Friday, July 15, 2016

Is Anything Really Objective?

From guest blogger, Allen.

In lecture, we talked about Objectivism versus Relativism, and how an Objectivist would view morality differently from a Relativist. A moral standard is object is it holds universally, that is, it does not change depending on opinion or beliefs. What make something objective then? Who defines what is objective and what is not?

From deep thinking on this matter, I believe nothing is ever originally objective. Take the color red, for example. An individual discovered that colors have certain properties and could be used as identifiers for our environment, and therefore assigned a name to certain wavelengths of light. This individual then shared their knowledge with the people around them and as this idea of the color red spread, more people began to accept it. Ultimately, everyone accepted this idea and it turned into a universal fact. This can be compared to morals. If killing the innocent seems immoral to you, I and most rational beings, then it can be considered as a universal fact. What started out as a personal opinion turns into an objective truth. Of course, there will be certain individuals who disagree with this truth, as is true with the various killings we have seen throughout history and today. Kant’s concept supports this as these individuals would not be considered as rational beings anymore.


Tim Heinzel said...

Your post captures part of how I've usually thought about objectivity. As you point out with colors, their objectivity stems from a universal acceptance that specific terms for colors refer to a set of light properties. I differ slightly though because I don't think a universal opinion somehow becomes a universal fact. I think that when we all accept certain definitions and meanings, there will only be one objectively correct truth. For example, if "red" encapsultes a color with specific light properties, then any object with those light properties should be classified as red - any other classification would be objectively wrong according to our accepted definitions.

With morality things are a bit trickier. Perhaps if definitions for morality and right and wrong are explicitly delineated such that specific moral situations have only one, unambiguous correct answer, objective morality will exist. I'm not convinced that that is the case though. Unlike with objective scientific facts, we can't point to something that is clearly observable or deducible. Unless we define immorality to encapsulate every action that is supposedly wrong, there will be no objective process for assigning a moral status to specific actions.

Until I see more positive arguments for objectivity that do not simply rely on saying "X is wrong, and everyone agrees, so "X is wrong" is an objectively true statement regardless of what you think", I won't be an objectivist. I need literal and observable proof, like what I find in the scientific and observable world.

Tim Heinzel

William Wagner said...

I think one of the things that makes objectivism so appealing to people compared to relativism is its link to science. There are objective scientific laws. We know and can prove that. The speed of light is the speed of light and will always be that. People look at objective scientific laws and think that means there must be objective moral laws. I don't think that objectivity came down to somebody developing a personal opinion and people repeating that opinion. I think that moral objectivism comes from an evolution in the way people view the world around them. People ascribe morality and the physical world very closely, in my opinion.

Leona Liu said...

Hi, Allen,

I was glad to see your post because I have similar thoughts on objectivism. One of the major question I had is that to what degree is human experience relevant to morality. Tim did a great job pointing out that color can be objective if it is defined by the materials's ability to absorb/reflect wavelengths. That kind of properties can still be valid if what is defined as humanity is wipe out off the universe. But can morality be the same way? Can morality exist in the absence of rational and autonomous beings? Kant would disagree. Objectivists would agree. But if morality is not bound by humanity, why did many argue that our reaction to certain things can be used as guidance for our actions? If morality is parallel to physical laws, does our feeling matter?