What is objectivity? We talk about it a lot in reference to understanding events of recent or distant history, be it in the newspaper or books. My dictionary says “(of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings oropinions in considering and representing facts”. And even quoting that dictionary is an appeal to the objective. Now we could deconstruct this and every word as the philosophers do, but they end up knowing nothing in the end. I think a better approach is to connect the word with other ideas we already have and construct something.
I think this is a fairly decent definition. But even definitions are out of style these days. People lack the clarity of though to define what they are saying and their hearers don’t want to question or clarify because that might betray ignorance or create a division. And we all know that getting along is the ultimate virtue these days. Now word definitions come about in many ways, we get them from the past, from our friends, from various forms of media and we take them and change them. No one is really certain how it works, but it does. As Christians we should understand that things works as they do because they reflect the character of God. Words have objective meaning outside ourselves because God is a standard outside of ourselves and this is his world, he gave us language.
These post-modern times are about the furthest thing you can get from the objective. I hear people often discount history because ‘we can’t know what really happened because everyone is biased.” But the fact remains that there are facts, something did happen and it was one thing and not another. This type of futilism is nothing more than an excuse to avoid the hard work of sorting out the truth. Of course people are biased they come from different perspectives and have different experiences. But there is another source of information. The world is more than just many selves asserting. There is reality, there is truth. What do you call someone who only knows their view of things and can’t understand someone else’s perspective. I believe it’s ‘selfish’. And so we can see that not making an attempt to understand the objective is sin.
The word of the year last year was ‘selfie’ because we all know that if there is anything the world needs, it’s more pictures of me, me me! I think instead of ‘social media’ they should call it ‘self media’. It is all about self and affirming self. Your ‘friends’ are allowed to affirm you, but that’s it. Any questioning or dispariging comments put you in the category of a troll or hater, so better stick to telling your friends that everything they do is awesome. . . *like*.
The opposite of asserting yourself onto something is to let something else change you. One of my favorite books is C. S. Lewis’, An Experiment in Criticism. Lewis was man of letters, his work in the area of medieval and renaissance literature is still valued by academics today. But he was also a thinking Christian. He understood the problems of higher criticism which had begun in his day and he fought it as a Christian. These critics thought that the art of literature was subjective, the words mean whatever each individual fancies they mean. Hmm, sound familiar? This is exactly what they do with the Bible, and so we can see that their attempts to undermine God’s word force them to maintain this consistency in all the arts. No problem for them, or so they think. Look around this isn’t working out too well, everyone does what is right in his own eyes and you have anarchy. Now there is no such thing as gender or marriage and suggesting a gender of bathroom out of sync with a person’s mental disorder is now a crime. Lewis goes another way, back to allowing literature to change you. It involves surrender and humility only then, in being changed, can you evaluate if the change was good. You don’t just evaluate a book by putting yourself onto it “i liked it” “I thought it was about this”. But you let it speak to you and then evaluate if it made you a better person. This applies to literature and to the study of God’s word and all of the arts and even all of life.
Interesting that the classical writers even understood that as they created literature it was not just themselves acting. They often appealed to the muses, because as every good writer knows, the creative process often seems to come from somewhere else, outside the mere self. They didn’t create to express themselves but to express or reveal objective truth. They developed their skill and measure it by how well that was done.
This is also the importance of developing your imagination. Imagination is the minds’ ability to theorize something outside of itself. It allows you to empathize with other people and their situation. It allows you to imagine how you were wrong in any given way, and to open the possibility of change. But even fantasy requires rules. It requires that you know where you are a what the rules of the story are. Don’t eat that, don’t go through there, don’t touch that. It can aid our imagination and allow us to see that our story is not what we thought it was. Fantasy can shift our perception to be more in line with the real objective standard.
But even many Christians today think that everything is subjective. It’s really sad. The Christian religion is based on objective facts stated in a book about objective events that really happened. As Paul says, if they didn’t really happen we above all people are to pitied, for we are living a lie( I Corinthians 15:19). But Christians today live another lie. Pretending they are Christians without actually believing anything that Christ did or said, well except some of the Social Gospel stuff. Giving people free stuff and helping prostitutes is cool, because, well because it feels cool, and also it’s the current fad. As with so many things we all really, deep down believe in objective standards. But we have changed the source from the Word of God to the whims of Pop Culture. Because it’s convenient. Because we are cowards. Coward: a person who lacks courage to meet danger; a poltroon; a timid or pusillanimous man. Well, objectively speaking.