In philosophy, objectivity is the concept of truth independent from individual subjectivity (bias caused by one's perception, emotions, or imagination). A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject. Scientific objectivity refers to the ability to judge without partiality 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 considered geometry a condition of idealism concerned with universal truth. His contrasting between objectivity and opinion became the basis for philosophies intent on resolving the questions of reality, truth, and existence. He saw opinions as belonging to the shifting sphere of sensibilities, as opposed to a fixed, eternal and knowable incorporeality. Where Plato distinguished between how we know things and their ontological status, subjectivism 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 to look for evidence before forming a hypothesis. Partially in response to Kant's rationalism, logician Gottlob Frege 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 formed by propositions with truth value. An attempt of forming an objective construct 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 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
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, 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). 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!"
According to the ethical objectivist, the truth 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, biology, 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, utilitarianism, and certain forms of ethical egoism and contractualism. 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 which says: "Act only according to that maxim [i.e., rule] whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." John Stuart Mill was a consequential thinker and therefore proposed utilitarianism 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 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.
Critique of Moral Objectivity
Morals are created when the social norms in a society will influence an agent to perform an action. Over time, agents will become attached to the approved behavior and will be rewarded in society for upholding the desired actions. These norms force agents to think about what it takes to satisfy these norms. From the reinforcement of the social norms, an agent can have the reasons for the norms ingrained in their decision-making process. All of this can mean nothing to an agent if they do not consider what their future version of themselves will become. Once that inconsideration of the future takes place, an agent might only care about the present and make decisions based on the advancement of themselves rather than being considerate of social norms.
- Factual relativism
- Journalistic objectivity
- Naïve realism
- Objectivity (science)
- Objectivism (Ayn Rand)
- Rescher, Nicholas (January 2008). "Moral Objectivity". Social Philosophy and Policy. 25 (1): 393–409. doi:10.1017/S0265052508080151.
- E. Douka Kabîtoglou (1991). "Shelley and Berkeley: The Platonic Connection" (PDF): 20–35. Cite journal requires
- Mary Margaret Mackenzie (1985). "Plato's moral theory". Journal of Medical Ethics. 11 (2): 88–91. doi:10.1136/jme.11.2.88. PMC 1375153. PMID 4009640.
- Suzuki, Fumitaka (March 2012). "The Cogito Proposition of Descartes and Characteristics of His Ego Theory" (PDF). Bulletin of Aichi University of Education. 61: 73–80.
- Clinton Tolley. "Kant on the Generality of Logic" (PDF). University of California, San Diego. Cite journal requires
- Tyler Burge, Origins of Objectivity, Oxford University Press, 2010.
- Thomas Pölzler (2018). "How to Measure Moral Realism". Review of Philosophy and Psychology. 9 (3): 647–670. doi:10.1007/s13164-018-0401-8. PMC 6132410. PMID 30220945.
- Rayner, Sam (2005). "Hume's Moral Philosophy". Macalester Journal of Philosophy. 14 (1): 6–21.
- "A Substantive Revision to Firth's Ideal Observer Theory" (PDF). Stance. Ball State University. 3: 55–61. April 2010.
- Marchetti, Sarin (21 December 2010). "William James on Truth and Invention in Morality". European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy. II (2). doi:10.4000/ejpap.910.
- "24.231 Ethics – Handout 3 Ayer's Emotivism" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cite journal requires
- Wreen, Michael (July 2018). "What Is Moral Relativism?". Philosophy. 93 (3): 337–354. doi:10.1017/S0031819117000614. ProQuest 2056736032.
- "Moral Relativism and Objectivism". University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Wong, David B. (January 2008). "Constructing Normative Objectivity in Ethics". Social Philosophy and Policy. 25 (1): 237–266. doi:10.1017/S0265052508080096.
- Bachelard, Gaston. La formation de l'esprit scientifique: contribution à une psychanalyse de la connaissance. Paris: Vrin, 2004. ISBN 2-7116-1150-7.
- Castillejo, David. The Formation of Modern Objectivity. Madrid: Ediciones de Arte y Bibliofilia, 1982.
- Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 3rd ed. ISBN 0-226-45808-3.
- 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. ISBN 0-19-875024-2.
- 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