Saturday, May 18, 2013


Five weeks ago, I resumed musing about the term "objective moral values", especially as they are used as an argument for the existence of God. The weeks go by, my focus fuzzes and then sharpens, and we are here.

My problem with the term "objective" is that it assumes there is some way of stepping outside your subjective self to see or experience the thing you are considering to be objective. This is always a problem.

When I think of objectivity, I think of entities, behaviors or events that are verifiably the same for all people. The dictionary sense - “of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers“ - is what I'm referring to. It's real for you, me and the next person, and is not subject to different interpretations. Seems like a good definition.

Taking objects, for example, if I have a party, and twenty people come over, we can all observe that my coffee table is in my family room. It is objectively there, in spite of any claims otherwise. Anyone that ignores the simple fact of my coffee table being in my family room could end up with bloody shins if they think they can navigate through a crowd of 20 in the family room containing the coffee table. When someone makes a claim like "my coffee table is in my family room", anyone can verify that the claim is true. We can say that we have identified an objective fact.

Now this objective fact will remain a fact for only a limited time. As long as I want the table in the family room, or as long as I own the house (and want the table in the family room), or as long as someone else wants to maintain the table in the family room after I die, it is a fact, but not forever. For a long time, in human terms, the coffee table being in my family room will be a fact, but the world will change, and someday vanish as a recognizable entity. So, there are limits on what we can consider an objective fact when discussing objects and their existence. The status of their existence, or their relationship to other objects in existence, change over time. In this sense, objectivity is limited to some period of time. We can be objective about my coffee table in my family room from the time both are in existence and the table is within the boundaries of the room, but not before and after.

So ... What is objective again?

(to be continued)

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