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  1. #1
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Default I just realized that everything is subjective... what a mess.

    I was just thinking about how many people believe that it is possible to know something in a objective manner. However, this is not true, not even of perceptions. Everything we can know or express to ourselves inherently has a subjective element, because it is processed through subjective filters.

    An example many people use to show that we can have objective knowledge is the mathematical notion that 2+2=4. However, this formulation is in fact subjective in several ways. First, it assumes that the person is using decimal, standard mathematical notation, and agrees on the meaning of each number. For instance, just by switching to quaternary, I could make 2+2=10. Now the person might argue that this is actually the same answer because you can acheive the same result with physical objects. But this is also subjective, because you would first have to agree on what should be defined as an object. With what we consider to be two books, we have to agree that it is the set of pages, ink, ideas, atoms, etc, that we have somehow defined as a book, separately from it's surrounding environment. Also, the idea of counting does not change anything about the books, it simply is part of how we define our perception of them. The idea that the two books are independent entities is part of a limitation in how human beings process reality. Truthfully, we cannot say that anything exists outside of our perception of it. Everything that we can communicate is based on a shared set of assumptions and rules for processing things that we somehow accrue over the course of our lives. Even this communication is entirely subjective, based on my perception of reality, language, and logic.

    Even if we assumed that things that we perceive exist outside our perception, we still must acknowledge that we only comprehend something by superimposing a subjective impression onto it, and examining that. For instance, if our understanding is correct, what we call "red" exists in nature, but only as a material that reflects light particles within a certain band of the electromagnetic spectrum. To a being that perceived the electromagnetic spectrum differently, we would be able to explain "red" to them, but they might not understand what that particular perception really means to us, because what "red" means to us has more to do with the subjective impression it makes on us, rather than how light particles respond to it.

    So how can anything truly be objective? It can't. Why do some people claim that they can say something objectively, when all knowledge is subjective?

    What does this mean?

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    I'm not sure I get what you're talking about but it sounds like solipsism.

  3. #3
    Arcesso pulli gingerios! Eldanen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post

    So how can anything truly be objective? It can't. Why do some people claim that they can say something objectively, when all knowledge is subjective?

    What does this mean?
    To say that "all knowledge is subjective" is akin to saying "there is no absolute truth." In order for those statements to either apply to all knowledge or all truth, they must be objective. I believe that reality is objective, but that our perceptions often conceal reality behind shaded glasses. We see elements of truth at times, but also elements of our own belief systems, together.

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    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Pretty simple, you just have to agree on the terms being in accordance.

    If we are sure that we are both defining object X as "apple", then we can discuss about it objectively. If we say "apple" but we are actually referring to two different objects, then in order to solve the misunderstanding we have to agree on the terms.

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    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    I was just thinking about how many people believe that it is possible to know something in a objective manner. However, this is not true, not even of perceptions. Everything we can know or express to ourselves inherently has a subjective element, because it is processed through subjective filters.

    An example many people use to show that we can have objective knowledge is the mathematical notion that 2+2=4. However, this formulation is in fact subjective in several ways. First, it assumes that the person is using decimal, standard mathematical notation, and agrees on the meaning of each number. For instance, just by switching to quaternary, I could make 2+2=10. Now the person might argue that this is actually the same answer because you can acheive the same result with physical objects. But this is also subjective, because you would first have to agree on what should be defined as an object. With what we consider to be two books, we have to agree that it is the set of pages, ink, ideas, atoms, etc, that we have somehow defined as a book, separately from it's surrounding environment. Also, the idea of counting does not change anything about the books, it simply is part of how we define our perception of them. The idea that the two books are independent entities is part of a limitation in how human beings process reality. Truthfully, we cannot say that anything exists outside of our perception of it. Everything that we can communicate is based on a shared set of assumptions and rules for processing things that we somehow accrue over the course of our lives. Even this communication is entirely subjective, based on my perception of reality, language, and logic.

    Even if we assumed that things that we perceive exist outside our perception, we still must acknowledge that we only comprehend something by superimposing a subjective impression onto it, and examining that. For instance, if our understanding is correct, what we call "red" exists in nature, but only as a material that reflects light particles within a certain band of the electromagnetic spectrum. To a being that perceived the electromagnetic spectrum differently, we would be able to explain "red" to them, but they might not understand what that particular perception really means to us, because what "red" means to us has more to do with the subjective impression it makes on us, rather than how light particles respond to it.

    So how can anything truly be objective? It can't. Why do some people claim that they can say something objectively, when all knowledge is subjective?

    What does this mean?
    There are many ways to see or interpret red.
    What do you see in the rainbow?
    The colours are not numbered.
    Who counts them?

    The counter does not influence the numbers?

    Phenomenal physics is a viewpoint of an ant.
    I see what I see.
    Not much.
    Hence I draw conclusions.
    The light stands behind me.
    What I see is my own shadow.

    Observe the rainbow.
    What is the spectacular thing about it?

    The neighbour colours of red.
    What about them?

    The light of which colour do they reflect?

    Not of the red.

  6. #6
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Pretty simple, you just have to agree on the terms being in accordance.

    If we are sure that we are both defining object X as "apple", then we can discuss about it objectively. If we say "apple" but we are actually referring to two different objects, then in order to solve the misunderstanding we have to agree on the terms.
    But would you agree that having to define one object as separate from the surrounding reality is related to the subjective way that humans experience reality? And that at best we can discuss how we experience reality via our perceptions and awarenesses of systems, and that we cannot make direct statements about what exists outside our systems of understanding and perceptions? The point is, as soon as we observe something, it becomes in a sense subjective, because it has been processed by the human mind, and the way humans understand things has inherent limitations. I mean, by our own admission, our brains are simply masses of synapses, brain cells, neurons, and structures. Can we really claim that the way we deal with anything in particular has nothing to do with the way our minds are structured?

    However, if you define objective as true within a particular system of assumptions, then that might be feasible. For instance, MBTI is a system, and particular types have particular functions. For instance, the statement that the dominant function of INTJ's and INFJ's is Ni would be true within that framework. If I stated that the dominant function of INFP's were Ne, that would be false within that framework.

    My point is, in order to subject something to our mental processes, we must first define it in relation to ourselves via either our senses, or language, both of which turn the object into something that we can make judgments about. Judging something as true or false doesn't change it, it simply explains it in a way that humans can understand it.

    So would you agree that the nature of perception, language, and everything that we can experience inherently has a subjective element involved, because we cannot become directly aware of anything outside our systems of understanding and the functioning of our minds?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanen View Post
    To say that "all knowledge is subjective" is akin to saying "there is no absolute truth." In order for those statements to either apply to all knowledge or all truth, they must be objective.
    I'm not saying that objective reality doesn't exist, I'm saying that our perception of reality inherently contains a subjective element, because it is based on perceptions and interpretations.

  7. #7
    Arcesso pulli gingerios! Eldanen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200
    I'm not saying that objective reality doesn't exist, I'm saying that our perception of reality inherently contains a subjective element, because it is based on perceptions and interpretations.
    This is true.

  8. #8
    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    This problem only arises within the context of empiricism. That is, an empirical theory of rationality, where our sense perceptions are the source of all knowledge, and only conclusions derived from those perceptions are justified.

    The problem of determining whether there really is a reality independent of our perceptions is actually logically equivalent to the problem of induction, and the is-ought problem, both formulated by Hume, and from the same empiricist presupppositions as you implicitly adopt here. It's a problem of logical stength and easily solved.

    In fact, it can easily be argued that the problem is worse than you think, since you take it for granted that our immediate conscious experience is an infallible representation of our immediate conscious experience. The problem is that consciousness is logically irreflexive i.e. like a mirror, it can't reflect itself, unless there is another mirror.

    That means whenever we try to analyse our own experience, we must create a copy, with a fallible copying process, and when we try to analyse that we need another copy. The process is recursive, and has no logical terminating point. It also means that we can never know (that's "know" in the justified true belief sense) what we are thinking.

    That we never get any "raw" and untainted input from the world is unimportant. All knowledge is conjectural, including our sense perceptions.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  9. #9
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    This problem only arises within the context of empiricism. That is, an empirical theory of rationality, where our sense perceptions are the source of all knowledge, and only conclusions derived from those perceptions are justified.

    The problem of determining whether there really is a reality independent of our perceptions is actually logically equivalent to the problem of induction, and the is-ought problem, both formulated by Hume, and from the same empiricist presupppositions as you implicitly adopt here. It's a problem of logical stength and easily solved.

    In fact, it can easily be argued that the problem is worse than you think, since you take it for granted that our immediate conscious experience is an infallible representation of our immediate conscious experience. The problem is that consciousness is logically irreflexive i.e. like a mirror, it can't reflect itself, unless there is another mirror.

    That means whenever we try to analyse our own experience, we must create a copy, with a fallible copying process, and when we try to analyse that we need another copy. The process is recursive, and has no logical terminating point. It also means that we can never know (that's "know" in the justified true belief sense) what we are thinking.

    That we never get any "raw" and untainted input from the world is unimportant. All knowledge is conjectural, including our sense perceptions.
    Yes, this seems to me to be what I was trying to express, but I apparently didn't get my point across quite so well. Thank you.

    So, what I'm saying here is, do you think that perhaps it would be arrogant for someone to assert that something is definitely, indisputably, and without a hint of doubt true, since everything we know is based on the contexts and assumptions of systems, perception, and consciousness?

  10. #10
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    My take on the problem is that as long as every practical problem is easily solved by commonality of language, then there is no point in analying further a regressum ad infinitum.

    For example:
    But would you agree that having to define one object as separate from the surrounding reality is related to the subjective way that humans experience reality? And that at best we can discuss how we experience reality via our perceptions and awarenesses of systems, and that we cannot make direct statements about what exists outside our systems of understanding and perceptions?
    I personally think that as long as through the usage of language we are capable of accomplishing things with other human beings via coordinated effort, then we can rest assured that the underlying "reality" upon which our perceptions are based is, if not exactly coincident, at least sufficiently similar for our approximations of it to be almost equal. Two conclusions can be drawn, actually:

    - Either the two realities are very dissimilar, but our consciousness is so distorsive that we end up having similar mental images of them (due to a selection bias)
    - Or the two realities are very similar, and our consciousness is, even if distorsive, similar so that we end up with analogous pictures in our mind

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