(Article changed on November 11, 2012 at 06:35)
Characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind
: lacking in reality or substance : illusory
1. Expressing or dealing with facts or
conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or
interpretations < objective art>
2. Relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence --used chiefly in medieval philosophy
"You look at things subjectively (by your own admission above) whilst I look at things objectively'
From a message by a commenter
"History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when the will of a handful of free men breaks through determinism and opens up new roads. People get the history they deserve. When you lament a misfortune and fear that worse is to come people will tell you "It's a law of history. It's the will evolution.' They will explain it all very lucidly. Stand up, gentlemen, against such clever cowardice. It is worse than stupidity. It's the sin against the Holy Spirit.'
Charles De Gaulle
"God is ingenious but not malicious'
I am going to enjoy this. So many times I heard in this county about how important it is to be objective and how proud a person was that he/she was objective and realistic in making decisions. This is very paradoxical because, as we can see from Merriam -- Webster's above in the old times subjective and objective were very similar definitions. Subjective was something based on the perception of the subject (a person) and objective was an object of thought. A person developed an object of thought and then analyzed it subjectively, thus pursuing that object on the basis of his/her perceptions on how things worked. This sounds very much like a routine work of a scientific theorist.
That was in the old times. In our times we have hordes of objectivists, defining themselves as realists, people who absolutely officially consider that they know how to find out the clear criteria of events, independent of human perception and thus perfect. Just look at the Fox News with their " Fair and Balanced' logo. But those are just shills- they can sell anything, even parts of their bodies for a drag. Seemingly paradoxical are everyday people, who seem to be possessed with that objectivity hubris without any reasonable explanation. You can hear that boring and cliched statement from any American, young and old, man or female, even from a child. If I tell them that the last time I heard such childish bragging was from my rather mentally challenged girlfriend many years ago, they would not understand me. Meanwhile common sense tells us that it is very unlikely that any of us "looks at the things objectively', so also says Sigmund Freud and his disciples. In my subjective way I would like to entertain a theory.
1. A theory and Edgar Poe
Americans are emotionally challenged people. Not all of them, obviously; it is rather the feature of everyday life. Here by emotions I mean high --level areas of human psyche: there is a abundance of low-level stuff like embedded violence, rudeness, malice and greed. No wonder; US is a young country, not a nation yet, more like a conglomerate of Americans of different nationalities, most of which come from rather humble upbringing. Survival, struggle for success, competition -- all of that promotes the development of practical and shallow mind, especially if we consider the influence of the German model of Lutheran Church ( I wrote about that before). Empathy, internal torment, self- doubt and soul suffering were the engagements of the privileged. American perceptions of " subjective' were for a very long time buried in the "kinky fantasies' box deep in the brain, so deep that most of them never could even find a way to it. It is especially well seen in the hopeless efforts of the US entertainment professionals to look emotional, funny or sad; the more they work on that, the more boring they look because they are as far away from real emotions as Mitt Romney is from being human. This shines brilliantly in Tina Fey, the least funny person in the world, being considered a pillar of humor.
Correction though- this lack of emotional life is mainly the characteristic of white American populous; African- Americans and minorities are much more lively but they have their own problems; they are bombarded by negative statements about that very great feature of theirs and also by vehement instructions to lose it all and become Stepford characters, That's the word- Stepford. White folks are Stepford folks and those are robots, take it or leave it. And they are told that they are really exemplary humans and that they should be followed by all mankind. How can they resist? They believe that and call a their virtue a vice.
We thus have here a situation when the majority of the population being challenged in basic human qualities had decided to consider that obvious character flaw as a gift from God and proclaim it an advantage , do everything possible to promote it and call it an inclination to objective thinking and neglect those qualities they lack as an unnecessary subjectivity.
I have a powerful ally in that theory of mine. Among the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury there is a grotesque story Asher II.
The story pertains to the times when objective and rational thought had prevailed absolutely and became a repressive force. Everything disturbing, unexplainable, grotesque and macabre was banned by a special commission ( Americans love commissions and committees) and the works of Edgar Poe were the first to go. An eccentric fan of Poe's builds an Asher house on Mars and populates it with mechanical creatures, resembling the characters from Poe's stories. He then invites the members off the honorable commission to come and have a ball for one night, to taste the forbidden fruit and when the morning comes- the house is to be destroyed. And yes, they came, all them! The fierce rationalists turned out to be secretly craving the real excitement. They all came, dressed in costumes and had fun drinking, dancing and watching a spectacle of the robots, resembling the guests being mockingly killed in all those ways the people were killed in Edgar Poe's stories. Those robots were perfect: they cried and wept and shrieked and quivered and bled and pled for mercy. The members of the commission cringed with satisfaction. Then the host offers the chairman to accompany him to the basement to witness the demise of his robotic double. There suddenly the host chains the poor man to the wall and starts to bury him alive by erecting a cement enclosure around him. Exactly like in the famous Amontillado story!
At that moment we find out the truth. The people who were killed were real. One- by one they were snatched from the crowd of guests and replaced by their copies and all others around them could not see the difference. Robots danced in costumes, drank cocktails and calmly watched how people were cut into pieces, buried alive and drowned in the hot tar. Robots cracked cynical jokes and gave speeches about decadent subjectivity which must be destroyed. The people, who brought the primitive objectivity to the level of grotesque paid the price for their spiritual ignorance. And here is the interesting paradox: the limitless shallow objectivity turns into a total subjectivity because what those people saw was an illusion created in their puny heads; they deprived themselves of the knowledge which otherwise would have saved their very lives.
Why shallow? Because in reality Edgar Poe's mysticism and melodramatic inclinations were nothing but a cover for a brilliant, inquisitive and realistic mind, taking on a challenge to investigate the human psyche. If you read Poe carefully you become amazed with perfect, even mathematical attention to detail, charmed by logic and fall in love with the clarity of his mind. Poe was the founder of several modern genres of literature, by far the most famous being the detective suspense novel. He was one of those people who followed the definition of Alexander Block, the Russian poet, "The small fires of art are there to help to recognize the great fire of life." In his endeavor Poe raised the objectivity to a new level of understanding, A truly enlightened person could learn a lot from Poe's symbolism and come up with very practical considerations. That is, of course if you have a a mind and heart eager to learn. If you have just chromium blood, you can't learn anything. And then you perish while robots laugh at you. Yes, we all are craving great passions but you have to earn those,;you have to be worthy of being human.
Ray Bradbury was one of those visionaries who recognized the "something wicked' in the mechanistic tendency of his fellow- Americans to "line up all the facts' and to find a box for every bit of information without engaging their " beautiful mind' with emotionally and subjectively powerful signals, sorting them out. Another author, Stephen King called this feature much more harshly -- a "moronic evil'.
Call me subjective but I am in a good company. It is only when our inner self is challenged do we grow.
2. Burden of proof
"Prove it!"- that screeching sound I hear from a lot of people of quite an adult age. Skepticism is supposed to be a virtue of the seemingly objective person. It can play tricks on you though. Primarily when it comes to honesty. Like for instance I don't mind trying to logically prove that climate change is real and at least partially due to human activities if the inquisitor asks for proof o of other things from other people. It would be nice to hear a reasonable proof of the necessity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from those who unleashed them; it would be really perfect to see the proper investigation of 9/11. For some strange reason many so-called objectivists are ready to embrace the most bizarre, totally subjective explanations as soon as those come from people of power and influence and at the same time -- they demonstrate unreasonable skepticism and even contempt towards those who express a perfectly legitimate hypotheses. Really, folks, we all must agree that there are about 7 billion humans now on the planet; we by far exceed other species, we are the only ones who exploit the planet for our own immediate needs while not giving anything back, we are engaged in processes which are by thermodynamics' definition unnatural and thus would not it be feasible at least to consider that human mind had evolved enough to see that a human could be in fact an enemy of humanity sometimes, when he, the human is carried away? That's perfectly objective and reasonable. And even if you somehow do not believe that climate change is happening right now you cannot fully dismiss the human influence on the environment just because you want to breath and humans so far had not found any way to generate breathable air. In any case, an objective person should treat the climate issue as a new, even exciting challenge for Humanity, the meeting of which might bring us all to new horizons. No proof is needed here, just common sense. And that's how other people look at it. Not in our country though.
In this country the opposition to the climate change idea is far beyond the simple "prove it' stuff. It is vehement, hysterical, paranoid. It is so fierce that by any means it seems to be about something much deeper, more important, more subjective that just some scientific argument. There seem to be a real fear involved. There are two components in this fear: one subjective and one -- objective. The subjective one is simple and common- people do not like the doomsday scenarios at their doorstep and even less they like those who bring the news. We are all like that- no exceptions. After the denial period blows off, though we usually accept the reality and try to make a lemonade out of that lemon. Our European friends seem to have recovered remarkably fast and the renewable energy market is up for grabs. In any case, this aspect is quite natural. That is the objective one which is much more sinister. Objectivity is associated with a real fact which we here in America are all aware of but pretend that we don't know anything about it. That fact is that we, the US folks are the worst destructionists and polluters of environment (granted, mostly we do that not on our territory) in the whole western world and that we had got away with it for an unbelievably long time. Paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence I hold this truth to be self- evident that the US pathologically consumptive way of life is due to the misfortune and misery of the people in the world and to the deliberate destruction of their habitat, thus also of their self- reliance. They do not hate us, though. They despise us for our criminal immaturity; we know that and we hate them for it.
This subjective hate of the emotionally- challenged nation is subjective to the core but the fear itself is certainly real. We want our illusion to proceed while the house of cards is crumbling right before our eyes.
That's why we shout "prove it': we, who had never proved anything to anyone on equal grounds are now the target of the same approach and we do not like it. We do not like it at all.
Subjectivity and objectivity proved here to be the two sides of the same coin; also we again see that both of those things can be legitimate and useful as well as malicious and destructive, depending on who, how and where.
3. Subjectivity rocks where honesty rules
Dr. Ziegbert Tarrash was a German professor of mathematics and also one of the greatest chess players of his time (at the start of the 20th Century). Dr Tarrash was a very objective man and took pride in lining up the facts, examining them and coming up to the determined conclusion. He developed a theory of the game of chess according to which there had to be an optimal strategy of winning based on the best possible implementation of the chess rules. In engineering language he promoted the idea that the one who uses the standard works most efficiently is bound to win. Tarrash postulated that every piece on the board should be positioned according to its highest potential and that the advantage of one player over another depended on the amount of the pieces located that way. Tarrash insisted that a player must strive to achieve the optimal position, seek it and study the rules very hard on the way to perfection. As a practicing grandmaster he fortified his views by series of impressive victories in the tournaments, although never could achieve the goal of becoming a World Champion. No wonder he was rather surprised when he met with the second World Champion, the young Dr. Emanuel Lasker.
Dr.Lasker also was a professor of mathematics but he was totally opposite to Dr. Tarrash. He seemed not to follow the rules at all. Or rather he knew them but had chosen to bend them for his own amusement. Not only he ignored the perfect positions but in many cases he deliberately made his situation worse(!) thus creating a controlled mess on the board which he clearly enjoyed. To Dr. Tarrash Lasker represented a wind of subjectivity, especially due to the fact that Lasker preferred for a long time not to postulate any of his views and just proceeded from one victory to another, among them defeating Dr. Tarrash in the two challenging matches.
After the second crushing defeat Tarrash pushed Lasker hard to reveal his secrets and the most long- time World Champion said, 'People fight on the board, not just pieces." Turned out Lasker treated the game of chess as a struggle of two personalities. Being a very keen observer, he discovered that every player had his own "style', his way of treating the chess theory and knowledge and that style was based exclusively on subjective perceptions of that person: liking and disliking, emotions, preferences and life experiences. Lasker thus introduced a subjective factor into the previously deterministic process, creating a new objective reality currently fully recognized by all chess professionals. Most of the current chess masters maintain the database of the games of their potential rivals, studying their style habits and developing a counterstrategy. That happens in all sports more or less.
Dr. Tarrash was a very fair and broadminded man; he sincerely acknowledged the new approach as the one opening g the new horizons and was one of the first to give credit to Dr. Lasker. Those were really the times of the titans. I have portraits of both of those people and they are both great personalities indeed.
Times had changed though. We recently had two events in the social framework of our country: the Tea- Party and OWS. The Tea- Party was loudly promoted by the media as a "grass- roots' movement of traditional American conservatism while OWS was practically sabotaged or depicted in a demeaning and negative way. Tea- Party was openly used by the GOP as a driving force to bring new people to Congress, it was in fact the pool from which the GOP drew its new blood, new cadres and new set of slogans. That was a very objective way of using that artificial -- to -- the -- core organization as the way to develop a seemingly subjective "voice of the people' ( very nicely lubricated by money- MS) and transfer it into the objective reality of practical politics. I was expecting the same approach to be implemented towards the OWS, but in vain: moreover, the Dems demonstratively abandoned the OWS, ignored it as if it was some kind of a crowd of unruly teenagers. The Tea- Party consisted by the vast majority of low- educated people; the percent of educated ones was much higher in OWS. OWS though did not have effluent people among them; it was not lubricated by money and power and intrinsic goals- it was truly the voice of the people and EXACTLY because of that it was undermined and betrayed by the very forces which could benefit from it immensely. Confronted by the real new subjectivity of OWS the Dems (!) proved themselves as unworthy, preferring to cling to their own boring and treacherous policy.
In this case we clearly see that GOP outsmarted their opponents in the way of dealing with subjective factors, had shown much more astuteness and care for the future. I may be asked why then the Dems won the elections? The answer here is too complicated for this article but in a nutshell- the Dems did not win- the GOP lost and they lost because that's how it was arranged all along by the masters of discourse.
But I digress. In case of Tarrash vs, Lasker Tarrash did not have to acknowledge the new approach, much less to promote it. The only driving force which pushed him to do that was his intellectual honesty: it still seemed subjective to him but he was smart and honest enough to understand that God is in fact ingenious and that the objective knowledge has subjectivity at its origin. On the contrary, in case of OWS we see the case of intellectual dishonesty- the OWS was a real, objective thing, at first deliberately slandered by the media as something negatively subjective and trivial and subsequently- betrayed by the very people whose job was to represent them. The breath of fresh air did not reach the stagnant lungs.
4 . Objective reality and subjective heroes
1. Joan D'Arc was surrounded by the objective reality of France being totally destroyed by the English occupation and her being nothing but an illiterate peasant girl. She insisted on her purely subjective perspective and went to the King, summoned the army and became a legendary figure. France exists now due to the subjective little girl from a village and this objective fact is absolute.
2. Martha Corey was surrounded by an objective reality of the 1692 Salem MA, the place burning by the witch hunt and filled with malice and fear. She was adamant in her statement, "By my own experience there are no witches" and paid by her life for the glorious proclamation of the power of the free spirit and human mind. Now we know that her subjectivity was in fact the highest objectivity, the brilliant prophesy of the genius; now we know that there are no witches. We sometimes forget how high was the prize for something we take for granted.
3. Joseph Strauss did not know if the Golden Gate bridge was actually possible or not. It was his dream though to build something grandiose, something outstanding. Thus he absolutely subjectively offered the lowest possible cost to the Chief Engineer of San- Francisco and when asked by then President of the Bank of America how long would the bridge last, answered without hesitation, " Forever." The bridge is there for all to see as a triumph of the new objective reality and not for a moment we remember how subjective it seemed in 1927.
4. The three battalions of young Russian Podolsk artillery school cadets in winter of 1941 were confronted by the objective reality- the German armored divisions moving towards Moscow, the permanent aerial bombardment and absolutely no Russian troops between them and Moscow. The subjective aspect was general Zhukov ( Marshal Zhukov in the future) ordering and asking to delay the German armada for three days. They stood firm, like the heroes of Sparta before them and when three days passed, 98% of them were dead but the road was blocked by burning German tanks, Siberian armies were on the offensive and Moscow was saved, so was the civilization as we know it. Now it is all a part of objective military history.
I would argue that practically all the great things we now consider as parts of objective reality have subjectivity in their origin, the true subjectivity, sometimes called in another way --creativity, imagination.
5. A Subjective Conclusion
I had reread the article several times and I am still not sure if I managed to convey my message.
Subjectivity and objectivity are intertwined like Siamese twins and can even take each-other's place They also can be true and false. True objectivity is a virtue of a mature mind; true subjectivity is a sign of a full- grown personality. False objectivity is the vice of a coward. False subjectivity is a sign of spiritual immaturity and shallowness. The defining criteria to distinguish between true and false is absence of malice in case of the former. People usually make decisions on the basis of subjective reasoning and then justify those by weaving an elaborate web of seemingly objective causes. That method of weaving reveals to the casual observer whether the original subjective reason was true or false. There is no way to hide that. That's why maybe it is more objective and reasonable to acknowledge your own subjectivity from the start. Life becomes much easier then.
This is for the second time I feel good about what I had done. The first time it happened when one commenter called me Mark Sunshine. Must have done something right.