Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is objectivity unrealistic?

  1. Jun 14, 2003 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    As the human race, we have identified what would be considered "objective"...

    "Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually"

    here is the definition i am referring to...yet, what i am wondering is, can objectivity be unrealistic because human beings are ultimately and absolutely subjective creatures when we observe, hear, think, feel, react and sense?

    And most of all, why do we believe there is an objective reality out there?

    Oh boy, if only Lifegazer were here...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2003 #2
    Objectivity and the belief there is an external objective world are reflections of humanity's normal state of consciousness. Buddhists and other meditators, for example, claim there are no less than five distinct states of awareness, and that such distinctions as internal and objective disappear the more progressively quiet the mind becomes. This suggests that objectivity and the perception of an objective world are largely fabrications conjured up by the human mind only distantly related to the reality. This makes a great deal of sense considering humanity is capable of extremely complex manipulations of abstractions, is its own worst enemy, and that a simplified dualistic perspective of life can therefore promote survival of the species.
  4. Jun 14, 2003 #3
    Is anyone familiar with Notre Dame University Professor Alvin Plantinga's claim that if one assumes standard Evolution (with random genetic variation and selection) and Naturalism (no supernatural causes) are correct, then the conditional probability of human development of realistic explanations (really correct explanations) is low? In symbols:

    P[R|E&N] ~ 0

    . His corollary to this would be that a God is necessary to inspire understanding of the natural world. I think he argues that a human mind directed only by physical survival requirements (the four Fs) and no supernatural influences would not develop realistic explanations of things except by rare accident. I haven't read his books on this subject.

    Anybody else?
  5. Jun 14, 2003 #4
    I think that you are mixing two definitions of subjective/objective. One definition deals with sensory perception, and the other deals with impartiality.

    Hearing and feeling (as in touch) do not necessarily impede on being objective in a decision. In fact, hearing is a very good asset in that, because you gain lots of information through hearing.

    Being objective, i.e.-being impartial, is all about hearing the evidence and deciding as best you can with your logical abilities, without prejudices and other emotions interfering with that process--not necessarily that you don't have emotions, which is impossible for humans, but that you don't let them interfere with your logical judgment.

    Now, we are imperfect humans, so this can often be hard, and we often fall short of that goal. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to minimize any subjectivity.

    As far as objective reality, anything else is absurd. Because otherwise, reality could not be subjective, because that subjectivity would be subjective, and hence could be objective. Do you see the paradox?
  6. Jun 14, 2003 #5
    Objectivity and subjectivity are two sides of the same coin. One is rationally based and the other is emotionally based. And yet you can't have one without the other. Reality is the equilibrium that exists between the two extremes. While I think it would be fair to say we'd be better off promoting their integration rather than their separation.
  7. Jun 14, 2003 #6
    Kerrie, have you ever had an itch that you couldn't scratch, what if the solution to the itch stemmed from the same source as the problem? It is very common when one first meditates to experience an itching sensation, it takes some practice to learn to ignore this then it goes away. This is what a Buddhist might call the beginner's stage of learning to control one's instincts or emotions I think the two are entwined. The closer one gets to the truth the stronger the mind is clouded by emotions and personal conflicts. Emotions have a desire to stimulate themselves sometimes, so problems and uncontrollables that always come up are often exaggerated by emotions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2003
  8. Jun 14, 2003 #7
    These two questions deal with two different definitions of "objective" (as has been pointed out in previous posts). However, my answers are:

    1) Do you mean to ask whether it is possible to be uninfluenced by your own feelings when making judgement?

    2) It's good, I think, that you should ask this "why" question, because it is impossible to prove that there is an objective reality, but if one asks "why do we believe in it", then on is faced with the undeniable fact that it is human nature to believe in an objective reality. Now, if there is no objective reality, then why would it be in our nature to believe in it?

    Yeah, his whole "Mind" case was based on the unprovability of the objective Universe concept.
  9. Jun 14, 2003 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !
    Yes, that is one reason.

    The second reason is physics (QM).
    Please, do not speak for all of us. :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  10. Jun 15, 2003 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    it is the scientific way to claim there is an objective reality because of what we observe outside ourselves, but ultimately that reality is being filtered through 5 (maybe 6 for some :wink: ) subjective senses that are affected by personal experiences...
  11. Jun 15, 2003 #10
    So what you're saying is that realiy can only be interpreted "from within." Which to me belies the fact that there's a "spiritual reality" as well.
  12. Jun 15, 2003 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    logically that would be correct if you believe spirituality is not within you...i see spirituality within me...
  13. Jun 15, 2003 #12
    To answer your first question, Kerrie, IMHO No, it is not possible for any human being to be completely objective. We cannot completely isolate our emotions from anything we attempt to do. Our best attempt is to be logical but I cannot state absolutely that there is no emotional content in our logic. Example: correct logic 'feels' or 'seems' right; incorrect logic feels or seems wrong.

    To answer your second question, IMHO, The reason we believe that there is an objective reality out there is because when we were very young children we did not question reality but accepted it in the literal way of children and lived in it with out question all of our lives until we got old enough, educated enough and wise(?) enough to ask "Is reality really out there?" By then it's to late. we've been literally living in reality for too long to be able to completely dismiss it for philisophical reasons. This may seem simplistic but it sounds plausable and feels right to me.
  14. Jun 15, 2003 #13
    No, what I'm saying is that if reality can only be perceived from within, then the understanding of that reality, and hence the understanding of ourselves, ultimately entails the "journey within," and so alludes to a greater "Spiritual Reality."

    Whereas the form (truth) is external and the essence (life itself or good) is internal. Which is to say, the internal reality is far greater than the external reality -- or perhaps not while we're of "this world?" -- because it entails the "life within."

    Do you think this is what it possibly means when the scriptures say, "The love of the world (external reality) puts you at emnity with God" (internal reality)?
  15. Jun 16, 2003 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !
    No, science discribes observation using theories according
    to accepted reasoning. Science doesn't claim there is
    an objective reality it just seems like a likely
    conclusion from this reasoning, but that is already part
    of Philosophy rather than science.

    Live long and prosper.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2003
  16. Jun 16, 2003 #15


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    so what's the point of an objective reality if we will never be able to know it?
  17. Jun 16, 2003 #16

    Another God

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    the point of objectivity?
    The point of objectivity is that without objectivity, there would be nothing to be subjectively experienced.

    Just because we can't know 'it' doesn't mean it isn't important to what we do 'know'...
  18. Jun 16, 2003 #17

    Another God

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    And to go back to the original post, I really dislike that definition. I have two definitons of objective, one is THE Objective, while the second is the type of objective that scientists try to be (which is more like the definition)

    THE Objective, is..well...THE Objective world. The truth. The state of everything. It is evereything that is. If something is, then it is objectively.

    What we then do, as subjective humans, is to 'experience' a subjective inference of that objectivity. We never experience THE Objective, because we are subjective. Everything we 'see', is seen subjectively. Everything we hear, is 'heard' subjectively. Etc. In objectivity, red does not exist, C Minor does not exist, pain does not exist, cold and hot do not exist. Subjective concepts, do not exist in objectivity, and our subjective experiences are only a translated reference to THE Objective.

    Anyway, from that subjective translation of THE Objective, we attempt to talk 'objectively' about that experience. We talk 'objectively' by appealing to inter-subjectivity. ie: We try to find the common basis of all of our personal subjective experiences.

    I Don't know that what I see when i see red looks anything like what you see when you see red (I only know that you have been taught to call that experience 'red'). So what we do, is we find the common source of that 'red' phenomenon and claim that this source is the objective unit of 'red'... Of course though, even in out detection of this unit, we are detecting it through a series of other subjective inferences...
  19. Jun 16, 2003 #18
    Sight is probably the most objective sense we have, hence the phrase "seeing is believing"(taking off during the Enlightenment and affecting the scientific method),and in this way most everything should be able to be objectified, eventually, although the more important and increasingly abstract concepts may take science a lot longer to get to.
  20. Jun 16, 2003 #19
    Well, once we extract all the substance out of the center, we will indeed have a shell without a ghost. And all but a monument to a civilization wich was lost.

    And I now pronounce you an effect without a cause ... "dead formalism."
  21. Jun 16, 2003 #20
    Perfect objectivity may not be possible...but abandoning it for subjectivity is a mistake. And, as far as objective reality....what else is worth talking about, but a reality that is real for everyone?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads for objectivity unrealistic
Is the object of an experiment a variable?