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philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such quest ...
, objectivity is the concept of
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherwise correspond to it, such as belie ...
independent from individual
subjectivity Subjectivity in a philosophical context has to do with a lack of objective reality. Subjectivity has been given various and ambiguous definitions by differing sources as it is not often the focal point of philosophical discourse.Bykova, Marina ...
( bias caused by one's perception,
emotion Emotions are mental states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displeasure. There is currently no scientific ...
s, or
imagination Imagination is the production or simulation of novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. Stefan Szczelkun characterises it as the forming of experiences in one's mind, which can be re-creations o ...
). A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by the mind of a
sentient Sentience is the capacity to experience feelings and sensations. The word was first coined by philosophers in the 1630s for the concept of an ability to feel, derived from Latin '' sentientem'' (a feeling), to distinguish it from the ability to ...
being. Scientific objectivity refers to the ability to judge without
partiality Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over anothe ...
or external influence. Objectivity in the moral framework calls for moral codes to be assessed based on the well-being of the people in the society that follow it. Moral objectivity also calls for moral codes to be compared to one another through a set of universal facts and not through subjectivity.


Objectivity of knowledge

Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution ...
considered
geometry Geometry (; ) is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space such as the distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is ca ...
to be a condition of idealism concerned with universal truth. In ''
Republic A republic () is a "state in which power rests with the people or their representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a " government, or system of government, of such a state." Previously, especially in the 17th and 18th ...
'', Socrates opposes the sophist Thrasymachus's relativistic account of justice, and argues that justice is mathematical in its conceptual structure, and that ethics was therefore a precise and objective enterprise with impartial standards for truth and correctness, like geometry. The rigorous mathematical treatment Plato gave to moral concepts set the tone for the western tradition of moral objectivism that came after him. His contrasting between objectivity and
opinion An opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or statement that is not conclusive, rather than facts, which are true statements. Definition A given opinion may deal with subjective matters in which there is no conclusive finding, or it may deal with f ...
became the basis for philosophies intent on resolving the questions of reality,
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherwise correspond to it, such as belie ...
, and existence. He saw opinions as belonging to the shifting sphere of sensibilities, as opposed to a fixed, eternal and knowable
incorporeality Incorporeality is "the state or quality of being incorporeal or bodiless; immateriality; incorporealism." Incorporeal (Greek: ἀσώματος) means "Not composed of matter; having no material existence." Incorporeality is a quality of souls, ...
. Where Plato distinguished between how we know things and their
ontological In metaphysics, ontology is the philosophical study of being, as well as related concepts such as existence, becoming, and reality. Ontology addresses questions like how entities are grouped into categories and which of these entities exi ...
status,
subjectivism Subjectivism is the doctrine that "our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience", instead of shared or communal, and that there is no external or objective truth. The success of this position is historically attribute ...
such as George Berkeley's depends on perception. In Platonic terms, a criticism of subjectivism is that it is difficult to distinguish between knowledge, opinions, and subjective knowledge. Platonic idealism is a form of metaphysical objectivism, holding that the ideas exist independently from the individual. Berkeley's empirical idealism, on the other hand, holds that things only exist as they are perceived. Both approaches boast an attempt at objectivity. Plato's definition of objectivity can be found in his epistemology, which is based on mathematics, and his metaphysics, where knowledge of the ontological status of objects and ideas is resistant to change. In opposition to philosopher René Descartes' method of personal deduction, natural philosopher Isaac Newton applied the relatively objective
scientific method The scientific method is an empirical method for acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century (with notable practitioners in previous centuries; see the article history of scientific m ...
to look for evidence before forming a hypothesis. Partially in response to
Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aest ...
's rationalism, logician
Gottlob Frege Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (; ; 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He was a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic phi ...
applied objectivity to his epistemological and metaphysical philosophies. If reality exists independently of consciousness, then it would logically include a plurality of indescribable forms. Objectivity requires a definition of
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherwise correspond to it, such as belie ...
formed by propositions with
truth value In logic and mathematics, a truth value, sometimes called a logical value, is a value indicating the relation of a proposition to truth, which in classical logic has only two possible values (''true'' or ''false''). Computing In some program ...
. An attempt of forming an objective
construct Construct, Constructs or constructs may refer to: * Construct (information technology), a collection of logic components forming an interactive agent or environment ** Language construct * ''Construct'' (album), a 2013 album by Dark Tranquilli ...
incorporates ontological commitments to the reality of objects. The importance of perception in evaluating and understanding objective reality is debated in the observer effect of quantum mechanics.
Direct Direct may refer to: Mathematics * Directed set, in order theory * Direct limit of (pre), sheaves * Direct sum of modules, a construction in abstract algebra which combines several vector spaces Computing * Direct access (disambiguation), a ...
or naïve realists rely on perception as key in observing objective reality, while instrumentalists hold that observations are useful in predicting objective reality. The concepts that encompass these ideas are important in the philosophy of science. Philosophies of mind explore whether objectivity relies on perceptual constancy.


Objectivity in ethics


Ethical subjectivism

The term "ethical subjectivism" covers two distinct theories in ethics. According to cognitive versions of ethical subjectivism, the truth of moral statements depends upon people's values, attitudes, feelings, or beliefs. Some forms of cognitivist ethical subjectivism can be counted as forms of realism, others are forms of anti-realism. David Hume is a foundational figure for cognitive ethical subjectivism. On a standard interpretation of his theory, a trait of character counts as a moral virtue when it evokes a sentiment of approbation in a sympathetic, informed, and rational human observer. Similarly, Roderick Firth's ideal observer theory held that right acts are those that an impartial, rational observer would approve of.
William James William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the lat ...
, another ethical subjectivist, held that an end is good (to or for a person) just in the case it is desired by that person (see also
ethical egoism In ethical philosophy, ethical egoism is the normative position that moral agents ''ought'' to act in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people ''can only'' act in their self-interest. Ethical egois ...
). According to non-cognitive versions of ethical subjectivism, such as emotivism, prescriptivism, and expressivism, ethical statements cannot be true or false, at all: rather, they are expressions of personal feelings or commands. For example, on A. J. Ayer's emotivism, the statement, "Murder is wrong" is equivalent in meaning to the emotive, "Murder, Boo!"


Ethical objectivism

According to the ethical objectivist, the
truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherwise correspond to it, such as belie ...
or falsehood of typical moral judgments does not depend upon the beliefs or feelings of any person or group of persons. This view holds that moral propositions are analogous to propositions about
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds made of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, ...
,
biology Biology is the scientific study of life. It is a natural science with a broad scope but has several unifying themes that tie it together as a single, coherent field. For instance, all organisms are made up of cells that process hereditary in ...
, or history, in so much as they are true despite what anyone believes, hopes, wishes, or feels. When they fail to describe this mind-independent moral reality, they are false—no matter what anyone believes, hopes, wishes, or feels. There are many versions of ethical objectivism, including various religious views of morality, Platonistic intuitionism,
Kantianism Kantianism is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher born in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). The term ''Kantianism'' or ''Kantian'' is sometimes also used to describe contemporary positions in philosophy of mind ...
,
utilitarianism In ethical philosophy, utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different char ...
, and certain forms of
ethical egoism In ethical philosophy, ethical egoism is the normative position that moral agents ''ought'' to act in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological egoism, which claims that people ''can only'' act in their self-interest. Ethical egois ...
and
contractualism Contractualism is a term in philosophy which refers either to a family of political theories in the social contract tradition (when used in this sense, the term is an umbrella term for all social contract theories that include contractarianism) ...
. Note that Platonists define ethical objectivism in an even more narrow way, so that it requires the existence of intrinsic value. Consequently, they reject the idea that contractualists or egoists could be ethical objectivists. Objectivism, in turn, places primacy on the origin of the frame of reference—and, as such, considers any arbitrary frame of reference ultimately a form of ethical subjectivism by a transitive property, even when the frame incidentally coincides with reality and can be used for measurements.


Moral objectivism and relativism

Moral objectivism is the view that what is right or wrong doesn't depend on what anyone thinks is right or wrong. Moral objectivism depends on how the moral code affects the well-being of the people of the society. Moral objectivism allows for moral codes to be compared to each other through a set of universal facts than ''mores'' of a society. Nicholas Reschar defines ''mores'' as customs within every society (i.e. what women can wear) and states that moral codes cannot be compared to one's personal moral compass. An example is the categorical imperative of
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aest ...
which says: "Act only according to that maxim .e., rulewhereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law."
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist, Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to ...
was a consequential thinker and therefore proposed
utilitarianism In ethical philosophy, utilitarianism is a family of normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit different char ...
which asserts that in any situation, the right thing to do is whatever is likely to produce the most happiness overall. Moral relativism is the view where a moral code is relative to an agent in their specific moral context. The rules within moral codes are equal to each other and are only deemed "right" or "wrong" within their specific moral codes. Relativism is opposite to
Universalism Universalism is the philosophical and theological concept that some ideas have universal application or applicability. A belief in one fundamental truth is another important tenet in universalism. The living truth is seen as more far-reaching t ...
because there is not a single moral code for every agent to follow. Relativism differs from Nihilism because it validates every moral code that exists whereas nihilism does not. When it comes to relativism, Russian philosopher and writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, coined the phrase "If God doesn't exist, everything is permissible". That phrase was his view of the consequences for rejecting theism as a basis of ethics. American anthropologist Ruth Benedict argued that there is no single objective morality and that morality varies with culture.


Objectivity in History

History as a discipline has wrestled with notions of objectivity from its very beginning. While its object of study is commonly thought to be the past, the only thing historians have to work with are different versions of stories based on individual perceptions of reality and memory. Several history streams developed to devise ways to solve this dilemma: Historians like
Leopold von Ranke Leopold von Ranke (; 21 December 1795 – 23 May 1886) was a German historian and a founder of modern source-based history. He was able to implement the seminar teaching method in his classroom and focused on archival research and the analysis o ...
(XIX century) have advocated for the use of extensive evidence –especially archived physical paper documents– to recover the bygone past, claiming that, as opposed to people's memories, objects remain stable in what they say about the era they witnessed, and therefore represent a better insight into objective reality. In the XX century, the Annales School emphasized the importance of shifting focus away from the perspectives of influential
men A man is an adult male human. Prior to adulthood, a male human is referred to as a boy (a male child or adolescent). Like most other male mammals, a man's genome usually inherits an X chromosome from the mother and a Y chro ...
–usually politicians around whose actions
narratives A narrative, story, or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional (memoir, biography, news report, documentary, travelogue, etc.) or fictional (fairy tale, fable, legend, thriller, novel, etc.). Nar ...
of the past were shaped–, and putting it on the voices of ordinary people.
Postcolonial Postcolonialism is the critical academic study of the cultural, political and economic legacy of colonialism and imperialism, focusing on the impact of human control and exploitation of colonized people and their lands. More specifically, it is a ...
streams of history challenge the colonial-postcolonial
dichotomy A dichotomy is a partition of a whole (or a set) into two parts (subsets). In other words, this couple of parts must be * jointly exhaustive: everything must belong to one part or the other, and * mutually exclusive: nothing can belong simul ...
and critique Eurocentric academia practices, such as the demand for historians from colonized regions to anchor their local narratives to events happening in the territories of their colonizers to earn
credibility Credibility comprises the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message. Credibility dates back to Aristotle theory of Rhetoric. Aristotle defines rhetoric as the ability to see what is possibly persuasive i ...
. All the streams explained above try to uncover whose voice is more or less truth-bearing and how historians can stitch together versions of it to best explain what " actually happened." The anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot developed the concepts of historicity 1 and 2 to explain the difference between the materiality of socio- historical processes (H1) and the narratives that are told about the materiality of socio-historical processes (H2). This distinction hints that H1 would be understood as the factual reality that elapses and is captured with the concept of " objective truth", and that H2 is the collection of subjectivities that humanity has stitched together to grasp the past. Debates about positivism, relativism, and postmodernism are relevant to evaluating these concepts' importance and the distinction between them.


Ethical considerations

In his book "Silencing the past", Trouillot wrote about the power dynamics at play in history-making, outlining four possible moments in which historical silences can be created: (1) making of
sources Source may refer to: Research * Historical document * Historical source * Source (intelligence) or sub source, typically a confidential provider of non open-source intelligence * Source (journalism), a person, publication, publishing institut ...
(who gets to know how to write, or to have possessions that are later examined as historical evidence), (2) making of archives (what
documents A document is a written, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of non-fictional, as well as fictional, content. The word originates from the Latin ''Documentum'', which denotes a "teaching" o ...
are deemed important to save and which are not, how to classify materials, and how to order them within physical or
digital Digital usually refers to something using discrete digits, often binary digits. Technology and computing Hardware *Digital electronics, electronic circuits which operate using digital signals **Digital camera, which captures and stores digital i ...
archives), (3) making of narratives (which accounts of history are consulted, which voices are given
credibility Credibility comprises the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message. Credibility dates back to Aristotle theory of Rhetoric. Aristotle defines rhetoric as the ability to see what is possibly persuasive i ...
), and (4) the making of history (the retrospective construction of what The Past is).Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. (1995). Silencing the past : power and the production of history. Boston, Mass. :Beacon Press, Because history ( official, public, familial, personal) informs current perceptions and how we make sense of the present, whose voice gets to be included in it –and how– has direct consequences in material socio-historical processes. Thinking of current historical narratives as
impartial Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another ...
depictions of the totality of events unfolded in the past by labeling them as "objective" risks sealing historical understanding. Acknowledging that history is never objective and always incomplete has a meaningful opportunity to support
social justice Social justice is justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. In Western and Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals ful ...
efforts. Under said notion, voices that have been silenced are placed on an equal footing to the grand and popular narratives of the world, appreciated for their unique insight of reality through their subjective lens.


See also

*
Factual relativism Factual relativism (also called epistemic relativism, epistemological relativism, alethic relativism or cognitive relativism) argues that truth itself is relative. This form of relativism has its own particular problem, regardless of whether one i ...
*
Journalistic objectivity Journalistic objectivity is a considerable notion within the discussion of journalistic professionalism. Journalistic objectivity may refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of thes ...
* Naïve realism *
Objectivity (science) Objectivity in science is an attempt to uncover truths about the natural world by eliminating personal biases, emotions, and false beliefs. It is often linked to observation as part of the scientific method. It is thus intimately related to the ai ...
*
Objectivism Objectivism is a philosophical system developed by Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. She described it as "the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement ...
* Omniscience


References


Further reading

* Bachelard, Gaston. ''La formation de l'esprit scientifique: contribution à une psychanalyse de la connaissance''. Paris: Vrin, 2004. . *Castillejo, David. ''The Formation of Modern Objectivity''. Madrid: Ediciones de Arte y Bibliofilia, 1982. *Gaukroger, Stephen. (2012). ''Objectivity''. Oxford University Press. * Kuhn, Thomas S. ''
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ''The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'' (1962; second edition 1970; third edition 1996; fourth edition 2012) is a book about the history of science by philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn. Its publication was a landmark event in the history, philosophy ...
''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 3rd ed. . *Megill, Allan. ''Rethinking Objectivity''. London: Duke UP, 1994. * Nagel, Ernest. ''The Structure of Science''. New York: Brace and World, 1961. * Nagel, Thomas. ''The View from Nowhere''. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986 * Nozick, Robert. ''Invariances: the structure of the objective world''. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2001. * Popper, Karl. R. ''Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach''. Oxford University Press, 1972. . * Rescher, Nicholas. ''Objectivity: the obligations of impersonal reason''. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1977. * Rorty, Richard. ''Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 *Rousset, Bernard. ''La théorie kantienne de l'objectivité'', Paris: Vrin, 1967. * Scheffler, Israel. ''Science and Subjectivity''. Hackett, 1982. Voices of Wisdom; a multicultural philosophy reader. Kessler


External links

*
Subjectivity and Objectivity
by Pete Mandik {{DEFAULTSORT:Objectivity (Philosophy) Articles containing video clips Concepts in epistemology Concepts in ethics Concepts in metaphysics Ontology Philosophy of history Philosophy of science Political philosophy Reality Truth Virtue