When I read that the world is either this or that, I invariably try to picture the universe scurrying to divide itself into two tidy categories. But why two categories instead of three or thirteen? Philosophers with their beloved Dualismâ€™s display a curious fondness for the number two. Mathematicians are far more egalitarian in their view of the numbers.
The Red Line on the Boston subway is listed as the "Alewife-Ashmont" line, but people understand that these two locations at the extreme opposite ends of the tracks are not the only possible destinations. The subway visits many stations between Alewife and Ashmont.
Dualism, as I see it is similarly a way of denoting a linear concept by its opposite endpoints. Objective-Subjective, Good-Evil, Mind-Body...why would we preclude the idea that stations exist between the opposite endpoints? If at least one other station exists between the endpoints, well...so much for our dualism. The real world ultimately might be discrete (in a quantum sense), or there might be an infinite number of subway stations between any two given stations. In either case I generally accept that a world of gray exists between black and white.
"...the distinction between more subjective and more objective views is really a matter of degree, and it covers a wide spectrum. A view or form of thought is more objective than another if it relies less on the specifics of the individual's makeup and position in the world, or on the character of the particular type of creature he is."
Thomas Nagel, The View From Nowhere
, page 5.
A physicist's world consists primarily of quarks or strings. Mankind was born of this objective Reality, but men inhabit a larger world. This larger world is one of objective Reality plus
our value judgements. Nietzesche commented in The Will To Power
"There are no facts, only interpretations.
Tor Norretranders makes nearly the same observation in his excellent book The User Illusion
"We do not see what we sense. We see what we think we sense. Our consciousness is presented with an interpretation, not the raw data. What we experience has acquired meaning before we became conscious of it."
You can agree to a subjective point just a much as you can disagree with an objective one.
I agree with you, Brad. I'd only add that objective truth does not necessarily follow from the fact that men agree on an interpretation of the data. Truth is not determined democratically. Throughout most of the 19th century the scientific community was in a general agreement about the existence of the Ether. Doubtless, many of the ideas generally agreed upon today will be found wanting in the future.
When the subject of objective philosophical thought arises, Hegel's name is never far behind. Truth in Hegel's view doesn't exist in localized phenomena but only as part of the universal picture. Hegel didn't seem to place much value on the "little details." What he prized was denken ueberhaupt
. JP's quote is a case-in-point to the fact that Kirkegaard reacted vehemently to Hegel's "intoxication of the dialectic."
In the big picture of things I am primarily a collection of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and calcium atoms. Each of the billions of atoms that constitute my body is identical to the scad-zillion of other like-elements in this vast universe. In the very big picture there is no meaning attached to the tiny subset of nondescript atoms that constitutes my body. In the big picture the atoms in my body have no more meaning than if they instead comprised a compost heap.
The Existentialists reacted against this view. They argued that man gives his own life meaning. Yet having said as much, even they miss few opportunities to remind us that our life is ultimately Absurd; at best it's a source of nausea, at worst, a useless passion. This is where I part company with the likes of Messrs. Camus and Sartre. I join instead with Robert C. Solomon in the view:"What gives our lives meaning is not anything beyond our lives, but the richness of our lives."
A scene from an old Woody Allen film had a kid arguing with his mother about the futility of doing his homework. It seems he'd read an account of how the Universe would end, and he decided as a result that all effort is an exercise in futility. This situation is funny because we know that men normally maintain disquieting objective truths alongside subjective and localized truths.
I'm aware for example that the dimensions of the atomic nucleus compared to the radius of an atom suggests that my wife's arms are made mostly of nothing. But that realization takes nothing away from the joy I feel when she puts her arms around me! I'm content to enjoy a Mozart piano concerto while I read a proof in pure mathematics. I'm equally pleased to enjoy the scent of a rose, all the while my mind is denken ueberhaupt
to beat the band.
Does attempting to strip away our subjective interpretations of the world help us to more closely approximate truth? The problem arises from the fact that as we strip away the subjective we simultaneously strip away the value. Quantum physicists have similarly discovered a problem with pretending the world is an object without a subject. It appears that we're an integral part of both the moral and the physical equations of this world. Our world, the only world we know or care about, requires
our participation. We must come to terms with the understanding that the world is no more "all about us" than it is about everything except us. The world is partly as we find it and partly what we make it. "One moment you are aware of your shoes pinching your feet, the next moment you might be aware of the expanding universe. Consciousness possesses peerless agility."
The universe certainly doesn't know that E=MC^2 within its boundaries...or indeed, that they (physical laws) can be described in terms of our systems of mathematics."
Once again JP, you've said it beautifully.