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Take for example, a person who has a mild form of autism, PDD-NOS, with a combination of depression. Let's assume this person "gets it," and wants to be a successful, Objectivist person. These two disorders affect one's ability to work, their confidence in themselves, and their independence as a human being. If an Objectivist came across this person and became well acquainted, should he cut this person some slack? We are all different, so in this context, should we look at others subjectively? That's not to say we should be soft on criminals--we are indeed responsible for our actions. But I'm asking about thoughts and how we often use them subjectively. I look at my brother differently from my mom, and I look at my family differently than my neighbor. Isn't this subjective? Who we choose to value more than others can, in a sense, be considered a form of subjectivity. Once again, this has nothing to do with action...it has to do with thoughts and feelings.

asked Jan 18 '12 at 08:52

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Jan 18 '12 at 10:41

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

No, this is not subjectivity, because when an Objectivist uses the term "subjective", we generally mean "arbitrary" or "on a whim". You are evaluating both your brother, and your mother, and everyone you meet, on the basis of what you know about them. That is, you are employing your mind to examine the available facts, and your judgments, about the person in question.

This is objective thinking.

Subjectivity does not mean that we evaluate things differently; it takes no accounting of evaluation and thinking at all. For example, say you prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate. It's not for any health or price or any other specific reason; it's just that you prefer the flavor. You aren't evaluating the two chocolates and concluding that one is superior in some way, just that you only like the one. THAT would be subjective.

Subjectivity is the rationalism of choice; it's all in your head, without reference to the specific facts of reality.

answered Jan 18 '12 at 10:35

John%20Pryce's gravatar image

John Pryce ♦

One explanation of subjectivism that I think is pertinent to your question is:

The subjectivist denies that there is any such thing as “the truth” on a given question, the truth which corresponds to the facts. On his view, truth varies from consciousness to consciousness as the processes or contents of consciousness vary; the same statement may be true for one consciousness (or one type of consciousness) and false for another. The virtually infallible sign of the subjectivist is his refusal to say, of a statement he accepts: “It is true”; instead, he says: “It is true—for me (or for us).” There is no truth, only truth relative to an individual or a group—truth for me, for you, for him, for her, for us, for them.

Leonard Peikoff, “Nazism and Subjectivism,” The Objectivist, Jan. 1971, 9 (taken from the Ayn Rand Lexicon).

So, to answer your question we would need to know why you evaluate your family differently than other people. Are you honestly looking at the facts of reality and evaluating the import of those facts on your life? If so, then you are not being subjective. On the other hand, if you are deciding that something is true simply because you (or someone else) wants it to be true, then you are being subjective.

To apply this to an example: Suppose the person you mentioned who has PDD-NOS (I'll call him your brother for simplicity, although he may not be your brother in real life) engages in behavior that is harmful to you---lets say he borrows money from you, blows it all, and never pays you back. Further suppose that your neighbor does the exact same thing. Lets see how you could be objective in your judgments, and yet end up treating both persons differently.

First, the fact is that the behavior is harmful to you---to be objective you need to evaluate it as such. If you instead try to pretend your brother's behavior is not actually harmful to you because you really love him, and hey, he's family after all, then you are being subjective. There isn't any room for different evaluations here, if objectivity is desired---both person's actions are harmful.

But evaluating a single act as harmful is not the end---in evaluating a person you generally need to consider much more than one single act. Are they generally good, and this one bad act was just an aberration? Do they enrich your life more than they harm it? Etc. This is where you might come to a different conclusion about your brother than your neighbor, and yet be objective.

For example, you know your brother better than you do your neighbor. Your brother may have other aspects of his character that are of immense value to you, while the neighbor is essentially a stranger of some, but limited value. If all other things were equal between your brother and your neighbor, it would be non-objective to evaluate them differently. But the point is that all other things are not equal. You might honestly and objectively decide to maintain friendly associations with your brother, despite his bad action, because he is valuable to you in other ways and because you believe, based on evidence, that the act is not indicative of his character. You might simultaneously decide to cut all associations with the neighbor because he does not provide value to you and you are unaware of any evidence that redeems his character. You are not acting subjectively here, but instead are basing your actions on the limited and asymmetrical information you have and its impact on your personal values.

Alternatively, if you made the same choice to pardon your brother yet not the neighbor, but did it not because of objective evidence or actual values to you, then you would be being subjective.

answered Jan 22 '12 at 14:06

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

edited Jan 22 '12 at 14:10

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Asked: Jan 18 '12 at 08:52

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Last updated: Jan 22 '12 at 14:10