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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Is there subjectivism?

Is there subjectivism?

Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 93
I am musing on a couple of posts here and past ones, but mainly I thought of bringing this up because I had a rather interesting discussion about it at the last meeting. I really enjoy Ayn Rand's books, and I am perhaps as objectivist as many of the members here, but I cannot shake the idea that some things are subjective. The first time this came up was when someone asked advice on choosing a handgun of the members who are shooters, and when I said in my response there is a subjective element to choosing such a product it annoyed someone who posted there is nothing that is subjective. I have mulled this over, and have found myself unable to ascribe objective logic to some choices. I will provide a few specific examples in order to make my point and the sit back and wait for the storm.

1) I have a Sig Sauer pistol and a Taurus pistol which both fit my hand well, are both accurate and both perform as expected. Objectively, I cannot tell you one is better than the other-but I prefer one to the other.

2) The new Shelby Mustang from Ford objectively does everything better than a 1967 Shelby: it is faster, more reliable, has a better stereo, uses less fuel, has power adjustable everything, and in the same condition it is cheaper, yet I would not hesitate to buy the 1967 version if I had a choice of the two.

3) I like the 1968 Charger better than the 1968 Camaro.

4) I find Salma Hayek more attractive than Jessica Alba.

5) I prefer brunettes to blondes. (I carefully chose for example 3 to eliminate this as a factor)

These examples are things which either do not seem to me to be objective choices, or they appear to defy objectivity.
Plano, TX
Post #: 633
People view things many times from their own perspective - this is something that confused me when talking about subjective vs. objective.

What you are talking about is preferance - and yes, those are subjective. I think you can still be objective and have preferancees - we do it all the time. Real facts are objective - as in "I am six feet tall" - "I like tall men" is subjective because it is preferance (okay - I totally took that from an article on I cannot find to quote right now.)

But anyhoo...I digress...there are a few good articles Rand wrote...I cannot which book they are in, and I am all the way across the room from the bookcase, so I will have to look them up later and get back to you. I believe one of the chapters in OPAR covers this as well.

I think you bring up a really important point, though. When Rand is referring to subjectivism it is important to understand what she means, and I think that can sometime be a confusing thing to truly understand. I have spoken with at least one person that used to be interested in Objectivism, but told me he "outgrew it" because he believed everything was always subjective so there could not be any true objectivity.
Eric R.
user 3869520
Keller, TX
Post #: 1
I think that there might be a misunderstanding related to the term "Objectivism" here.

Objectivism simply requires value judgment with its basis in the non-contradictory identification of factual (real) entities and their attributes within a given context.

Subjectivism on the other hand requires only whim, allows for contradiction, may or may not have a basis in reality and relies on context dropping.

Getting back to your examples now -

1.Sig Sauer vs. Taurus

a. You have obviously engaged your rational faculty and applied "Objective" criteria/values (i.e. fit, accuracy, performance, etc...) in order to determine (judge) the superior worth of those two pistols with relation to all other pistols you might have considered purchasing.
b. Your statement ["Objectively, I cannot tell you one is better than the other"] demonstrates that you have objectively judged, in accordance with your values, these two pistols to be equal.
c. In the case of "Objective" equals, preference for one or the other may be derived from criteria not originally used in the determination of their worth. For instance, one may currently have a market value higher than the others as a result of market forces, or perhaps your significant other has pointed out that he/she finds the nuances of the shape of one of the pistols to be more attractive than the other resulting in an emotional connection between you and that particular pistol. The point is simply that preference is not synonymous with "subjectivity"
d. See definitions of Objectivism and Subjectivism at top
e. A subjective approach to the value judgment of the two pistols would sound something like this

  • I really want a pistol with great fit, accuracy and performance. The Sig Sauer and Taurus, based on my testing, are the two pistols that meet these criteria. On the other hand, the Desert Eagle pistol I saw in that movie last night looked pretty cool and will be popular even though when I tested it, I couldn't hit the side of my barn from five feet away... I think I'll buy the Desert Eagle because I think it will make me look like the hero in the movie.

2.New Shelby vs. 1967 Shelby

a. Check your premises - What criteria are you employing in your value judgment? Is the basis of your comparison simply the name "Shelby" with the differentia being the year in which the "Shelby" was manufactured? Or are you applying the criteria in your statement [is faster, more reliable, has a better stereo, uses less fuel, has power adjustable everything, and in the same condition it is cheaper]? Or are you applying the criterion of "nostalgia" to your value judgment process?
b. Once you make your criteria/values explicit and non-contradictory it will be objectively easy to determine why you would choose one over the other.

3.1968 Charger vs. 1968 Camaro

a. See 1c. I will assume you have applied some objective criteria in assessing them as ?Objective? equals
b. See definitions of Objectivism and Subjectivism at top

4.Salma Hayek vs. Jessica Alba

a. The perception of beauty (I am assuming you are focusing on aesthetics in this instance) is in fact a real entity transmitted through your physical senses interpreted by your brain. In this case, if all other factors are equal, then your brain's interpretation of Salma Hayek being more beautiful is your objective "tie-breaker"
b. See definitions of Objectivism and Subjectivism at top

5.Brunettes vs. Blondes

a. See 4a.

I hope this helpssmile
Edited by Eric Rincones to fix punctuation.
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 95
Just to make sure we are all in agreement on our terms here, I looked up the definition of subjective in order to be clear (admittedly on and not in the OED) and this definition is the best and most appropriate for the purposes of our discussion.

sub·jec·tive --adjective : existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective).

This sounds a lot to me like it could apply to a preference. I chose the items on my list carefully to eliminate what I considered objective choices ie: My Glock pistols are better than the two presented, and I have some objective criteria that I could cite in favor of them. Mustangs are my favorite cars, so I chose 2 Mustangs to compare. Since I do like classics I compared 2 classic cars to each other (that weren't Mustangs). I do not have a preference between Chevrolet and Dodge. Since I do admittedly prefer women with dark hair, I chose two with dark hair for the comparison.

What is objective about preferring women with dark hair? Having judging criteria doesn't make something objective. If another objectivist prefers blonde women, or Jessica Alba, or Camaros to Chargers, can you tell me which of us is right and which is wrong? Objectivity requires a correct and an incorrect answer.
Eric R.
user 3869520
Keller, TX
Post #: 2
The issue we are having here is related to the context of the discussion.

Since we are discussing objectivism vs. subjectivism within the context of Ayn Rand's philosophy, I think we must use the terms as I understand her to use them. Remember, Ayn Rand chose the term "Objectivism" as a default because the term she wanted to use, "Existentialism", was taken by another (subjectivist) philosophy.

That said, these are descriptions of both objectivism and subjectivism based on my understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy:

Objectivism requires value judgment with its basis in the non-contradictory identification of factual (real) entities and their attributes within a given context.

Subjectivism on the other hand requires only whim, allows for contradiction, may or may not have a basis in reality and relies on context dropping.

However, if we rearrange the discussion to fall outside the context of Ayn Rand's philosophy and fall inside the context of, then I concede to your case.
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 96
While your explanation of subjectivism does have merit, it does not define it. This is why I found a definition in order to ensure that we are talking about the same thing. I don't think Ms. Rand was seeking to redefine subjectivity- she was just warning of its dangers by illustrating them. What you have presented is the danger of subjectivity, which I do not dispute.

The point I was disputing was someone's claim that there is no subjectivity- or shouldn't be any involved in the decision making process of a rational person. This is why I posted some examples of things which I deemed to be subjectivity but not wrong. The concept of a preference not based on objective criteria seems to fall under the definition of subjectivity- even the definition calls it the opposite of objectivity.

While there is obviously a serious danger if one is subjective in their choices on some things (voting for the person who gives the best speeches instead of the one with the best ideas), the context I brought up was one of things which could be regarded as preferences. I am not one to choose things based on whims or without context. If my primary reason for purchasing a car is practical, then I choose based on objective criteria. However, since I am a car enthusiast who values performance and style, and is also partially motivated by nostalgia, these things do come into play. Does this mean that I cannot be objective if I like classic cars, because I can find no objective criteria for doing so? This is the sort of thing that I cannot reconcile with the comment that another NTOS member once made.

Nostalgia does not have an objective value-nor does the color of the hair or skin of an attractive woman. If there were genuine objective criteria then all (genuine) objectivists would have the same preferences.
Plano, TX
Post #: 636

Subjectivism - online link to the Ayn Rand Lexicon - has some good info - maybe this will help?
Eric R.
user 3869520
Keller, TX
Post #: 3
At this point I am compelled to refer you to the following:

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Chapter 4)

You will find Ayn Rand's position on the concepts of objectivism and subjectivism according to Leonard Peikoff.

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (multiple discussions on concept formation and definitions)

The definition you have chosen for "subjectivism" does not fit within the context of Ayn Rand's philosophy and, therefore, should be qualified as such.

That said, within either the contexts of Ayn Rand's philosophy or, you are correct. "Subjectivism" exists, but they are very different things depending on the context you choose to refer to them in.

Furthermore, you will discover after becoming completely familiar with the two books referenced above, that nostalgia, hair color, skin color and multiple other concepts and attributes do have objective value within the context of Ayn Rand's philosophy.
Eric R.
user 3869520
Keller, TX
Post #: 4
That is a fantastic link, Sherry. I have never visited that site before. Great info.
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 97
OK. So we're not using the dictionary to determine the meanings of words now-why didn't you just say so? That makes it so much easier to have a reasonable discussion about what something means. Instead of just trying to demonstrate that you read a book that someone else didn't, why not respond to the question asked, using the examples presented, in the context in which it was asked?

If you really know so much you could try simply answering one of my questions instead of referencing entire chapters of books.

Since you are obviously familiar with a book that I am not (and I now acknowledge that you are a better person than I am for it- just so that is out of the way) just answer one of the questions.

You know- part of being a thinking person involves incorporating information and processing it, and then being able to articulate something coherent based on it. If all you are capable of is quoting what someone else says in a book you should join a religion. The appeal of Objectivism is the ability to think for yourself-not simply the regurgitation of what another person said.

If you think you are able to do so, demonstrate by answering one of my questions to show it.

By the way-
The Oxford English Dictionary, regarded as the primary resource on the English language, defines subjective thusly: Relating to the thinking subject, proceeding from or taking place within the subject; having its source in the mind; (in the widest sense) belonging to the conscious life. (Correlative to OBJECTIVE a. 2b.)
Not significantly differently than
Oxford is the most prestigious university in England ( the country where the language originated )

Ayn Rand was a great philosopher, but I will not concede that she is more of an expert on the English language than the compilers of the OED.

Philosophy is one thing, language is another. We can discuss philosophy, but this definition is from the people who are the world's experts on the English language. It also fits the context of both my query and the context of the discussion which prompted it.

Sherry: thanks for your input, it was good info. I can always count on you to engage in a discussion without trying to turn it into an intellectual pi..(ahem) urinating contest.
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