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It seems to me that one of the most fundamental concepts in philosophy is "objectivity" since trying to find an answer for a question of any sort would ultimately depend upon the answer of the particular question of "Is there an objective thing?", and naturally/logically then "Is there an objective truth?"

There are some philosophical/psychological viewpoints basing themselves on statements like "There is no objective thing at all". It seems that the following arguments show that such statements are intrinsically self-refuting or contradictory:

1- If there were only subjective things and henceforth only subjective minds and ideas, how is it possible for someone to imagine the notion of objectiveness? In fact, during the course of such an imagination he could only conceive a relativised version of "objectivity" which, by definition, is ultimately forced to be subjective! However, our intuition suggests and actually supports the idea that we all can understand what objectivity means (something whose being is independent from the subjects). In the same line of ideas, when we are able to imagine the notion of independence, this conception cannot be dependent!

2- If there were nothing objective independent of our minds, how is it possible for us to understand each other's speech? The situation becomes more difficult if we consider people from different cultures and histories, with different languages that are still able to understand each other. (For example, an archaeologist speaks about concepts that people of ancient times were thinking about).

Are there some arguments that can satisfactorily answer the above objections against the hypothesis of non-existence of an objective thing?

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  • Kant & Berkeley come to mind. In Buddhist philosophy - Nagarjuna. Nov 29 '13 at 6:57
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    Is this really a question and are you interested in an answer? To me it's mix of fuzzy claims and questions that rather aim at expressing an (unclear) point of view.
    – chela
    Nov 29 '13 at 21:24
  • When the absolute is absolute, it is incomplete; within completeness there is also the relative... - I ch'ing
    – dgo
    Jan 31 '14 at 16:33
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To me there is no answer to this under the current mode of thinking/language; Furthermore, under any other mode I think the concept of question/answer might as well be lost. You're seemingly trying to adopt an objective perspective by saying "If there were only subjective things" and "If there was nothing objective" all the while trying to say that all is subjective in an objective way. This seems like an endless loop and hence the language/thinking doesn't seem to quite grasp the phenomenon. Isn't this the road to Absurdity? There is neither Objectivity nor Subjectivity nor this sentence or the words I used to formulate the idea, while they nevertheless remain there.

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I think a clearer notion of objectivity is needed here. Objectivity can't just mean "independent of any thinking or observing subject", because the idea of something being dependent on a thinking or observing subject for its identity is a massively controversial aspect of the philosophy of mind - we don't want to commit ourselves to some kind of substance dualism, or even more conservatively a supervenience thesis about the mental on the physical, to say that some matter of fact is an objective one or not.

A more useful notion of objectivity might be derived from Michael Dummett's thoughts on Realism in the philosophy of language. To say that Realism about the material world holds is on one hand to say that the notion of Truth is evidence transcendent (that whatever we might hold to be the ontological structure of the world, the notion of what is True to say about the world is not fully settled by appeals to what kinds of pieces of evidence are available), and on the other to say that it is also classically logically bivalent (that whatever we might have to say on the subject is either true or false - there is no room for contradictions or intermediate or fuzzy truth values in the material world). Maybe these two theses might come apart in interesting ways, but the idea that "objectivity" is supposed to capture both sounds like a reasonable suggestion.

This avoids a lot of scrambling around in hypothetical "real worlds" without begging the relevant questions about whether there is indeed any such thing to form a basis for a constructive debate. And also, when the problem becomes a matter of standards of Logic and Evidence, we have a number of different formal technologies available to us to present, explore and consider various ways we might make progress in resolving disputes about whether such and such a phenomenon or hypothesis is properly sensible.

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  • Could you clarify “evidence transcendent”? I do not understand the subsequent parenthetical. Jul 3 at 11:11
  • @JustSomeOldMan, I did write this some 7 years ago! One form of realism that would satisfy Dummett's classification is a "truthmaker" view: that for a statement to be true is just for facts in the world to be related to it in the right way. For example, realism about physical particles entails that you don't need to wait until you've empirically tested every single consequence of the standard model in order to say true things about hadrons, as long as you describe them correctly and latch on to how the world is in fact organized; testing is just confirmation that they are true.
    – Paul Ross
    Jul 11 at 19:16
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I think one should be careful in defining objectivity, not as "something whose existence is independent of the subjects" but rather as "something whose existence is independent on the specific subject." One can argue that things that don't exist independently of subjects are objective, as long as all the subjects necessarily agree on them.

For example, mathematical concepts are arguably cannot exist independent of subjects (although platonists would disagree); however, multiple subjects would agree on those concepts. Sometimes mathematics is even defined as "the study of mental objects with reproducible properties."

IMO the above mentioned reproducibility is the key for deriving objectiveness from "relativized objectiveness." Objective truths are those on which multiple subjects agree that they are true, with the caveat that the truth should be appropriately defined, including the existence of logos, etc.

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  • Firstly, I could not relate "something whose existence is independent of the specific subject" to things on which "multiple subjects agree".
    – Ali V.
    Dec 2 '13 at 21:25
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    Secondly, I think reducing the definition of objectivity to "something on which multiple subjects agree" does not answer the question, because another question will arise: "How could these subjects realize that they agree on something?".
    – Ali V.
    Dec 2 '13 at 21:35
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    Thirdly, about your comment on mathematical objects: the very fact that mathematical objects model the outer world, show that they could not be dependent on the mathematicians' minds, since the outer world exists and flows independently of their minds.
    – Ali V.
    Dec 2 '13 at 21:36
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I think we all need an objective reality upon which we can reflect our idead. The reductionist particle physicist will see a reality that differs from a physcist taking the holistic road. The former looks at Nature on the highest energy scales (shortest distances) and considers everything reducible to the processes he observes in mega-sized accelerators. The latter sees whole structures as the basis for Nature and think any attempt to reduce to be unrealistic or meaningless.

Likewise, every culture has its own reality. The gods exist, God, Allah, JWHW, and Buddha exist. The dreamtime exists. heaven and hell, Nirvana, Walhalla, etc. Take your pick.

It would be very strange not to believe in the true existence of the things one believes in. The subjective needs the objecive and vice-versa. More objective I can't get.

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