khuram

Nature of Subjectivity and Objectivity:

Posted by khuram on August 30, 2006

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Subjectivity and Objectivity:

All our knowledge and experience can be classified into only two categories i.e. subjectivity and objectivity. So we should try to determine and analyze the exact nature of both these categories:

Subjectivity:

Subjectivity basically is a ‘personal opinion’ which can also be considered as ‘personal feeling’ or ‘personal conclusion’ which is based on ‘personal information’. For example, if in my opinion (or assessment), Mr. Ali is a poor student of M.Com class, it is in fact my personal feeling about him because according to some one else’s assessment, who knows Mr. Ali in a different perspective, he may have a positive assessment about Mr. Ali and he may consider Mr. Ali a brilliant student of M.Com class. This positive assessment of that other person about Mr. Ali is also his personal feeling. In this way my personal feeling (or personal conclusion based on personal information), and that other person’s personal feeling (or personal conclusion) are different about a single issue.

Objectivity:

The knowledge or information that Mr. Ali is B.Com qualified is objective in nature. No subjective difference in opinion about this particular issue can arise in ordinary situations. We can see Mr. Ali’s B.Com degree certificate and we also can verify this degree certificate from the issuing university. The degree certificate and the act of verification of that degree certificate are the ‘objective evidences’ in this case. In the case of objectivity, we have an external and independent ‘object’, which can ‘verify’ the truth-value of the objective information or statement. In this case, the degree certificate is the ‘external object’. To ‘verify’ whether or not Mr. Ali is B.Com qualified, we can resort to this ‘external object’. In the case of ‘subjectivity’, the personal opinion is based on ‘personal information’. Only the person who is having that personal opinion knows the contents of this ‘personal information’. In the case of ‘objectivity’, on the other hand, the objective information is based on some ‘external object’ or some ‘external event’. In the case of ‘subjectivity’, the contents of personal information, on which the subjective opinion was based, were known only to the person who held that subjective opinion whereas in the case of objectivity, the ‘external object’ (or event) on which the objective information is based, can be known to everyone whoever himself wants to verify the objective statement. In the case of an objective statement, there is an underlying assumption about the existence of some ‘external object’ that can verify the truth-value of that objective statement. Whoever is interested in knowing the truth-value of an objective statement, can resort to that ‘external object’ for this purpose. For example the statement asserting that ‘Mr. Ali is B.Com qualified’, has an underlying assumption that a degree certificate (i.e. an external object) exists that can verify the ‘claim’ that ‘Mr. Ali is B.Com qualified’. The important characteristic of the ‘external object’ is that its existence, as well as its capability to verify the objective statement is ‘knowable’ to everyone whoever is interested to get the objective statement verified by himself. On the other hand, in the case of a subjective opinion, any such ‘external object’ does not exist that can support the truth-value of that subjective opinion. It is not that the subjective opinion is supported by nothing. Any ‘external object’ does not support subjective opinions. But however, subjective opinions are supported by the ‘personal information’ of the person who held that subjective opinion. So we can say that subjective opinions are supported by ‘internal information’. The important characteristic of the ‘internal information’ is that its existence, as well as its capability to verify the truth-value of the subjective information is not knowable to everyone whoever is interested to get the truth value of the subjective opinion verified by himself.

In the case of objective statements, it is easy matter to convince others about the truth-value of the statement. Just show before others the supporting ‘external object’ and let others verify by themselves the existence as well as the capability to verify the truth-value of the objective statement, of that ‘external object. Since the existence and the capability to verify the objective statement, of the ‘external object’ is ‘knowable’ to others so others can verify the truth-value of the objective statement by themselves. To convince others, about the truth-value of subjective opinions, however, is not an easy task. The subjective opinion is supported by the ‘internal information’. The existence as well as the capability to verify the truth-value of the subjective opinion, of the ‘internal information’ is not knowable to everyone whoever is to be made convinced about the truth-value of the subjective opinion. To make others convinced about my subjective opinions, for instant, first of all I will have to show to others, the ‘existence’ and the ‘capability to verify the truth value of those subjective opinions’ of my ‘internal information’. In ordinary conditions, my ‘internal information’ and it’s whatever characteristics and capabilities are not knowable to others. So in order to make others convinced about my subjective opinions, either I have to convert those subjective opinions into objective facts through the successful application of scientific methodology upon my subjective ideas or I have to make others ‘known’ of the existence and the capabilities to verify the subjective opinions, of my ‘internal information’. In first situation where I first converted the subjective opinion into an objective fact, through the successful application of the scientific methodology, here I have not convinced others about my subjective opinions. Here actually I have made others convinced about the objective facts. In second situation where I made others ‘known’ about the convincing capabilities of my ‘internal information’, only in this situation I have made others convinced about the truth-value of my subjective opinions. In this case, all persons who know, along with me, about the convincing capabilities of my ‘internal information’, can be considered as such a class of persons who actually share same kind of ‘internal information’. Since this class of persons shares the same ‘internal information’, so this ‘internal information’, for the members of this class of persons, can be regarded as the ‘objective evidence’ in support of the truth-value of the opinion. The opinion also, for the members of this class of persons, is objective in nature. But for other people, the ‘internal information’ is un-known and the opinion is subjective. It can be concluded that the nature of ‘objective evidence’ may not always be in the form of some ‘external object’ because in case where same nature of ‘internal information’ is commonly shared by a class of persons, that ‘commonly shared’ information can be regarded as ‘objective evidence’, but only for the members of that class of persons.

We have seen that there usually arise differences in opinions in case of subjectivity whereas objectivity, for the most part is free of differences in opinions. The presence of differences in opinions, in the case of subjectivity is due to the fact that, for example, subjective opinion of a person ‘A’ would be based on his own ‘internal information’. In the same way the subjective opinion of another person ‘B’ would also be based on his own ‘internal information’. It is quite obvious that both these persons would be having their own unique life experiences so their respective ‘internal information’ cannot be same in all aspects because the ‘internal information’ for both these persons would be the result of their respective ‘unique’ life experiences. Keeping in view this obvious fact in mind, differences between the ‘internal information’ in case of any two persons can be considered as quite a routine matter. We can consider ‘subjective opinion’ as the ‘expressed’ manifestation of ‘internal information’. In other words, a subjective opinion, in case of a person can be considered to be that portion of this person’s ‘internal information’, which has been expressed by him either verbally or in written form. It should be noted that certain ‘objective facts’ also can be a part of this person’s ‘internal information’ but in this context we are not talking about those sets (portions) of ‘internal information’, which are based on some ‘objective evidence’. So as a result of having considered this factor also, and at the same time, trying to be more precise, we can identify main components of ‘internal information’ which may be considered to be (i) objective facts, (ii) personal observations and experiences and; (iii) conclusions which have been derived out of ‘personal observations and experiences’. Now consider that if the person expresses, whether verbally or in written form, those ‘objective facts’ that were also the part of his ‘internal information’, then in this case, the expression of those ‘objective facts’ would not be considered to be the ‘subjective opinion’ of that person. The second component of the ‘internal information’ consists of ‘personal observations and experiences’. These ‘personal observations and experiences’ basically are the attributes of only that person who himself had ‘observed’ or ‘experienced’ them. These ‘personal observations and experiences’, however are capable to be communicated to others. That person can ‘describe’ his own ‘personal observations and experiences’, whether verbally or in written form. Description of those ‘personal observations and experiences’ by that person also cannot be considered to be the subjective opinions of that person. It is due to the fact that whether that person actually ‘observed’ or ‘experienced’ what he describes is objectively verifiable. ‘Objective evidence’ in this case can be an eyewitness or can be in the form of any other evidence such as photographs or video filming of the event under question etc. In case where no such ‘objective evidence’ is available, even then the description of ‘personal observations and experiences’ cannot be considered as any ‘subjective opinion’ of that person. Description of ‘personal observations and experiences’ is basically a factual type of information. It is not the ‘personal feeling’ or ‘personal conclusion’ of that person. This type of ‘factual statement’ actually is the description of some (external) ‘event’. This event however may not always be ‘external’. In case a person describes his own dream etc., it can be considered that he is describing some ‘internal event’. Descriptions of external events mostly can be supported by appropriate objective evidences. Sometimes however, appropriate evidence that can support the information/ description of external event may not be available. Similarly the description of ‘internal events’ usually cannot be supported by appropriate objective evidence. In these two types of situations where some (internal or external) event cannot be proved to have been occurred are the typical situations where others cannot know the ‘existence’ of ‘internal information’.

Any ‘objective evidence’ cannot support this type of ‘internal information’ but still the ‘possibility’ of the occurrence of those events (i.e. part of internal information) can be ‘rationally verified’ by others. We shall discuss this concept of ‘rational verification’ at some appropriate later stage. Here at this point, we are to decide whether we should consider description of those external or internal events (i.e. parts of internal information) that cannot be supported by any objective evidence due to the non-availability of any such evidence, as objective or not. In my opinion, we should consider them objective due to the reasons that (i) these are ‘factual type’ information. The event in question did ‘objectively occurr’ or ‘did not objectively occurr’, (ii) The judgment about the ‘possibility’ of occurrence of such events can be formed through the application of ‘rational verification’, (iii) descriptions of external or internal events may be ‘objectively non-verifiable’ under these conditions but however such descriptions actually do not represent ‘personal feelings’ or ‘personal conclusions’ etc. but have the intention to represent some ‘objective’ event. The only thing is that ‘objective evidence’ is not available under these conditions, (iv) for example consider a job interview where only one interviewer and one candidate were present in the interview room. The interviewer asked certain questions from the candidate which did the candidate not properly answer. Now consider that only the interviewer knows the ‘fact’ that particular questions were not properly answered by the candidate and so he, in this case cannot provide any ‘objective evidence’ in support of this ‘fact’. This non-provable ‘fact’, in this case, cannot be considered as the ‘subjective opinion’ of the interviewer. This may be regarded as the example of non-verifiable ‘factual information’, which, just due to its non-verifiability cannot be considered ‘subjective’ in nature. Now suppose that the interviewer, on the basis of his ‘internal information’ (i.e. the same non-verifiable ‘factual information’) concludes that the candidate is not suitable for the job. This conclusion drawn by the interviewer is the typical example of ‘personal feeling’ or ‘personal conclusion based on personal information’. So the conclusion that ‘candidate is not suitable for job’ is ‘subjective’ in nature because it is the ‘personal conclusion based on personal information’. Also note that this ‘personal conclusion based on personal information’ which has been considered ‘subjective’ in nature falls in the category of third component of ‘internal information’ that we already identified in previous discussion. In this way we have seen that out of total three components of ‘internal information’, it is only the third one which, if expressed verbally or in writing, can be considered as a ‘subjective opinion’. It is also noticeable that the third component of ‘internal information’, which is ‘subjective’ in nature, has been ‘derived’ out of second component of ‘internal information’, which is objective. In the above quoted example, interviewer’s personal observation or experience was that the candidate did not properly handle certain questions that were put to him during the interview. This was ‘factual information’ and was objective in nature. But the conclusion that ‘candidate is not suitable for the job’, which has been derived out of that objective ‘factual information’ has been considered ‘subjective’ in nature. Now consider another same type of job interview where same candidate properly handled the questions put to him by another interviewer. Here the ‘factual information’ (i.e. second component of ‘internal information’ of this new interviewer) is that the candidate did properly handle the questions that were put to him during the interview. This new interviewer, on the basis of ‘second component’ of his own ‘internal information’ draws the conclusion that ‘candidate is suitable for job’. This conclusion is the ‘third component’ of the ‘internal information’ of that new interviewer and so this conclusion is ‘subjective’ in nature. When this conclusion shall be expressed in written or verbal form, by this new interviewer, it shall become his ‘subjective opinion’.

We have seen, in the above mentioned discussion that there was difference in opinions of both the interviewers about a single candidate. One of the interviewers considered the candidate not suitable for job whereas the other one considered the same candidate as suitable for appointment on same nature job. The difference in opinions was due to the fact that there was difference in the respective ‘second component’ of the ‘internal information’ of both the interviewers and the difference in the ‘second component of internal information’ was due the unique observations and experiences of both of them.

We can further investigate for to find out still deeper cause of differences in the subjective opinions. We know that there are mainly three components of ‘internal information’. The first component consists of those objective facts that happened to be part of ‘internal information’ also. We also can derive ‘personal conclusions’ out of those ‘objective facts’ which form a portion of our ‘internal information’. It is apparent that usually there would arise no difference in opinions as far as we describe those ‘objective facts’ or whatever valid ‘deductive conclusions’ that we may derive out of those objective facts. It is due to the fact that a valid deductive conclusion which is derived out of an ‘objective fact’ will also be another ‘objective fact’ and it is due to the fact that a valid deduction is one where it is impossible for the derived information to be false if the given information (i.e. out of which information such derivation was made) was true. Objective facts may not be true also; in real sense, (we shall explain this point at some later stage) but objective facts however, at least shall be ‘considered to be true’ by others. So a valid deduction which is made out of such a fact which is ‘considered to be true’ by others, would also be (i.e. valid deductive conclusion) considered to be true by others. So the description of first component of ‘internal information’ (including valid personal deductions out of commonly known objective facts), which is already considered to be true by us, shall also be considered to be true by others. It means that under normal circumstances there can be no difference in opinions as far as the description of ‘first component’ (including valid deductions there from) of ‘internal information’ is concerned. Now come to the description of ‘second component’ of internal information. We know that the description of the ‘second component’ of ‘internal information’ cannot be considered as ‘opinion’ but should be regarded as ‘factual type information’. It is however possible, as we already know that two persons can ‘perceive’ a single event in quite different manners. As a result, one of the persons would give the ‘opinion’ that the event actually occurred in one particular way while the other person would be having the ‘opinion’ that the event in question happened in another particular way. This is actually not the case of difference in opinions. Here in this case both persons are actually describing different aspects of a single event. A single person cannot perceive all the aspects of the observed situation. One person can perceive, however certain aspects of the situation while at the same time, another person can perceive some other aspects which were not covered by the first person. It is just like difference in ‘opinions’ regarding the color of the sides of one shield where first person was on one side of the shield and the second person was on the other side and there was difference in the color of both sides. So the actual situation of the previous example would not be that one of the persons gives ‘opinion’ that event occurred in one particular way while the other one giving the ‘opinion’ that the event in question actually occurred in another particular way. The actual situation would be that one of the persons would ‘describe’ (i.e. would not be giving the ‘opinion’) some particular aspects of the event and similarly the other person also would ‘describe’ some other particular aspects of the same event. In this way both the persons actually would be getting different types of ‘second component’ of the ‘internal information’. In the next step, these two persons shall draw conclusions out of newly formed ‘second component’ of ‘internal information’. These conclusions, which are to be derived out of ‘second component ‘of’ internal information of both the persons, would be subjective in nature and shall be different from one another. This difference in ‘subjective conclusions’ would be due to the difference in the source information (i.e. respective second component of internal information of both the persons) out of which these conclusions are to be derived. We have seen that neither of the persons perceived all the aspects of the situation/ event in question. One of the persons ‘perceived’ only some particular aspects of the situation/ event whereas the other person ‘perceived’ some other particular aspects of the situation/ event under review. In this way actually both the persons commonly perceived some of the aspects of situation/ event, some aspects were perceived only by the one of the persons and some other aspects were perceived only by the other person but none of both the persons perceived all the aspects of the situation/ event in question. In this way actually both the persons acquired incomplete information about the real situation/ event etc. So the second component of internal information in case of both the persons was incomplete because no one covered all the aspects of the situation/ event in question. As a result, the conclusions, which are to be derived in the next step, would be based on incomplete relevant information in case of both the persons.

It should be considered that the accuracy level of the subjective conclusions would depend on (i) accuracy and completeness of the second component of internal information and; (ii) that whether those subjective conclusions have been ‘validly’ derived out of that second component of internal information or not. To put it differently, we can say that subjective conclusions, usually are subject to two types of errors/ inaccuracies which are; (i) ‘valid’ conclusion derived but out of incomplete or inaccurate second component of internal information and/ or; (ii) ‘invalid’ conclusions derived out of incomplete/ inaccurate or even out of complete/ accurate second component of internal information. For the sake of our analysis, we can assume that people usually get ‘accurate’ (i.e. limited but accurate) second component of internal information. We also can assume that people do not derive ‘invalid’ conclusions out of the ‘accurate’ second component of internal information. But due to practical reasons we can not assume however that people usually get ‘complete’ second component of internal information. So practically, most of the ‘subjective conclusions’ have to be inaccurate because even a ‘valid’ conclusion derived out of ‘incomplete’ source information cannot guarantee the accuracy/ truth of the conclusion so drawn. We must understand that this type of inaccuracy has to be a permanent feature as for as most of our routine subjective conclusions are concerned. It is also important to note that the derivation of this type of ‘inaccurate subjective conclusions’ does not matter at all as long as we avoid converting these ‘inaccurate’ subjective conclusions into the shape of ‘inaccurate subjective opinions’ by expressing them verbally or in written form. Accuracy of ‘subjective conclusions’ is actually not important to consider. The important thing to consider is the accuracy of ‘subjective opinions’. We have seen that most of our ‘subjective conclusions’ have to be inaccurate due to the fact that such conclusions, usually have to be based on incomplete second component of internal information. This incompleteness of the second component of internal information would be due to those limitations/ shortcomings of our perception system due to which one person cannot ‘perceive’ all the related aspects of the situation/ event in question. Since we cannot perceive all the aspects of the situation/ event etc. so our second component of internal information shall remain incomplete in this way and then whatever conclusions we shall derive out of this incomplete second component of internal information, those conclusions would not be considered accurate because even a valid conclusion, but derived out of incomplete source information cannot give the guarantee of accuracy/ truth of the conclusion so drawn. We have seen earlier that just to keep these types of inaccurate subjective conclusions does not have any material impacts but to express these inaccurate subjective conclusions in the form of opinions, or to take decisions on the basis of these inaccurate subjective conclusions may have corresponding (usually negative) material effects. But if our subjective conclusions have to be inaccurate due to the limitations/ shortcomings of our perception systems then it seems that we will have to express inaccurate subjective opinions in all the situations and also all our decisions based on subjective information/ conclusions have to be wrong etc. Fortunately it is not true however. We can form inaccurate subjective conclusions inside our mind but we are not bound to express only those inaccurate subjective conclusions in the form of opinions. Our subjective opinions actually can be more accurate than those subjective conclusions. It is due to the fact that up till now we have not considered the role of analytical activities in the process of the formation of second component of internal information. We cannot perceive all the aspects of the situation/ event in question but we are able to ‘know’ about that much aspects of the situation/ event etc. that may be sufficient for to arrive at as much better conclusions as may be considered ‘accurate’ for practical reasons. We can ‘know’ about ‘maximum understandable’ aspects of the situation/ event as a result of proper analysis of the situation under review.

We can elaborate the process of analytical activities with the help of example. Suppose two persons, ‘A’ and ‘B’ perceive a particular event. In this case neither of these persons would have perceived all the aspects of that event. Person ‘A’ would have perceived a few of the aspects and person ‘B’ would have perceived another few aspects of that event. Some of the aspects of the event would have been commonly perceived by both the persons, some of the aspects would have been perceived by only ‘A’ and some other aspects would have been perceived by only ‘B’. In this way both the persons would get incomplete second component of internal information. In the next process both persons can draw conclusions out of incomplete second component of internal information. Suppose both persons actually draw their subjective conclusions out of their respective incomplete second component of internal information. Now suppose that person ‘A’ is an analytical minded person whereas person ‘B’ does not have proper analytical sense. With having analytical mind, person ‘A’ shall not, at this stage, express his (based on incomplete information) subjective conclusion in the form of subjective opinion and/ or shall not take decision on the basis of that subjective conclusion. Person ‘B’ due to not having proper analytical sense may prove to be hasty in the expression of those subjective opinions which shall be based on that (based on incomplete information) subjective conclusion. He may also, at this stage, take decisions which shall be based on that subjective conclusion. We already have seen that the approach which is followed by person ‘B’ cannot give the guarantee of the accuracy of those opinions and decisions etc.

Now come to see what person ‘A’ would do in order to ensure better accuracy level of his subjective conclusions and decisions. We know that person ‘A’ is an analytical minded person and we have seen that he did not hastily express his subjective conclusion in the form of subjective opinion. Also he avoided taking hasty decision based on incomplete second component of internal information. Actually he knows that expression of subjective opinion and/ or taking decisions on the basis of incomplete second component of internal information may lead to material (usually negative) consequences. He also knows that just to draw ‘subjective conclusions out of incomplete second component of internal information have no such material consequences. The drawing of this type of subjective conclusions however, as he knows, is important because these conclusions shall be taken up as input for his analytical activities. The objective before this person is to get the information about the ‘maximum understandable’ aspects of the event under review, through his analytical activities, in order to ensure the better accuracy level of his subjective conclusions and decisions. How can he get information about ‘maximum understandable’ aspects of that event? We know that he himself has ‘perceived’ some of the aspects of that event. He also has derived his subjective conclusion on the basis of his own (limited) perceived information. The other thing, which he knows, is that some other persons also have perceived some those aspects of that event which he himself could not perceive. He can get information about those aspects of that event by positively considering other persons’ point of view on the issue. So this much information about that event is available to this person and he has to initiate his analytical activities on the basis of this same information.

We know that (i.e. we already have explained the concept of ‘analysis’ in another section of this thesis) analytical operations are performed on already available information in order to: (i) ensure the consistency within the available information and; (ii) to ensure the compliance of that ‘analyzed’ internally consistent information with the real situation.

Now this person has to actually perform analytical operations on his available information. He already has information about (i) his own perceived aspects, (ii) other persons’ perceived aspects; because he also has positively considered other persons’ point of view on the issue, (iii) his own subjective conclusions and; (iv) other persons subjective conclusions; because he has listen to other persons’ opinions as well.

It is quite understandable that due to the involvement of other people’s points of view and opinions etc. the available information may have various internal contradictions. Differences in points of view and opinions would be the main source of those contradictions. To ensure the consistency within this available information would require the removal of those contradictions. Contradictions due to differences in opinions etc. can be removed through efficient and proper application of rational verifications upon contradictory opinions. The other source of contradictions would be those ‘missing’ information, which was perceived by none of the persons. Person ‘A’ can make judgment about the kind and nature of that ‘missing’ information as a result of those rational verifications as well as through other types of rational analysis. We shall explain both the concepts of ‘rational verification’ and ‘rational analysis’ later on in other appropriate section of this thesis. In this way, person ‘A’ would ensure the internal consistency of the available information about the situation/ phenomenon in questions. In the second phase of his analytical activities, Mr. ‘A’ will focus on to get surety about the consistency of the ‘internally consistent available information’ with the real situation. As we know that Mr. ‘A’ already perceived the situation/ phenomenon by himself. It may seem at first instance that Mr. ‘A’ actually does not need to again directly observe the situation/ phenomenon in question in order to ensure the consistency of the ‘internally consistent available information’ with the real situation. But however at this point, Mr. ‘A’ would need to again directly observe the phenomenon in question. No doubt he already observed the phenomenon but as we have seen, he perceived, at that time only limited aspects of that phenomenon. Now when, as a result of the first phase of his analytical activities, he has acquired information about other aspects of the situation/ phenomenon also, he has become able to observe the same situation/ phenomenon in more comprehensive way and so has become able to ‘perceive’ some those extra aspects of the situation/ phenomenon that were not perceived by him or even by any other person.

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