A good article on "objective" vs "subjective"

Alan Hartung over at A Different Perspective has written a good article on objective vs subjective. I was going to write a comment there, but it got too long, so I decided to post it here instead.

When people say objective, I think what they really mean is "more 'right.'" After all, that's the only way that the phrase "objective opinion" makes any sense at all. Unfortunately, we judge how "right" something is by how closely it matches our own opinion on the matter in question, assuming no flagrantly obvious bias. As I'm unaware of any omniscient beings participating in these discussions, I think we have to take as given that our understanding is always partial and flawed. Thus, I can't say that you are less or more 'right' (objective) than me, unless I add the proviso, 'given my understanding of the matter in question.' Which brings us right back to the realm of the subjective.

Alan raises an important point, that subjective is not inherently bad, though it's been given a bad connotation in recent times. In education, many (both teachers and students) perfer multiple-choice questions on tests, because the grading is "objective," but essay-based testing, while graded more "subjectively," typically gives a much better view of the learning taking place in the minds of the students.

As many of you know, I've been participating in a Bible in a Year program over at One Year Bible Blog. There have been some good discussions in the comments. On thing has bothered my slightly, though. One of the regular commenters, when discussing the meaning of a reference or symbol in the text, has a tendency to say, "this means that." Not, "I think this could stand for that." Absolute. Definitive. In many cases, I don't see things that black and white, and absolute decrees like this can sound like bullying. Now, I think this person has had some very good things to say, but those statements of "objective fact" make an implicit statement that this person has an "inside track" to objective truth, and any disagreement is wrong-headed. Though, I have seen that "softening" a bit recently.

An aside - it's not too late to join in the discussions. I would recommend just "joining in" where we are now, and maybe gradually "back fill" with the stuff you missed to this point. I'm seeing many things with new eyes as a result of this program, and more people and perspectives can only be a good thing for everyone. Just tell them Dwayne sent you. ;)