Subjective/ Objective Statements:
Posted by khuram on August 30, 2006
Subjective/ Objective Statements:
Up till now, we have mainly discussed only one form of objectivity, which is the objective statement. Objectivity however may also exist in the form of “objective principles” as well as in the form of “objective tendencies”. Subjectivity also may exist in the form of “subjective tendencies”. These forms of objectivity and subjectivity have been discussed on relevant links. Here we should focus on the nature of objective statements and how they differ from subjective statements. For this purpose, consider the following situation where two persons are having two opposite subjective opinions on a single issue:
Subjective opinion of person ‘A’ about Mr. Ali that, “Mr. Ali is brilliant student in the class”:
This person’s positive feelings are based on his long-term interactions with Mr. Ali. Mr. Ali mostly has performed well before this person so that the person concluded that Mr. Ali is brilliant student.
Subjective opinion of person ‘B’ about Mr. Ali is that, “Mr. Ali is a poor student in the class”:
The negative feelings of Mr. B about Mr. Ali are based on his relatively limited interaction with Mr. Ali – Mr. Ali could not answer certain particular questions asked by Mr. B. So Mr. B concluded that Mr. Ali is a poor student.
In this case situation, both person’s separate and opposite conclusions about Mr. Ali’s brilliance are based on their respective separate sets of information (i.e. different ‘internal information’) about Mr. Ali. These subjective conclusions are subjective in nature.
o In such a case, the objective statement can be that ‘Mr. Ali got grade-B in final examinations.’ This statement is not subjective. His grades can be checked from University’s record.
o To say that despite having good grades, Mr. Ali, in fact is a poor student – is subjective statement, which is based on one’s personal interactions with Mr. Ali.
o To say that grade-B is not good grade is also subjective statement because in someone other’s opinion, grade-B may be a good grade.
o But if grade-B is good grade as per the officially declared policy of the University, then to say that grade-B is a good grade is an objective statement and to say that grade-B is a bad grade, is objectively inaccurate statement.
o To say that Mr. Ali has secured grade-B is an objectively verifiable statement or simply an objective statement. If it is verified that Mr. Ali in fact, has secured grade-B, then it becomes an objective fact. But on such objective verification, if it comes out that Mr. Ali in fact, has not secured grade-B, then to say that Mr. Ali has secured grade-B is objectively inaccurate statement.
o To say that Mr. Ali has secured grade-C, is also objectively verifiable information. As per the results of such verification, if it comes that Mr. Ali in fact has secured grade-B, then to say that ‘Mr. Ali has secured grade-C’ is objectively inaccurate statement.
o To say that Mr. Ali in fact is more brilliant, he actually deserved grade-A and grade-B does not justify his great brilliance – such a statement is also subjective in nature.
o If Mr. A says that, “Mr. Ali is a good student”. In this case, the statement that ‘Mr. Ali is a good student’ is subjective in nature but the ‘fact’ that ‘Mr. A says this’, is objective because we can ask and verify from Mr. A whether he consider Mr. Ali to be good student or not.
o To say that Mr. Ali in fact is so poor a student and he has been awarded grade-B (i.e. a good grade) due to some mistake of the examining body. This is also subjective feeling. If examining body’s mistake is objectively provable then this becomes an objectively verifiable information. And if that suspected mistake is finally objectively proved to have been occurred then this becomes an objective fact that Mr. Ali did not performed as well as to be awarded grade-B.
o An objective ‘fact’ can be misleading also. In the above mentioned point, if Mr. Ali was in fact a poor student and due to some mistake by the examining body, he acquired grade-B (i.e. a good grade), and that mistake is not objectively verifiable then in fact Mr. Ali did not deserve grade-B. In this case, if we base our decisions on this ‘objective fact’ that Mr. Ali acquired a good grade, then this ‘objective fact’ actually has been a misleading input for our decision. Such a situation shows the potential importance of subjectivity. This fact also opens a valid possibility of preferring subjective information to objective ‘facts’ for certain decisions. It also means that objective facts can be true or false. So ‘truth’ is a different thing and ‘objectivity’ is different thing. Subjective information can be (but not always) true irrespective of the fact whether or not it is objectively verifiable, as has been described in the above mentioned example where examining body’s mistake was non-verifiable. It means that some metaphysics theories may be true also.
Difference between truth and objective fact in this case:
A statement if successfully verified to be ‘true’ becomes an objective ‘fact’. To be verified to be ‘true’, in this case means only that the ‘external object’ confirms whatever is stated in the objective statement. The meaning of the ‘objective fact’ is only that it is in agreement with whatever is shown by the ‘external object’. The ‘external object’ here, however, may not be in agreement with the reality. So the ‘objective fact’, which is in agreement with the ‘external object’, may not be in agreement with the reality. If, however, the ‘external object’ is in agreement with the reality, then the ‘objective fact’ also shall be in agreement with the reality. Under these conditions, ‘objective fact’ and ‘truth’ shall be same. In this discussion, we have used the term ‘truth’ in limited sense. Here, we are not talking about all the universal truths that may not be known or not even knowable to humanity. We are talking about only those truths that are knowable to humanity. In fact we are analyzing ‘truth’ from the point of view of humanity i.e. what has been taken as ‘true’ by the humans. So we can define truth, in this context, as those human understandings that are in agreement with the reality. Since all the human understandings do not cover all the realities, so the realities that are still outside the scope of the understandings of humans are not covered it this definition of truth. However, we can define ‘universal truth’ as equivalent to all the ‘universal realities’ whether those realities have been understood by the humans or not.
Humans’ understandings may be objective or subjective in nature. Some of both the objective and subjective understandings may be in agreement with the corresponding realities and the other objective as well as subjective understandings may not be in agreement with the corresponding realities. If humans’ understandings are in agreement with the corresponding realities then these understandings can be considered to be true. Since both objective as well as subjective understandings can be in agreement with the reality so the ‘truth’ can be objective as well as subjective in nature. If, on the other hand, humans’ understandings are not in agreement with the corresponding realities, then these understandings are untrue and misleading. Since both objective as well as subjective understandings may be such that are not in agreement with the reality, so both objectivity as well as subjectivity can be untrue and misleading. And all those realities that are outside the scope of humans’ understanding can be objective in nature but cannot, however be subjective. These realities are not known to humanity. These are not known to humans because although they may be supported by any ‘external object’, but the situation is such that ‘external object’ in this case, although have its ‘objective’ existence, but its existence is unknown to humans. Humans do not know these realities also because these are not supported by any ‘internal information’. Since these un-known realities can be supported by (unknown) ‘external object’ so these un-known realities can be considered to be objective in nature and since these un-known realities are not supported by any internal information, so these realities are not subjective in nature. These realities are simply out side the scope of current human knowledge, despite having their ‘objective existence’. Universal truth consists of both un-known as well as known truths.
We can explain the concept of ‘reality’ with the help of previously stated example where the ‘real’ situation was that Mr. Ali was in fact a poor student and actually he did not deserve grade-B. The ‘objective fact’ however was that Mr. Ali had acquired grade-B. In this case the ‘objective fact’ was not in agreement with the ‘reality’, so the ‘objective fact’, in this case, was different from ‘truth’. Also note that in this particular case, the subjective information that ‘Mr. Ali in fact is a poor student and so he did not deserve grade-B’ happened to be such subjective information, which was in agreement with the reality. So this subjective information was ‘true’ in this case.
So we can conclude that ‘truth’ is an entity, which is distinguishable from objectivity. Not all objective knowledge is true and truth may also include a subjective information. In addition, ‘truth’ also includes those entities which are still out side the scope of human knowledge.
Difference between ‘Objectivity’ and ‘Impartiality':
The concept of ‘objectivity’ already has been described in the above section; here we shall try to explain the concept of ‘impartiality’. To be ‘impartial’ means the formation of a subjective opinion that may be based on combination of subjective and objective input data, such an opinion is just ensured that it is not one sided i.e. all the related subjective and objective aspects have been taken into consideration as well as properly analyzed and evaluated, while forming the impartial opinion. An impartial opinion is therefore such a ‘subjective’ opinion, which is not one, sided. This concept needs to be explained with the help of an example. Suppose two persons have opposite subjective opinions on a single issue. One of the persons says that, “Mr. Ali is a good student” and the other person says that, “Mr. Ali is not a good student”. The situation is that only one of the opinions is right and the other is wrong. A third person wants to arrive at the ‘impartial opinion’. What would be the ‘impartial opinion’ in this case? Remember that only one of the opinions is right and the other is wrong. If the third person forms the opinion that Mr. Ali is a good student, then he would be taking ‘side’ of the first person’s opinion and this opinion cannot be considered to be ‘impartial’ even if this opinion is right. The same would be the case if the third person elects second person’s opinion as his own. Remember that this third person cannot form any third opinion because the right opinion is only one of the two available opinions. Is the formation of an ‘impartial opinion’ possible under these conditions? Apparently it seems that any opinion, which does not take side of any of the two available opinions, would not be true because the truth is contained in either of the two opposite opinions. Actually the requirements of an impartial opinion are not that any of the given opinion cannot be opted. In fact, we can opt, in this case, any one of the available opinions and still can say that our option is not one sided. For this purpose, we will have to positively consider, analyze and evaluate both the opposite opinions. The one of the two opinions that shall be opted after such positive consideration, analysis and evaluation would be the ‘impartial opinion’ in this case. Now our option cannot be called as ‘one sided’ because we have opted this opinion after positively considering both the available opinions. If we choose one of the opinions without such consideration then our choice cannot be termed as ‘impartial’ even if our choice is the right opinion. If we choose one of the opinions after proper such consideration, then most probably our choice shall be the right one. But unfortunately, if our choice is not the right one, after such consideration, even then our choice is ‘impartial’ in nature irrespective of the fact that it is wrong.
Other Characteristics of Subjective/ Objective Statements:
Previously we have identified that in case a person holds a subjective opinion, then the ‘fact’ that the subjective opinion is held by that person is objective in nature. For example, if Mr. A says that, “Mr. Ali is a good student”. In this case, the statement (or opinion etc.) that ‘Mr. Ali is a good student’ is subjective in nature but the ‘fact’ that ‘Mr. A says this’, is objective because we can ask and verify from Mr. A whether he consider Mr. Ali to be a good student or not. In this case, we can use the subjective statement; ‘Mr. Ali is a good student’ in an objective manner as well as for objective purposes. If we say that ‘Mr. A says that’ Mr. Ali is a good student, here we have used a subjective statement in an objective manner as well as for objective purpose. In this case, the fact that ‘Mr. Ali is a good student, is considered to be true, by Mr. A’ is objective in nature. We, in this case, can manipulate this fact in order to use a subjective statement in an objective manner as well as for objective purpose. For example if we put an argument to Mr. A, that since ‘Mr. Ali is a good student, so he cannot commit such minor mistakes’. In this argument, a subjective statement i.e. ‘Mr. Ali is a good student’ has been used in an objective manner as well as for objective purpose. The statement itself is subjective but the fact that this subjective statement is considered to be true by Mr. A is objective. We actually have manipulated this fact, in our argument. If we put this same ‘argument’ to Mr. B, who does not consider Mr. Ali to be a good student, here we are not using the subjective statement in an objective manner as well as for objective purpose. Our this argument is invalid because here we want to convince Mr. B that Mr. Ali cannot commit minor mistakes, on the basis of such a ‘fact’ which is not considered true by Mr. B. Mr. B will not be convinced by our ‘argument’. He will say that it is not proved in your argument that Mr. Ali cannot do minor mistakes because despite your claim, Mr. Ali in fact is not a good student and so he can do minor mistakes. In this argument, since the subjective statement has not been used in an objective manner as well as for objective purpose so the argument would remain unsuccessful in its purpose. But if we put the same argument to Mr. A, who already considers Mr. Ali as a good student. Here the argument shall be successful in its purpose and Mr. A would be convinced about the fact that Mr. Ali cannot commit such minor mistakes. The statement that ‘Mr. Ali is a good student’ is a subjective statement. But it is not subjective if we use this statement for reference purpose in our argumentation with Mr. A. If we use this statement as a reference in our argumentation with Mr. A, then this statement is objective in nature.
Another thing that needs to be considered here is that up till now we have analyzed only single statements as to the nature of their being subjective or objective. A whole system of statements also can be analyzed in the same manner. Examples of ‘system of statements’ may include rules and regulation, code of law, code of religion etc. For example rules and regulations are made up of many statements and all the different statements have their respective role in the over all policy of rules and regulations. So these statements, in this case, as well as in code of law and code of religion etc. can be considered as system of statements. Such type of systems of statements can be considered ‘objective rules’ because, as far as their objectivity is concerned, we shall show that the nature of these systems of statements have to be objective in all the cases and since, as far as their nature as ‘rules’ is concerned, such systems of statements are required to be accepted and followed by a particular class of persons, in as it is form, so these systems of statements can be considered to be sets of rules.
There are two issues involved in the case of ‘systems of statements':
i. Whether a particular statement is a part of the system or not. This issue is objectively verifiable in the manner that the ‘system’ is the ‘external object’ that exists in the form of lets say, written code of law. So this ‘external object’ is to be used for the objective verification of the issue. Such an issue can be raised by any person irrespective of the fact that he is required to accept the system in as it is form or not. If such an issue has been raised by a person who is required to accept the system in as it is form, then in this case, he is interested in knowing whether a particular instruction (i.e. particular statement) is a part of the system or not, in order to ensure that his decisions and behavior should be in agreement with the accepted system. If, however, such an issue has been raised by a person who is not required to accept the system in as it is form, then in this case, he may be interested in putting the statement (instruction) in question in his argumentation with the person who is required to accept the instruction in as it is form. These points can be elaborated with the help of examples. Suppose a Hindu who considers Geeta to be true in as it is form. He is however, not confirmed about the existence of a particular instruction of Gita that can affect his decision or behavior in any issue. In this case, Geeta is the ‘external object’ and that Hindu can seek direct confirmation by reading Geeta by himself. In this way he shall finalize the nature of his decision or behavior. Further suppose that a Sikh who just wants to show before a Hindu that a particular instruction, in fact, is a part of Geeta. In this case, Sikh is not required to accept or follow instructions of Geeta in as it is form, he is using instructions of Geeta in his argumentation with a Hindu in order to mould the decision or behavior of the Hindu in a manner in which he himself desires. In this case, actually his own desired state of affairs with Hindu happened to be coinciding with the instructions of Geeta that is why he is using the instructions of Geeta in his argumentation with a Hindu. In this case, the Sikh person is using the instructions of Geeta in an objective manner and for objective purpose.
Whether a person is required to take decisions on the basis of ‘instructions’ that are laid down in the system of instructions (i.e. system of statements) or not. Or that the person shall be ‘convinced’ or not by an argument, containing the reference material from the system of instructions, that is put to him. It will depend on whether that person comes under the jurisdiction of that system or not. If that person comes under the jurisdiction, then he shall be required to take his decisions on the basis of that system and also he should be convinced by such arguments etc. But if this person does not actually take his decisions on the basis of what is instructed by the system or if the person refuses to accept the results of such argumentation etc., in these kinds of situations, that person is guilty of violating the ‘objective rules’. The system of instructions that is binding on a particular class of persons, can be considered to be ‘objective rules’. ‘Objective’ because all the instructions have to be accepted and followed in as it is form and ‘rules’ because instructions are compulsorily to be followed. If instructions are not compulsorily to be followed, then the instructions are neither objective in nature nor can be considered to be rules. In this case, instructions are not ‘objective’ because these are not required to be followed in as it is form and these are not ‘rules’ because these are not compulsorily required to be followed. If on the other hand, the person does not come under the jurisdiction of that system, he shall not be required to take his decisions on the basis of ‘instructions’ that are laid down in the system of instructions. Also that person would not be ‘convinced’ by any such argument that contains the reference material from the system of instructions. Under this situation, what would be the status of that system of instructions as to their nature of being subjective or objective? It is apparent that the status of system of instructions, even in this case is that of ‘objective rules’ because the system of instructions is still binding on a particular class of persons. These are ‘objective rules’ even for that person who is not required to follow these rules. On the basis of these ‘objective rules’ he can require from those people who come under the jurisdiction of these ‘objective rules’ to behave and respond in a particular way i.e. the way which is directed by the instructions and which also has happened to be in agreement with his own desired state of affairs. He can ‘objectively’ refer to those ‘instructions’, so the status of the system of instructions, even in this case, is that of ‘objective rules’.