Objectivity vs Subjectivity in debate

Posted by on April 19, 2010 in Thoughts | 18 comments

Rembrandt's "Two Philosophers"

Rembrandt's "Two Philosophers"

There seems to be a lot of confusion for people on what is a compelling argument, and what is just muddying the waters of debate. So often, when in discussions around the existence of gods, the yeasayer will turn to personal experiences of things that have happened to them, or to others around, or a story they’ve heard about a friend of a friend, and all this does is add a barrier to understanding on their part. The problem is, people tend to hold on so tightly to what they “believe” rather than asking the often uncomfortable questions which could weaken their beliefs. They tend to have a blinkered approach to the answers, and accept things at face value of what “seems” reasonable, and deny the answers which actually are based in reason. Here are the 2 standpoints that are so often taken.

Objective can be defined like this:

a. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.
b. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.

Subjective can be defined thus:

a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
b. Particular to a given person; personal.

In the comments on my blog, deists and theists tend to rely on personal and highly subjective “evidence” for their claims on the existence of God. I on the other hand, try to structure my arguments around an objective standpoint, one which will, if tested, ring true for everyone and everything. I do not always succeed, and I have never claimed to have all the answers, however, at least you can test my words against empirical evidence and come to a conclusion. I have and I will change my mind if I think I may be wrong.

The biggest problem with subjectivity is that a person is acting from their emotional reaction to a situation, not thinking in a clear and rational manner when coming to a conclusion.

The most common one I encounter is the answer “But how can you know if you didn’t see it with your own eyes?”

Well the answer to that is “the eyes can be deceived.” Apply that to other situations where something seems to good to be true, most likely it is too good to be true. The principle of Occam’s Razor, which is “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”, often quoted as “the simplest answer is usually the correct one”, is a great place to start in critical thinking.

I know to most of you reading, this is nothing new, but to those new to this idea, why not just ask more questions of situations? Why not delve further into the mysteries of the universe and question what exactly you’ve been told or read, weigh it up against what you know, and try to make an informed decision based on what you’ve learned.

The answer “God did it” holds no sway in any argument.

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