Subjectivity Isn't So Subjective
DISCLAIMER: I’ve never posted anything like this before, let alone in a place where I’ve read such great things. I’m trying this out to see what people think, and just for some experience. Bare with me.
I’ve read a lot of YouTube comments on music videos, movie clips, reviews, and other opinion-based media. Almost every single one that involves something popular has some sort of argumentation in the comment section. Someone who likes the topic of the video and someone who doesn’t are going at it like internet superheroes. But there’s always someone who jumps in at some point that says something along the lines of (or at least means something along the lines of), “If you don’t like it, just don’t watch it. We’re all entitled to our opinion, so there’s no reason to keep fighting.”
This is the essence of subjective ideologies. We believe that each individual has their own, subjective tastes, and that this determines whether we like something or not. So, we’re not required to like everything that everyone else does because we’re each entitled to our subjective opinion.
That’s interesting to me. There seems to be something inherently wrong with that statement. If you accept that two individuals can have contradicting beliefs and BOTH be correct, there is only one way I can see that ideology turning out.
There are obvious implications for morality here, like, if each culture is entitled to their own opinion/beliefs because these are truly subjective, then we should view our civil rights movement (as an opinion about how the state of the world should be) as an equally valid view as that of the KKK (who has their own opinion about how the sate of the world should be). But I’ll ignore these for a more personal, day-to-day, relevant use of subjectivity.
Let’s go back to the YouTube video. Imagine it’s a Lady Gaga music video. Two people are arguing as to whether or not her music is “good.” One person, let’s call him Dick, likes Lady Gaga, and he is arguing with someone else, let’s call her Tori, hates Lady Gaga. This person comes in, let’s call them Pacifist, and says, “Hey, hey. There’s no point in fighting, guys. You each have your own opinion, and they are equally as valid.”
Dick replies with, “Okay, okay. I’m just going back to listening to music I like instead of fighting with this troll!” Tori proceeds to kick Dick in the dick and now Dick has been eliminated from the conversation, cause fuck that guy.
Tori turns to Pacifist and asks how they can be BOTH true. After all, does reality just show how two opposite things cannot be true at the same time? A person who has their hair on fire cannot also NOT have their hair on fire at the once. The same individual cannot be both in California in a bathing suit on the beach, and atop Mt. Everest in climbing gear in the snow (of course, I’m purposefully ignoring time-travelling, universe-hoping doppelgangers for simplicity). So, how can two individuals say, “This is good music,” and “This is NOT good music,” and both be correct?
PACIFIST AND SUBJECTIVITY
The character of Pacifist has an easy answer to this: the state of being of the music is determined individually by each of us. In the mind of Dick, the music was good. In the mind of Tori, the music was bad. Music, like many other things, is subjective from person to person, and what is pleasant to some does not have to be pleasant to all.
This is a very convenient answer. It encompasses a lot of the fabric of our social structure and ideological beliefs, such as those of individuality and independence, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc etc etc. But there’s something obviously problematic here.
Pacifist never answered the question. At least not outright.
THE PROBLEM WITH SUBJECTIVITY
If you believe that, to continue with our example, Lady Gaga’s music can be both “good” and “bad,” depending on who is listening, then what you are saying is that her music does not have those properties innately, but that we attribute them to it when we listen to it and decide whether we like it or not. That decision shows that Lady Gaga’s music does NOT have the property of being “good,” but it also does NOT have the property of being, “bad.” This conclusion allows people like Pacifist to say, “It’s just individual preferences. No one can say it’s bad if you like it, because it’s you who decides whether it’s good or not.”
But this sort of conclusion is a very shallow and unenlightened view of the situation. A sort of, “I heard this so I accepted it,” or, “I got this far and was satisfied so I stopped thinking,” perspective is being reflected with Pacifist’s statement.
The fact of the matter is that, if you accept that something does NOT have a negative or positive quality towards a certain situation (“good music” or “bad music”), then you must accept that when you say, “This is good music,” you are lying. When you say, “This is bad music,” you are lying, as well. You are forced to admit that the music you lie, is NOT good.
THE OBVIOUS REBUTTAL
The first response can be, “Well, I’m saying that it is good FOR ME, so I get around your nonsense.” But that’s still lying. If you KNOW that what you are talking about does not have the quality of being good, then you saying that it is “good for you,” is just straight-up lying, because you know better.
Some may reply by saying (and something along these lines is a better reply), “Well, if I say that I enjoy something, I’m not talking about whether it is good or bad, just that I enjoy it. So I get around your nonsense!” This sort of smart-ass response (I’m more confrontational to make myself feel better) just causes a different issue. WHY do you enjoy it? If it’s not good, how is it pleasurable, since pleasurability is a sign of “goodness?” That means it’s good, which means you reject the idea of subjectivity. But you don’t. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be going through the process of saying what you did to begin with.
The truth is, this kind of “enjoyment” of something requires a positive value to whatever it is you are enjoying. If you accept that there is no positive value (because you accept subjectivity), then you must explain how you enjoy something without a positive value.
Let’s be honest, anything you say will immediately attribute a positive value to what you are describing (like Lady Gaga’s music), and contradicts subjectivity. It becomes indefensible to enjoy music.
I’ve come to two conclusions that can be derived from these observations. The first is the more obvious one: I continue to accept subjectivity and refuse to enjoy anything that doesn’t have positive values (including music and painting and comics and novels). But this conclusion is problematic. Our experiences cannot be denied, and a positive experience from certain kinds of music is an obvious show that there is something to music.
That leads into my second conclusion, and the one I accept. There ARE positive and negative values for things. OBJECTIVE goods and bads. There is such a thing as good music and good art, and bad music and bad art, conversely. And It is our jobs as human beings with the capacity to understand such things to weed out what is “bad.” The problem has becoming the degradation of our ability to pick up what is “good” and what is “bad” because of our indoctrination by mass media. Things like MTV or Disney telling us what is good and what we should buy has clouded our judgment as to what is truly good music/television/writing/painting and what isn’t.
But that’s another topic altogether…
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furthermore, the word value implies a relationship with a conscious observer because what on earth else could value be related to? Value is always related to a subjective experience because without a subjective experience it wouldn’t be “value,” but maybe some other word, but definitely not value.
So what I get is that you want to say things are good or bad in themselves, but again good/bad in relation to what? Again, a subjective experience that can judge good and bad
Where do correct ideas come from? Who has the right or the wrong to tell us what is good, bad, positive or negative? An individual, based on their perspective, will judge these things on what has influenced them and the outcomes of life experiences… It is not the job of someone else to intrude what another person may believe. We live in our own seperate realities.
Now it’s pretty arbitrary what someone assigns a value of positive or negative to, but things that are useful and pleasurable usually get assigned positive and the opposite for things that get assigned negative.
The idea of value is inherently subjective because without an experiencing life there wouldn’t be anything around to even have a concept of value. Value is only something that is created in the presence of a judging consciousness, and therefore only exists along with it in the only form that consciousness is–a subjective experience
@epgohlke, And then after that, add in the other elements I spoke of and it gets really subjective. For example, I think Bob Dylan is a fantastic American musical/lyrical icon. Many more people think he sucks and was/is overrated. You suggest by your theory, that we both can’t be right. It is one way or the other, right? Wrong. Bob Dylan was brilliant, but for people seeking different attributes of sonic/cerebral pleasure, his music was but a dung heap barely worthy of the shit eating flies that nested upon it.
If subjectivity does not exist and the only thing that does is objective truth, then this thing we call life is nothing more than a mathematical equasion playing itself out to an ultimate certain ending or at least an unending series of predictable numbers. I personally refute the idea of such inflexibillity in our universe and existence.
@bono95zg, Uhh, it think its kind of hard for you to tell me that if your hungry, (at least YOUR body does) you don’t want to alleviate your hunger. Why is it good? For one, its a natural sign your body is giving to you to let you know that you need food. This prevents death and suffering and all that jazz. It also goes back to the original criteria stating that things that perfect your nature (both general and particular nature) are inherently good for you, even if you don’t participate with them. That’s where the choice comes in. 2) its also something we share with ALL other living beings. Meaning you are participating in something that every other living organism participates in by nature of being alive.A nature that while you and foxes and bears and insects and even bacteria are all different beings with different natures, all still share. I don’t see how you’re nitpicking over something as obvious as hunger. Now in the case of someone trying to fast, he is an example of someone trying to experience hunger. Maybe. I say maybe because you can fast and maybe not even feel all that hungry. You can fast for many different reasons and hunger may be one of those reasons but its not a necessary reason for you to fast. Also, just because it feels good, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. I’m sure there are plenty of recovering (recovered) heroin addicts that will tell you “Yeah, it feels good but it ruined my life.” (an example of something detrimental to the well-being of a human, therefore not an inherent good for humans) I’m sure you can find at least one example of that. In fact, I have talked to people like that so I can confidently tell you that’s at least a possibility. And just because it is just MY experience doesn’t mean I’m the only one who follows my Nature. Death is bad for a living being since it ceases to participate in existence and no longer has the ability to perfect its nature. It can no longer be determined what the nature of the living thing is since all we’re left with is a corpse. A corpse is the leftover body of a previously living thing, not the thing itself. Its a natural process so you wouldn’t say that a natural death is bad but the death of someone before they could reach that point shortchanges their entire existence.
Yeah, categorizing does simplify the world around us, so we can better understand it. Since you can categorize different things into general ideas of what that thing is, you now have a better position to understand what you don’t know. Your whole second paragraph ironically throws all of Darwin’s shit out. =P And yeah, species does imply life with similar characteristics, but then what do you say about different species? There must be a way you can distinguish this species from that species, right? Every living thing IS different, but their different within the realm of what they are. There are different types of foxes, bears, and bacteria within the fox, bear, and bacteria kingdom. Since every instance of life is so dynamic, there’s no way you can gather all the information about every specific instance of a particular living being. But that doesn’t mean I can’t feed two different dogs the same thing and get the same result. So yeah, BECAUSE they have such similar qualities, you CAN classify them within the same nature. Those classifications aren’t perfect but they give you a good enough idea of what your dealing with so that in every instance of that being, you have enough information to respond to it and have an idea of what the result would be. That’s the scientific method. =P
Your species’ natures are determined by your genus’. Meaning what you are in general (the more universal aspect of you) determines how you are in particular (the less universal aspect) When we take things to be true, we start with the most general universal things and work our way down to the particular instances. That’s what deduction is. Induction is the opposite but you can see how in induction, it’s a lot easier to come up with wrong answers. You can’t tell me that if your really into Darwin’s shit that you don’t see how he was able to develop those categories. And how the rest of the world was able to make use of his findings. Woah. That’s weird. People outside of Darwin using Darwin’s things. There’s no way that they could though because everything has a totally different nature from everything else in the universe! (Sort of, not entirely)
And that’s fine if you “believe” in determinism (which is an odd statement) but I would ask then how can you truly love someone? I don’t think I fully understand determinism so I would love for you to explain how can you have a meaningful relationship with someone else if you don’t have the free will to choose who and how you exercise that love?
@sirensetmefree, for the first one… conclusion is correct :P
what i mean by expirience is everything that happens to you. ill try to desribe this somehow. if you have small sphere and in it nothing but (lets say) 5 atoms that were given a certain trajectory. but u have to look at all 5 atoms as one object, like a rock or whatever. and u let them collide a certain time. so they have a nature ie they have a goal to reach. if you take one of them out and set the same trajectory again, they will have different nature. the result will be different.
so everything u do changes your nature.
now on meanings… what is the meaning of a tennis ball? to humans it has a few meanings, but in reality it has no.
and for the second one… Plato’s “Allegory of a cave” explaines it better. Nietzsche was very influenced by greek philosophy, for that reason by Plato and Socrates.
@epgohlke, Hmm… Well, firstly, I think everyone here has really tested my ability to defend myself and has pushed me to think harder about my beliefs. In fact, for a second there, you almost convinced me otherwise with that rain question. But back to the issue at hand: I don’t think what you mean by “qualities” is exactly what you intend to mean. I think what you are probably referring to is “uses.” For example, one has a better use for one genre and is ineffective at other genres, and vice versa. But those aren’t “qualities” of rhythm any more than using water to make Coke doesn’t make Coke or sugar any more a quality of water.
“One listener may put more value in the complexity of a beat, whereas the next listener may put more value in the uniformity or simplicity of a beat.” I will concede that we have subjectivity within ourselves in that we interpret things differently. What if I say, then, that the external world has objectivity? That is to say, there are truths in the Universe, such as 2 + 2 = 4, entirely objective in nature, and things like “properties” go within those objective truths. Along with that, I have to say that “good” and “bad” and similar things are properties. Our disagreements (i.e. subjective opinions) can come from an inability to “measure” these properties, like when you ask a rich person and a starving person if they want raw meat for lunch. The rich person understands the question as, “Would you like to eat something that is significantly worse than other options?” while the starving person hears, “Would you like to end your suffering?” But that just means they are answering different questions. Not that the original question is subjective.
I’m not sure I’ve explained that last part as well as I wold have liked to.
@bearacleitus, this is my first reply on this discusion. its explaines me the best.
“So in my opinion this is what it is. You learn from expirience, aware of it or not. As a child you learned more (i guess). But then came “rational” part. Which is just applying expirience to new situations (real or imaginary, and by imaginary i mean like homework or your own ideas…). Which then creates our consciousness. So when we think hard and try to get deeper, were just applying more expirience to everything. So everything has so much meaning, everything is so connected. Why? Because they all explain the same thing but from different point of view, different expirience.
My problem here is that i dont know shall i go deeper of shallower. Anyway you cant get out of that thought circle. And no matter on what level of thought are you, youre always correct because everybody are talking about same thing.”
Apparently, you don’t have an idea how to construct your writings and you say a lot, just to have a feedback, Well, I’m just going to reply on the topic.
You are reading comments.
That’s not even subjectivity. Everyone can say whatever the fuck they want.
Educate yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgGxk8xFgAE
@bearacleitus, alleviating your hunger is neither good or bad. Just because you will suffer or die it doesnt make it good/bad. suffering isnt bad. dieing isnt bad. that is just your opinion on that, your explanation of choise. its just another explanation. not more true, not less than any other. nothing is good for you because you dont know what are you supposed to be, or what will actions will make you ideal, perfect. this is why people have different opinions. they have different ideals, explanation on how everything works. so it causes different things to be good for them. so there is no right way to be living thing. think about it, but read this as all as one thought.
its doesnt throw evolution out. its explains it better. species are categorized to be observed, to predict or conclude something. but they dont exist in real world. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t feed two different dogs the same thing and get the same result.” ofc it means that. there is 99.999999…% chance that they wont be the same.
and whyt does it mean to truly love someone? why is love THE feeling? why is hunger not THE feeling?
I think the problem has to do with mental conditions, which we subscribe to in order to conveniently paint the world in colors compatible with our own frame of reference at any given time. So dont think of subjectivity as conditioned by its antonyms definition. Objectivity is just a concept, similar to Universe, both of which are empty metaphors devoid of most of the related sensory input.
Objectivity and subjectivity are more a matter of degree, I would say. So you would be able to have a somewhat “objective” party in relation to the dispute, such as a judge in a court of law or, in the case of musical tast, an individual that had never heard Lady Gagas music; but of course, this person is not completely objective due to prior musical genre preferences. And similar complications arise with any attempt at an objective resolution, but these complications point us in an important direction: one hinting at the nature of the particular duality, which is that its all a matter of degree.
@bono95zg, I’ve told you the criteria by which I’m judging suffering, hunger, and death. Why don’t you tell me yours because I don’t know how you are judging any of those things as being totally neutral from the things experiencing them. I guarantee that if you were to talk to a hunger person and a full person and ask if they would like food, they would give you two different answers. Why? Because in their current positions, they can both use food differently for different ends and both may still be working towards perfection. The hungry guy will probably eat the food to acquire the good of satiety. The full guy might give it to someone else, save it for later, make art out of it, or just throw it away. The only way you’ll be able to determine what’s good or bad in those situations is by first determining what both men are trying to aim for and how successful were they in attempting to achieve their goals. The same way you can judge what mankind in general is aiming for (peace, abundance, safety, fulfillment, ENLIGHTENMENT, health, education, love, friendship, virtue, solidarity, and more) is the same way you can judge what these men would be aiming for, only you also have to consider their particular circumstances which you would also have to do for mankind in a historical perspective..
I never mentioned evolution blatantly so I don’t see why you brought it up but in the case of the dogs, I’m pretty sure that if you feed your lab and your husky some Pedigree or Dog Chow or something, they’ll be nourished in around the same way. So how are you coming up with that pretty confident 99% that they won’t be?
That was also a good job at dodging the question. Let me rephrase it. What is love (lmao) in a deterministic world? I never said love was a feeling. I said it was a choice. And what do you mean by ” why is hunger not THE feeling?”
Take for example then… water. Plain old H20. Is it good or bad? According your beliefs it must be one or the other. Surely something as fundamental to existence as water could not be subjective could it!? I mean who would say water is bad, right? You might say that if the water is poisonous it is bad, but if clean it is not. These would be clear objective parameters to judge it by. So your argument wins?… wrong. Let’s say a river floods on a grand scale and in the process, it wipes out dozens of riverside villages, killing thousands of people… but also in the process, water spreads out to drought stricken areas which were on the brink of devastation but now are are revitilized by the much needed life giving fluid. While one set of communities are destroyed, another are brought back to life… So is the water good or bad? If subjectivity cannot exist, then by your theory, it must be one or the other. But in this case it has both properties of good and bad which renders it to be subjective, depending on whether you talk to the survivors of the flooded river villages or the newly enriched, previously drought stricken dirt farmers.
So if something as basic, fundemental and universally appericiated as water can be, at times, subjective…then why could not something as complex as the arts and music? What you failed to see in your theory, is that ALL things have BOTH properties of good and bad and even the definition of good and bad properties is as diverse as the inhabitants of this globe. So as you argue that everything is objective, I counter to say that everything is subjective…..
@bono95zg, I’m familiar with Plato’s Cave Allegory and if you were, you would remember that the person who leaves the cave and understands the world for what it really is (dare I say, acquires Truth) tries to come back and help everyone else who thinks the world is just made up of shadows. And then they end up shunning him. (Kind of weird parallel, wouldn’t you say @sirensetmefree, ?) (lol) Plato says you CAN acquire Truth. Hence the analogy of the person at first being blinded by the light but after adjusting has a better sense of understanding everything else around him. However, he does think that this world is not the real world or something to that effect because of the Forms. I think it’s hilarious that you tried to use Plato to deny a sense of objective Truth, especially if you knew anything about his world of Forms or read the Symposium but I do see where you were drawing that conclusion from the shadows.
Also, your sphere analogy has no consistency. Why have the 5 atoms act as one object but then they collide against each other as if they were separate? What certain time would they be colliding? Just because you have a different result in the same experience doesn’t mean you have a different nature. Your nature doesn’t change every time you do something new. If you want a reference for this, look up Act and Potency in Aristotelian or Thomistic Metaphysics.
Side note: I think its a little funny that all you have to do is switch 2 letters in Metaphysics and you get Meatphysics =P
@bearacleitus, mankind is just categorization. u cant just look at one part of living world. you can either look at purpose (or whatever) of all, or just one. never your arbitrary choice of which ones to observe. u could look at what are 50 giraffes, 7 humans and 37 dogs aimig for, the same way you look at mankind.
dogs will never be the same in behavior… maybe very similar but never the same. just like humans are never the same.
and in deterministic world love is emotion, feeling, combination of it etc. so what i meant by “why is love THE feeling, why is hunger not it” was: why would love be more valuable then for example hunger? why would one emotion be more important then other? why to glorify just one and not all? what makes love so much more?
@bearacleitus, how do you know you are not the one looking at the shadows. You are limited by the environment around you. The Truth (if exists) it too large. There is always wider view, better explanation of world.
I think objects dont really exist (u know like oneness of everything) but for nature of thing there must be that thing to be nature. So i just tried to explain it that way, via atoms. When you have an object in space every atom in it is moving just very close to each other. So i think i can say what i said earlier. So u have the two same rocks (5 atoms with same positions and moving patterns or whatever). If you change one thing in one rock it will strive to different goal than the other one. So nature of the rocks is changing. If ofc nature isvstriving to what its supposed to be or something lile that :P
It is arrogant to assume I speak for anyone but me.
Any attempt at objectivity is motivated subjectively. Why I go into “objective mode” is the result of a highly personal process. The data I select and exclude in this mode is chosen subjectively. Even if I say it’s based on logic x,y,z…at some level I am expressing a preference for that system or rationalization.
My experience of objectivity is dependent on my very subjective position in reality. A colorblind person can feign objectivity about the existence of the color purple, for example. But it’s not the same as a person staring at the color and experiencing it. One might argue that either person is objectively accepting the truth of the purple experience, but they are not equivalent experiences.
And now an actual response:
From a formal logic standpoint this is very interesting, and there does appear to be a paradox. But then, same deal with quantum physics, ain’t it? Would you agree that IF you’re second conclusion is ‘correct’, then the real judge of quality is surely the test of time. Seeing how influential something is with the golden glow of retrospect.