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Author Topic: "Objectivity"
Wayward Son
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quote:
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned pure mathematics. It is a 100% objective fact that 1+1=2. You might not know if those two things exist, but if they do, there are two of them.
What about those mathematical systems where 1+1 does not equal 2? [Wink]

What makes it objective is when everyone agrees on the axioms. If we both agree that this is an orange, and that is an orange, then we can objectively say that we have two oranges. But if we take the sizes of the oranges, or the colors, or the amount of water they contain into account, then we no longer have two of the same set. Then we don't have two oranges--we have two different fruit.

And if we don't agree on what is fruit... [Eek!]

Thus we can objectively state that the English coast is a certain length, +/- 0.03 of the units we are measuring--we just first have to agree on what we are measuring.

The fact that we can agree on that, the results are consistent, is a strong indication that there is an objective reality.

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Kent
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The Drake, you just made my point that most everyone is using the word objectivity to mean intersubjectivity. Please view the first few posts to read the dictionary definition. Used in a philosophical discussions it is an appeal to getting to the truth of the matter. My point is that reality is not possible to detect INDEPENDENT of the subject. It is a logical conflict in definition.

I quote from an article I read recently to illustrate methodology which we often forget goes into any discussion of science, philosophy, etc.:
quote:
"Objective history" runs into the same kind of problems. From the minute I start "doing" history, I face one decision after another and naturally make those decisions based on previous experience, aptitudes, personal preferences, and so on (in other words, what might be called subjective factors). If I decide to write a book on the early U.S. fur trade, I have already chosen a book rather than an article, the U.S. rather than Canada, the fur trade rather than the liquor trade, and early rather than late. I have also begun to formulate some kind of story, or plot, in my mind. I continue with an amazing array of personal decisions—deciding whether to do research at the Missouri Historical Society, the National Archives, or both (and so on). Next I frame certain questions rather than others, focus on certain individuals rather than others, use certain sources rather than others, and quote certain documents (and certain sections of those documents) rather than others, all the while refining and reshaping my plot. If being objective means dealing with historical facts or conditions without personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations, then I am not being objective. Quite the opposite—I am making personal interpretations at every step along the way. (It is not even clear what objective would mean at this point.)

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The Drake
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But the individual facts of history, those are objective.

"Martin Luther King delivered one or more public speeches."

This isn't really open to debate, dispute or subjective interpretation, is it? Unless we go with the "can't trust any senses" argument, but that no longer seems your main thrust.

But through peer review, we come up with an approximation of the objective reality - with a margin of error. If you're saying that because there is a margin of error, there is no objective reality, then I disagree.

Of course, some lunatic might doubt that men walked on the moon, but the objective reality is that there's a bloody flag there. Or there isn't. But either way, it can be proven.

History is obviously a special case, because the only thing that makes it interesting is to make it matter. You can't set up blind experiments, and you can't create a control group. So it is especially vulnerable to the problems that the good doctor relates above.

But an historian should attempt to be as objective as possible, and that is still a worthwhile goal, is it not?

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