with an ideological faith in their eternal certainty. Even though we cannot measure anything all throughout spacetime, we have come to belief that our small snapshot of it from this perspective in place and time can be assumed to be true everywhere forever so long as it is ‘objective’.

There are many problems with this belief system, and make no mistake, it is just that.

Most obviously, in the dichotomy in which objective means absolutely and subjective means merely personally, we have a self-refuting axiom. If I am only able to recognize subjective truths through my individual powers of perception and analysis, then how could I ever verify something outside of the subjective realm? Objectivity, by the logic of objectivists, should be beyond my ability to observe, identify and verify. If there are objective truths, then what objective process outside of our own minds can we use to verify them?

The answer generally given is consensus. If many of us observe the same thing, the properties of the thing we agree upon must be true. Yet this is irrational for a number of reasons. If we start from the premise that our minds -the instrument of observation, measurement and conclusion- are unreliable due to their subjective nature, then we cannot fix the problem by overlapping unreliable constructs. This is like taking a hundred broken and randomly set clocks and attempting to determine the actual time throughout the day based on an average of their readings.

The assumption that something beyond individual experience can be determined through democratic means is rooted in our cultural bias that might makes right and that the majority view is always the truth. Nevermind that we already understand the psychology of mass hysteria, groupthink and crowd behavior. When it comes to covering up the existential dread of uncertainty we are willing to ignore our proclivity towards group ignorance. When it confirms our biases and validates our egos, we are willing to overlook all of the obvious issues with any version of Absolute Truth.

Often the reasoning given to validate objectivity is that it produces positive results. This is flawed as well. Star charts made by people who believed the earth was at the center of the universe produced positive navigation results. Long after Einsteins theory of general relativity unraveled Newtonian physics, those physics are still being used to produce positive results. The ability to produce positive results does not prove a central premise. That is reverse engineering Absolute Truth from the faulty premise of result-orientated pragmatism.

Our government and media have profited most from this mass delusion. By defining what constitutes truth they are able to control it and use it as a tool of manipulation. By assigning absolutes they narrow the field of possibilities to make their own agendas seem favorable or necessary. The myth of objectivity is the most powerful ideological tool today in preventing critical thinking, individual autonomy and competition. It is a tool of monopolizing information and knowledge.

And even more insidious is that we are conditioned to feel inordinate amounts of pride and satisfaction in thinking what we are told to think, by having those majority opinions rewarded and validated by experts, officials and authoritarians. When you continually reassure people that what they believe is true, there becomes no reason to question it, especially not when it is made to appear that everyone either believes the same thing as you or is a total nutjob.

Objectivism is just a form of consensus gathering. It is an ideological net that is used to ensnare people in the ideas and agendas of those who are able to control and manipulate them most effectively. It is far easier to get people to believe you if they have faith in your method of conclusions then it is to make them believe all of your conclusions independently based on their own merits.

You can sell lots of cereal if you tell your consumers it stays crunchy in milk, even if they all know in their hearts and mouths that it takes about eight bites for the remainder to turn to soggy mush. Objectivism is proving the claim by only considering those first eight bites as evidence.

Questioning Tragedies & Everything Else: Too Much ‘How’ & Not Enough ‘Why’

why how

Answer the following question: Why does a car drive?

Now ask other people around you. Did your answer and theirs attempt to explain the mechanics of internal combustion engines? If so, you were not paying close enough attention to that question. Yet you would not be alone. As a culture we have begun to obfuscate the meanings of why and how by using them interchangeably. Many people will answer the ‘why’ question with a ‘how’ answer. This simple bit of semantic confusion has become more widespread, leading us away from a more complete understanding of the world we live in.

Just in case you do not understand the difference, let me explain.

How does a car drive? That question asks us to understand the car as an object or mechanism. It requires that we explain the functions which allow the object (car) to complete an action (drive). To answer this question we can give an explanation of internal combustion engines, transmissions, wheels and any other number of practical insights into the physical attribute which allow a car to drive.

Why does a car drive? That question asks us to understand the car as conscious entity exercising its own will and volition. Without going into panpsychic philosophies, we will just assume the car contains no consciousness, volition or will. Therefore we cannot answer this question because it is a nonsensical question with no possible answer.

Yet we do not like unanswerable questions in our culture. And we most often deal with them by either avoiding those questions or reframing them so that there is an answer. This is often the case with ‘why’. Since ‘why’ is not subject to methods that use attempted objectivity, we either diminish the importance of the answer if not the question itself. And where we do not do that we often just replace the ‘why’ with ‘how’ so we can come to a gratifying answer.

It is rather a shame that we have allowed ‘why’s stock to plunge. While we cannot answer it with the empirical methods that our culture gives preference and precedence to, it can still provide us with answers even more meaningful and useful than ‘how’. Answering ‘how’ gives us simple practical solutions, but when it comes to the motivations and intentions of conscious beings will their own will and volition, there are no easy answers. When answering ‘why’ reveals a problem, the solutions it presents can seem insurmountable.

For instance, ‘Why did that man in Oregon commit a mass shooting at a community college?’ is not only hard to answer with any reassuring accuracy, it is also capable of providing an answer that we cannot easily work with. Yesterday I spoke about a possible explanation for why the shooting, and others like it, occur. ¬†However the reasoning I gave was that violence escalates as a result of a power imbalance between individuals and their society and its institutions. Given that my theory was correct, solving that problem may seem impossible to many, since it requires a total rethinking of political, economic and social structures and calls into question the existence of the state.

Meanwhile our president and media pundits immediately used the tragedy to prepare us for more laws and assaults on our liberties, the very problem that I believe creates these kind of mass killers. This was done quite slickly by reinterpreting the school shooting as an issue of ‘how’ and not ‘why’ it happened. Since it involved guns, it is falsely reasoned that if we remove guns (how) then there will be less or no more of these tragedies.

Yet guns were not the reason that this happened. They did not provide the motivation or intent to kill. They did not exercise their own volition or will. The killing happened for subjective reasons that only the shooter fully knows, yet may not be completely aware of himself. Even if we removed every gun from the planet, if the reason he committed these atrocious acts still existed then there is still a likelihood that the individual would have committed awful violence in some other way, since guns do not have a monopoly on killing.

Yet since we can address the how more easily then the why, it is supposed that this is the most logical way to proceed. However, it is far less logical, even if it is more practical. In much the same way that it is often easier to treat the symptoms of a disease than the disease itself, we use our existing structures to treat social symptoms without daring to look at the disease. And that is because the disease may be the very same existing structures we ask to solve the problem. And unfortunately, too many of us still lack the imagination to understand how human societies could function without structures modeled and reliant on the force and violence they are created to alleviate.

As we continue to answer shove every social problem through a how-shaped hole, we continue to produce only the sort of quick gratifying solutions that eventually become problems themselves. Using ‘how’ as the hammer that see’s every problem as a nail has kept us from asking and attempting to answer ‘why’ these things occur. And so our problems only get held off. The future of humanity is quickly becoming a closet stuffed full of the junk we didn’t have time to find a proper place for. Someday it will buckle and its hinges and latch will no longer contain the big problems we only had time to give little answers to. ¬†So it is becoming ever more important that we end our intentional ignorance of all the ‘why’ questions we have avoided by throwing a quick ‘how’ over it.

The why/how problem is an issue we have created through many social influences, from statism to scientism. Many people are now unable to distinguish the difference between those questions as that difference becomes more and more important. It is a sort of secular nihilism that we use as a smokescreen to deny the questions that have no easy answers. Why portends that our questions are not small problems to be easily be fixed, but large ones with cosmic significance. When we dig into why we are often unable to rest easily on our assumptions and dogmas. And often we never find completely satisfactory answers, but in attempting to search for them anyhow, we often ask ourselves new questions that help us to expand our overall thinking.

And this may be the reason that we ignore ‘why’ and replace it with ‘how’. Thinking is like doing the research that cures a disease, when most people would rather just take a pill that helps them forget it exists.