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Subjective? Relative? Biased?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Sunstone, Oct 16, 2019.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Jul 2, 2004
    Non-Theistic Mysticism
    There seems to be a wee bit of confusion regarding the distinction between subjective, relative, and biased. Hopefully, this will help.

    If you argue there is snow on the ground because you can see there is snow on the ground, then you are arguing for a subjective position. i.e. the evidence for the snow is subjective, personal experience.

    If you argue that Jone's view there is snow on the ground and Smith's view there is no snow on the ground are equally valid views, you are arguing for a relative position. Please note, there really are people who believe such things. Most often, they seem to be postmodern philosophers, such as Laurie Calhoun -- who famously proposed that the fact a giraffe is taller than an ant was not an objective fact at all, but rather an article of faith that could vary from culture to culture. Again, postmodernists have proposed such things as witchcraft is the epistemic equal of Newtonian physics, or that the laws of quantum mechanics are only valid from a "Eurocentric" and "bourgeois" point of view. These are all examples of genuine relativism.

    If you argue that there is no snow on the ground because -- despite the fact there really is snow on the ground -- you just don't like snow (so you deny there is any on the ground), then you are being biased.

    Subjective, relative, biased. They do not mean precisely the same thing. Hopefully, this will get you started on the distinctions between them.

    Questions? Comments?

    And now, in a futile effort to make it up to you for a boring OP....

    • Useful Useful x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

    Feb 12, 2006
    Philosophical Taoist/Christian
    Only if Jones and Smith are in different places, times, or otherwise different relative circumstances, such that the "ground" is not the same. OR, their respective understanding of the terms are somehow different. In which case the observations could both be equally valid even though contradictory because they are not being based on the same set of criteria. (Think Doppler effect.)
    There are also black people who believe that black people are substandard humans (Clarence Thomas for example) but that does not mean black people ARE substandard humans, nor that most black people (or even white people) claim or believe that they are. So that trying to use such examples to float the idea that black people claim or actually are substandard or that most black people believe they are is both offensive and dishonest, even though there are bound to be a few black people around the world that do claim and/or believe this.
  3. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2019
    The distinctions between objective/subjective and absolute/relative are not easy to grasp and even harder to explain. If I didn't already knew, your explanation wouldn't have helped me. But everyone learns different, so I don't claim to have a better explanation, but a different one.
    I like to explain it through the linguistic opposites. The opposite of subjective is objective. Objective is the reality every sane person perceives as the same (or can at least agree to when explained to her/him). Subjective is what a single person perceives. Emotions are subjective. Reality is objective. (At least in my philosophy. There are people who deny an objective reality.)
    Absolute is something that is always and everywhere true, no exception. Relative is something that changes in relation to some influence. Mauna Kea is the absolute highest mountain on earth, but relative to the sea level it gets beat by Mount Everest.
  4. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Oct 2, 2008
    Advocate of letting go of theism. Buddhist with an emphasis on personal understanding.
    Perhaps we could have some examples involving, say, disagreements on whether it is raining?

    Assuming two or more people that are right next to each other, with no significant difference in covering or actual precipitation of water among them.

    If there is disagreement on whether it is raining because one of the people thinks that there just isn't enough water falling to justify any comment or change of behavior or stance, that would be a contrast of relative judgements. The observed facts are understood to be the same, but the significance diverges according to each person. In more extreme examples, there may be cultural traditions that define precisely what qualifies as rain, or that it is either necessary to call drizzle, hail and snow forms of rain or to clearly distinguish them from rain.

    Bias could occur if, say, one or more people among those present had some form of urge or aversion for the idea of rain. When either the emphasis or the actual perception of evidence is suspect due to unspoken, perhaps unconscious goals, expectations or emotional inclinations.

    Subjectiveness could be a factor if, say, the people present have diverging levels of ability to actually perceive the physical evidence of rain. If they are all in a train wagon, and one of them happens to be a heavy sleeper and does not actually experience the rain. He may see the waterdrops at the windows later, but that is not the rain proper.

    Is that accurate?
  5. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    Oct 28, 2015
    How ridiculous. Unless your definition of "taller" has nothing to do with height.
  6. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
    Premium Member

    Jul 8, 2006
    What you call absolute, I call objective. For instance, if I (alone) were to observe a leaf falling from the tree, I believe that to be a fact (objective) regardless of me. If, on the other hand, I were to think the leaf, in its falling, were pretty, that is not regardless of me, but very much about what I think and feel (subjective). Its quality is a fiction.

    What you call subjective, I call personal. I have a unique perspective on the world, but some things in that view are objective and some are subjective, relative to me. The wider view of multiple opinions is less significant, except in that it helps shape my personal perspective.
    #6 Willamena, Oct 16, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
  7. ZenMonkey

    ZenMonkey St. James VII

    Sep 24, 2013
    Christian but not like some ... Unorthodox I guess, but not really. I'm just me.

    Cool explanation ... As an individual who operates through sensory perception everything is subjective to me. Relative would be based on others, and biased then would be a preference of sorts correct?