“Subjectivity and objectivity commit a series of assaults on each other during a human life” (André Breton).

AS IN MANY AREAS OF LIFE, DEALING RIGHTLY WITH OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVITY IS A BALANCING ACT. These two are constantly at war, as Breton suggests. Keeping the peace is no small test of our maturity and discipline. And there is no way to get it right and keep it there for very long. Keeping these qualities in healthy balance requires making adjustments throughout life.

The word “objective” can mean several things. It can mean, first, that a person’s thinking is uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. Think, for example, about a jury doing its best to weigh the evidence in a trial. It may be hard, but the jurors will have to let the evidence decide the verdict and not what any of them might prefer the verdict to be from a personal standpoint. But, second, we sometimes mean by “objective” that something is based on observable phenomena. If you had your house appraised, you would want the appraisal to be objective, that is, you would want it to be based on the actual conditions of the house and not the appraiser’s opinion.

But is objectivity an “enthusiastic idea”? Yes, I believe it is. In many areas of life, we need to strive for greater objectivity. Subjective feelings are important, no doubt, and some people need to pay more attention to them. But many scenarios require us to be objective. In those cases, we have to detach ourselves from the situation, weigh the matter impartially, and make decisions that are right — regardless of our preferences. In many such cases, we have to make a deliberate effort to elevate our perspective. To use a well-known metaphor, we need to leave the “stage” where the action is and go to the “balcony” where we can see things more comprehensively.

Being objective is hard, as anyone can tell you who has ever given it a serious try. And because of our fallibility and the complexity of life, none of us will ever become perfectly objective, much less balance our objectivity with our emotions perfectly. But progress is possible. We can acquire more of the discipline that it takes to be fair-minded.

“We can’t be perfectly objective, but we can improve in it. We can choose to look at things more impartially and from a higher, broader perspective” (Anonymous).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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