One may commonly hear a claim that saying that something is “good” or “bad” is subjective, to which someone might respond, “It’s not subjective, it’s objectively bad.” They might mean there’s an identifiable criterion in the thing that is what they mean by “bad”. You might respond, “No, I mean any valuation ‘good’ or ‘bad’ whatsoever is by its nature subjective; I don’t mean on a case by case basis. I mean categorically.”

You might try to justify that by saying, “Objectivity is something like numbers; an instrument can measure a property in something. Subjectivity is some inner, personal, private matter - no matter how it is, there could be someone who claims they really like it, ie, they really like bad writing, to them, it’s good writing.”

One problem I have with this is that it isn’t possible to define objectivity as being something external to human perception, because when you taking a reading of something with an instrument, a human still has to look at the instrument and see what the instrument says. So in both cases, there is required a human subject or perceived in order to assess information or knowledge or the property or state, quality, character or nature of some thing.

I also question the simple idea that two people may look at something and each experience an arbitrary, inner, independent state like pleasure or displeasure regarding that thing. Actually, their assessment of good or bad probably comments at some property of that thing, not just an exclusively internal self-description.

Perhaps the question can easily be wrapped up by separating something like facts vs. values, or external phenomena and internal phenomena (like feeling and thoughts).

But something feels not tied up about the fact that external phenomena are internal phenomena. It isn’t clear what the difference actually is, if ultimately, sensory data has to enter the sphere of your consciousness to be known; and in a way, you are even an observer of your own feelings and mental states, as well.

It might me simplistic to say that “good” or “bad” have no meaning beyond “I am favorably or disfavorably oriented towards that thing at this moment in this context,” but on the other hand it might help us a little bit. I think what remains is rebuilding one’s understanding of the whole situation with that in mind - that “good” and “bad” can have rich semantic content over various contexts, hinting at different things in different ways, in different scenarios, but maybe, that there is not a meaningful difference between the perception of phenomena which your brain classified as “inside” or “outside” of you, anyway - everything external to the observational “I” ultimately has a logic governing it. Is this hinting at a known paradigm, or does it come with some major errors or philosophical problems or contradictions?

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    On subjective vs objective I started collecting old Q/As here. The collection is not as comprehensive aa I would have liked but there are links to good old answers, in particular historical material on how around Descartes the meanings flipped!
    – Rushi
    Jun 21, 2023 at 15:31


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