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I'm inclined to believe it's objective because isn't them liking curry chicken the case regardless of how anyone else feels about it?

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    Finally! All of my feelings are now unassailably objective! I'm looking for the thumb icon on the chicken though...
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 2:39
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    Isn't that a question for English.SE!? Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 11:33
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    Heh heh. An opinion based question that should not be closed. Though, usually, it is good form to state the question in the body of the question, not just the title.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 13:24
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica The question for what constitutes objectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity is about as philosophical as one can get. It invokes the issue of mind-body duality implicitly.
    – J D
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 14:37
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    Congratulations! As a new contributor, you have asked a simple question that has generated a number of fine answers and interesting comments. Welcome to the SE.
    – user64314
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 15:57

7 Answers 7

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An objective statement is a statement about "the thing in itself", with reality as is rather than as perceived. The statement "my computer runs Mac OS" is objective.

I start there to hopefully help avoid the following misunderstandings:

  • objective does not mean unchangeable. I could install a new operating system.
  • objective does not mean universal. You cannot then shift to "computers in general run Mac OS."
  • objective does not mean unambiguous, and the statement may still need refining (eg by clarifying which computer) to get a unique truth value.
  • objective does not mean that you are in a position to check the statement is true
  • objective does not mean true, and in fact this one is false.

That is to say, as with everything in philosophy, you have to be careful not to take a statement for more than it claims.

With that important clarification out of the way, the actual answer to your question is is "it depends". It's an unhelpful answer because people don't agree on the definition. Some Philosophers define "subjective" as referring to any statement which is filtered through a consciousness. Some define it as any statement filtered through the speaker's consciousness, with other consciousnesses deemed part of the external world. You'd want a slightly different distinction though, because categorising "he likes curry chicken" and "I like curry chicken" differently isn't going to sit well with you. Arguing that it's not a statement filtered through consciousnesses at all but instead a statement about those consciousnesses could be promising, so long as you're up to the challenge of asking what a consciousness is! Finally, I should be explicit that the definition I opened with is just mine. I give it to illustrate how careful you have to be with not exceeding the definition, and not as a claim to any sort of authority myself.

As a point of practical advice, if this is a test then the correct answer is whatever the mark scheme says. If, however, you are making an argument which depends on this level of subtlety in the definition, either provide your definition or coin a less ambiguous phrase to reflect what you mean. Finally, if you find that a new phrase loses something, reexamine the argument that you are trying to form because it may depend on a rhetorical connotation of the word "objective" which is not actually implied by the meaning.

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    Knowing that we mean the same thing from words is a genuinely hard problem at the best of times. Even so, there's a fairly broad consensus that "The chair weighs 5 kilograms" is an objective statement and that "The music is sublime" is a subjective statement. Even the statement "He said that he likes curry chicken" is an objective statement about the event when he said that. Unfortunately that's not the same as the statement "he likes curry chicken". The concepts are clear and useful for such cases. It just gets fiddly when we're talking about precisely where the boundary goes.
    – Josiah
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 13:46
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    Talking about "useful", in what ways is the objective/subjective distinction "useful"?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 14:45
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    Can there be "statements about reality" which are not based on any "model of reality"?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 18:37
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    Even if the answer is no, that's still a useful distinction because it allows us to verbalise the fact that we're working with models and talk about the relative trade-offs among the models. Even so, this is a rather bigger question than the original, and comments aren't the place to thrash out the biggest problems in epistemology.
    – Josiah
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 20:32
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    I agree, for any technical definition. I think it does follow in a colloquial understanding, which is why it seemed worth taking so much space to say what I'm not saying.
    – Josiah
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 19:08
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The other answers rely on either a non-technical understanding of the terms "subjective" and "objective" or depend on a particular philosophical viewpoint. This answer is viewpoint-neutral and uses the terms in their usual technical sense in philosophy.

Used as technical terms in philosophy, these words have a fairly standard meaning: the subjective is that which is accessible only to a single mind and is entirely mind dependent. It includes things like sensations, pain, mental states, qualia, and the like. The objective is that which is independent of any mind. Another way to think of the difference is that the subjective is directly experienced by some mind; the objective is indirectly observed.

Some philosophers deny that the subjective exists. They suggest that our experience of the subjective is some sort of misunderstanding. Other philosophers deny that the objective exists. Some of these try to reduce the notion of the objective to the notion of the intersubjective. Both viewpoints have lots of problems that they need to work around.

Now, we come to the question: is "He likes curry chicken" objective or subjective? I'll reword to "Joe likes curry chicken" for ease of discussion. The answer is that whether Joe likes curry chicken is subjective; it is a report of something that is only accessible to Joe's mind. However, the report itself is objective. The proposition that Joe likes curry chicken is accessible to anyone, so the proposition itself is objective.

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It is tempting to say that:

"If he actually does like chicken curry, then the claim 'he likes chicken curry' is objective".

But this is not necessarily the case.

If the person who claims 'He likes chicken curry' is not privy to whether or not he actually likes chicken curry, then the statement "He likes chicken curry" remains subjective, regardless of whether or not the claim has truth value. The claimant might be mistaken as to whether or not the person actually does like chicken curry, or have insufficient evidence with which to determine whether the person likes chicken curry.

If the person making the claim, "He likes chicken curry", has access to 'proof' that a person actually likes chicken curry, then the claim might be deemed objective, but how would such proof be obtained, as:

The person whose liking of chicken curry is being questioned might lie about whether or not he likes it, or change his mind about whether he likes it (or be mistaken about whether or not he likes it?).

The person assessing the claim that a person "likes chicken curry" might be inadequately equipped to know for certain as to whether or not he actually likes chicken curry (for how can we be certain about anything?).

Perhaps the person who is eating the chicken curry might be equipped to argue that "he likes chicken curry", in which case the statement would become "I like chicken curry". Providing he is being truthful, and providing that his faculties are reliable, such a statement might be deemed objective, but another person might not not be able to reliably determine whether or not he is being honest or accurate, in which case a determination of objectivity seems difficult to obtain.

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  • If we can never be certain about anything, does that mean that nothing is ever "objective"?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 13:32
  • @Frank. Maybe it just means we can never be certain about what, if anything, is objective. But I might be mistaken in my 'logic'. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 14:27
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Subjectivity, Objectivity, and Intersubjectivity

First off, like all questions on objectivity and subjectivity, let's redirect our attention to intersubjectivity which is the idea that what most people call objectivity can been seen as a subjective agreement. Thus, two people can argue over if someone is "tall", but the moment everyone accepts that 2 meters is tall for a human, then any person who walks into a room 2 meters in height is objectively tall. If two people in a room argue whether or not there is a distinction between the color red and green, and one adduces a third person who sees the distinction, it's fair to consider that the red-green colorblind person genuinely and subjectively does not perceive the difference. Thus, red which is the experience of color, may not be experienced in the same way. Now, if all three people are physicists and are capable of using equipment to differentiate wavelengths, then we're back to having universal agreement about wavelengths and colors, and even the color-blind person can agree there's a difference between red and green apples based on the distinction between physical and phenomenological color. This sets the background for analyzing the meaning or semantics of your proposition:

He likes curry chicken.

Qualia and Propositional Attitude

Subjectivity comes into play with the act of experiencing curry chicken favorably. A person can say they like chicken, they can eat lots of chicken, and they can write an essay on how they like chicken. All of these events are considered objective because a room full of people can experience them. What the room full of people cannot experience is the actual conscious experience of enjoying what some call the qualia of curry chicken.

Examples of qualia include the perceived sensation of pain of a headache, the taste of wine, and the redness of an evening sky. As qualitative characters of sensation, qualia stand in contrast to propositional attitudes, where the focus is on beliefs about experience rather than what it is directly like to be experiencing.

Thus, the qualia of curry chicken, such as the taste and smell and the feeling of pleasure, are opaque to everyone else. This is the aspect of the example that is subjective. Furthermore, besides the qualia being subjective, direct introspection of that mental state, that is knowledge of it which forms the basis of the propositional attitude are also subjective:

propositional attitude is a mental state held by an agent or organism toward a proposition.

Thus, while "I believe I like curry chicken" is a thought that might be subvocalized by our consumer. The moment the consumer states this aloud as "I like eating curry chicken", the consumer has made a public assertion which is a speech act. Unlike introspection which is subjective, speech acts are objective since they are visible in the shared perceptions. It might be true, or it might be false to others because other than the consumer, no one has access to the experience of qualia and propositional attitude directly. They might attempt to experience the same qualia and propositional attitude, but then disagree when characterizing the experience. The opacity and the inability to always have agreement combined characterize subjectivity.

Interpretation of Meaning

Thus, your example "He likes curry chicken" has both subjective and objective dimensions that emerge during analysis. The key to determining whether or not this is a subjective or objective use of language depends not on the words, strictly speaking, but on the context. That is propositions that emerge from meaning-bearing artifacts of language are partially determined not just by the explicit language, but the large system in which the language use occurs and may be affected by factors such as endophora, implicature, etc. Printed and written words don't have meaning in the same way a box has cereal. Rather, they lead to experiences that allow agents to participate in the language-game. All symbols must be interpreted including those of formal systems.

If by "He likes curry chicken" you mean:

He experiences preparing, receiving, and eating curry chicken favorably by his own introspection.

Then it is a subjective statement. However, if you mean:

He can be witnessed preparing, receiving, and eating curry chicken favorably by others.

Then it is an objective statement. Since you provide no additional context, strictly speaking, the sentence itself is underdetermined, which is the fancy word philosophers use to say "you can't tell the difference. So, your question is partly about intersubjectivity and partly one of epistemology.

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  • I seem to experience that gravity is invariably pulling me down, not up. I'm willing to bet you are experiencing the same. Is that observation objective or inter-subjective?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 14:48
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    @Frank Following in the footsteps of Kant, let's consider critical realism the framework for discussion. If you disagree with my claims, you have to find a meaningful way to attack critical realism or my interpretation of it.
    – J D
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 15:47
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    +1 There are tears of joy and tears from pain. So you cant say a person is sad because you observe them crying. More information is required.
    – user64314
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 16:16
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    @StevanV.Saban That is to say, the whole process of arguing about what is "real" when conducted in bad faith as a search for truth philosophically is an attempt to win the argument in the same way lawyers argue about facts to get a favorable ruling from a jurist. Some people can't handle the emotional implications of objective truth, so merely persist in staying aloof of intersubjectivity insisting that their subjective version of truth is the only truth. These sorts of techniques are often described with Freud's defense mechanisms.
    – J D
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 17:06
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    A statement that contains both an objective and a subjective component becomes a three state problem with these choices: objective, subjective, to be determined or undefined. I believe that is why the question has such diverse answers and comments
    – user64314
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 17:08
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In this case, consider that objectivity is sometimes understood as shared subjectivity.

Synthetically, you can say the statement is objective for both of us if we share the same subjective opinions. If we don't, we hold opposite and subjective positions (and statements) about it: I would sustain that "he doesn't like curry chicken".

The more the differences in opinions, the more the level of subjectivity. If we all agree that 1+1 is 2, or that 1m=1000mm, that is an objective statement. But if some think God exists and some don't, statements are subjective.

~

Unrelated but interesting: any statement is a relationship between an object and a subject (eg. Subject=he, object=chicken). Try finding both in the following imperative sentence:

  • Sleep.

Judgements are the same, but without the formal (linguistic) character. For example, the personal attraction to music, which, expressed as an statement would be "I like music".

A predicate is similar, but implies a subject sustaining it:

  • Good! (That is, for me and you, the subject).
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  • Although we all agree that 1m = 1000mm by convention, would we call that an "objective" fact? Isn't it rather a conventional agreement, whereas an "objective fact" would be a fact about nature?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 0:07
  • @Frank the fact of it being a convention, does not imply it being NOT an objective statement (facts are neither objective nor subjective). Regarding nature, statements about nature are objective when we agree about them. While we don't (eg. while Einstein-Bohr were holding a debate on QM), there's no scientific truth, and statements are subjective. As said, the simplest rule is to understand objectivity as shared subjectivity.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 0:13
  • So, does "objective" always apply to "statements"? Or is "objectivity" a term that stands on its own? If so, what does it refer to?
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 1:10
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    If I think 1+1=2 and someone else doesn't, aren't I objective, and they are... wrong? That said, I think it reflects poorly on humanity that we can't at least agree on things, even if we turn out to be wrong later.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 2:36
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    You're mistaking arbitrary for subjective. Definitions are always arbitrary. Symbols with objective definitions (up, meter, +, 1) are objective and arbitrary. Symbols with subjective definitions (delicious, big, cute, easy) are subjective and arbitrary. A language is when a group of people agree on similar arbitrary definitions for various subjective and objective ideas. Of course, nothing stops you from having a different language in which symbols that I map to objective concepts, you map to subjective ones, and vice versa.
    – g s
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 3:32
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Your intuition is right. It's an objective statement. Just like when you say "He likes vegetables." or "I am Brian." In either case, I'm stating an objective fact about something subjective.

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I think the objective vs subjective statements would go something like this:

Objective: "He likes curry chicken"

Subjective: "Curry chicken is good"

Saying that he likes curry chicken is objective, because he can say for sure that he likes curry chicken. However, saying that curry chicken is good is subjective because not everybody likes curry chicken. Even if he likes curry chicken, that doesn't mean you or I could say the same.

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