Let’s start with the definition… The Cambridge On-Line Dictionary defines objective as an adjective and is “based on real facts and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings”then it says “NOTE: The opposite is subjective.” When I was a newly graduated college student, I am sad to say, I did not know what objective was… I remember looking up the definition and still not understanding what it meant or how to use it properly. I also could not tell you the difference between “subjective” and “objective”. I had this idea they should be opposite but I could not tell you why. I want to take a moment to explain two things; 1. Why I didn’t know the difference between subjectivity and objectivity and 2. Why knowing the difference has changed my life so much.
Not knowing the difference, on the face of things is easy to explain; I was never taught. Why was I not taught this and what was I taught is where it gets complicated and while it may sound subjective I will try to give evidence to back up what I am saying. Before I start I want to point out that there was nothing subversive or bad about what happened it is just the way things are. They are this way and have been this way for many thousands of years, since before written history, a cultural program.
The first things that we are taught to children are fun, innocent things such as Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc… You get the point, cute creatures and men doing good things for children. The children believe in these things until they are old enough to figure out that their parents are really the ones placing the presents and chocolates and taking the teeth replacing them with money. It is believing… “something not based on real facts and totally influenced my personal feelings”. It is opposite of Objective. Most of us are born into a religion and their religion perpetuates the idea of believing in something.
In religion we call this “faith”. I was raised Catholic and in every mass there is “proclamation of faith”, where we recited exactly what I was required to believe without question, every week we did this. Our subjective thinking is burned into us at an early age and continues to be instilled into us throughout our lives, in many ways. Here is another example. Opinion polls… they are a big part of our modern culture. You will be asked “Do you think “he” is guilty?” If you decide to respond to the poll it will be based on how you feel or what you may have read, which is likely to have been someone’s opinion. So is he guilty? Well 80% of the people responding to the poll said he is… you see my point I think. This happens all the time. Like I indicated earlier this is not a bad thing it is just something that happens.
The fact that I didn’t know the difference between subjective and objective bothered me; mostly because it seemed to me it SHOULD be an easy concept but I didn’t know. This inspired me to do research and read and it took me quite a while to come to an understanding that satisfied my curiosity. When I finally came to the understanding of the difference it felt like I broke through a programming. Again, it wasn’t an evil brainwashing, just a cultural program that kept me from knowing. Knowing the difference changed my life. This change was quite shocking at first because I was seeing the subjective everywhere and a great void of objectivity. This knowing allowed me to excel personally and professionally because I had a more lucid view of the world. I finally understood the boundaries of what I knew. Boundaries of what I knew… Interesting… I hadn’t thought about it in that way before I put that down on paper (electronic paper). That is really what objective thinking does for you. It allows you to understand what you know the why about and what is influenced by your feelings.
Subjective thinking allows ALL the very good and bad things in the world. Subjective thought allows for the all the best in the world, such as love, art and philosophy. Subjective thought gives you the yin and yang taught in Chinese philosophy, the very good and the very bad and everything in between. Unfortunately, subjectivity has lead to all the culturally bad things to happen in the world. Let me try to explain by looking at what we considered culturally bad in the world. (The concept of “bad” is inherently subjective but if was define why we picked the bad thing we can then objectively discuss the subjective thing.) Below are listed some of things we consider bad and can counter each of them with a objective knowing that would eliminate the possibility of the bad thing with a few major “bad” things below:
Racism – Some groups of people “believe” they are better than others. An understanding of how all humans are people, regardless of skin color or other appearance
Terrorism – Some groups may have a “belief” or religion that isn’t shared by others. Understanding objectivity allows you to understand what is influenced by your feelings and beliefs. (Terrorism is often used by people to wage war on others who have more access to technology so we will define this as war).
War – War happens for many reasons. It is said that “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. Politics are often someone’s or some people’s beliefs about how a country should be governed, objectively we would know that no one wins in a war.
Many other “bad things” such as hunger, starvation, pollution and global warming – I have grouped them together because their reason is due to one major factor that we all know but hate to talk about; out of control population growth is putting a major stress on our environment. We hate to talk about out of control population growth because we believe there is no solution that anyone can agree on. We think this way because we are being subjective, of course there are solutions, and we need to discuss alternatives.
As you can see the objective thinking effectively counters the thing considered bad, in theory. In order for this to be able to occur in our world everyone has to know the difference between subjectivity and objectivity.
Why is this important? The difference between the objective and the subjective is one of understanding; objective is the knowing and subjective is the believing; objective is the thinking and the subjective is the feeling. Understanding this difference is quite important because our world is in peril with things such as war, racism and global warming. By learning the difference, we can temper the extremes of the good and bad brought with only an understanding of subjectivity. By understanding when we are being subjective and objective we will have the ability to choose; for now we are compelled by our feelings. We need to understand the boundaries of what we know so we can get past our beliefs and feelings and into a better future.