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+3 votes
many discussions i have related to anarchy and anarchist perspectives end up hinging on those concepts (objectivity and subjectivity). maybe the first thing would be to have some descriptions of those terms to work with.

i think of objective as meaning something like: based strictly on undeniable facts, universally true, with no bias or opinion involved.

i think of subjective as meaning something like: based on personal observations, experiences, feelings, thoughts, instincts, opinions, intuition, etc.

"that tree exists in that location"  might be considered objective.

"that tree looks unhealthy."  might be considered subjective.

i am interested in how others would describe those terms, since i think that is a key to how folks see them related to anarchic perspectives.
by (13.4k points)
funky.....thinking about your comment about experiencing rather than articulating about experience....reminded me of something i read saying that sounds often convey much more than a bunch of words....

an oooh or ahhh when seeing a shooting star....a moan or scream during "mmmmmmm" sound when eating ("a yummy sound" per young frankenstein)......a yelp or cry when something cuts or scrapes or scares you....

this discussion (thanks for the topic question, funky) reminds me that i want to use language more to describe and evoke emotion and imagery, than i do to "figure things out"....certainly much more than i want to "debate"....but authority's reach runs deeper within me than i i need to keep letting go of the ideology of authority, to use language for play, as a creative process, as a way to elicit emotion, to reveal myself, to resonate...

funky, sms....and whoever else might feel interested...

this discussion brought to mind a zine i stumbled upon recently....

toward an anarchist ecology,

and a second called "knowing the land is resistance",

on the website called "knowing the land".

they talked, in part, about experiencing versus talking about experiencing....and about forests.... :)

you've got to hunt and peck a bit to find the zines on the website....let me know if you want to find them but can't. (edit: if you click on the two zine links i provided above, you can download/view them just below the first paragraph on the web page for each one)

i liked and resonated with a lot they had to say....even though with my proclivity for e-prime, i'd prefer a title of "knowing the land creates resistance"!  :)

i found reference to it through an interview on the anarchist library

thanks for the links ba@.

(i want to point out that knowing the land is resistance is a play on words, and means something really different from "...creates resistance". an argument against eprime, in that instance...)

@dot, my pleasure.

it might mean something different than "creates resistance" , but since i don't get the play on words, i only read "is" as an equal an eprime expression would still make the intent clearer to me. i could have said "resistance by knowing the land" or any number of other things, but i like the image of instilling resistance through knowing the land, so i said "creates". i did read the group's answer to what it meant (and just now reread it), and i liked their description, but i don't think it comes across in the title very well.  but i'd like to hear the play on words as you understand it.
knowing is resistance
the land is resistance

actually, that work with creates too. never mind! (d'oh)

2 Answers

+3 votes
Perhaps this anecdote will relate, or perhaps not. A few weeks ago I was trying to explain to a co-worker why I don't think time "exists". His response was that a second is based, objectively, on the amount of time a certain molecule takes to decay; I found it very hard to find the language to explain to him why that was still subjective, but I'll lay it out here. Holding off on the question of whether a person can actually "experience" what he described, even a calculated observation is a subjective experience.

Taking time as the question, we've probably all experienced an hour that lasts an eternity or a day that lasts about a second. The "objective" answer to this issue might be that there wasn't a stable measurement available, we didn't have a clock, or an even more accurate measure. The issue for this is that measurement is still interpretation. Even if we could see the decay of molecules, actually see the pattern of decay, the fact that we give this process a name and a meaning is subjective, it has to do with the way a mind might work. It has to do with value all the way down, with a want to determine that there is something we experience called time, that someone wants to measure it, that this measure has any meaning/relates to something "real".

To talk about things that are perhaps more "concrete" like the tree/whatevs, the concepts of existence, of what is alive and how we relate it it/it relates to us are subjective. To say that something truly exists is not only to make a subjective judgement, but to also make a large claim to knowledge that I'm not interested in. To get woo for a sec, I'm more interested in how a tree experiences me and how I experience the tree, and how this is only the surface level of an enormous ball of relationships.

Also, sorry if none of that made any sense.
by (420 points)
made perfect sense to me!  i have very similar thoughts!
i agree it makes sense. but it doesn't answer the question, particularly? or maybe i'm just not getting how it applies to your anarchist thinking?
Hmmm, I guess I don't know if I can separate things out to be specifically about my anarchist thinking. Perhaps what I take as a personal anarchist principle involves starting from the view of myself as very small/knowing very little. Moving out from there informs, I hope, my thinking generally, and specifically in terms of how I want to attempt, or attempt at some point in the future, to relate to people, animals, *things*, etc. I seem to keep finding new and exciting ways to say small things with lots of words!
yes, dim, your answer "makes sense" to me too....

i especially like the "woo" part.

i think it relates to anarchist thinking this way....anarchy does not imply an "objective" truth as does all institutional ideological thought that i know of - law, religion, education, science, etc.
yep, i think ba@ hit the nail on the head regarding how it relates to my anarchistic perspective. objective truth only exists in the realm of authority.

dim, i like your use of time as an example. i think there are situations when some consistent measure of time can be relevant and useful in shared subjective reality - at least in the current world. but time as a dynamic, flowing "dimension" of experience is completely subjective. most folks who have experimented with psychedelic substances can attest to the complete subjectivity of time.

for that matter, some movies that claim to be 2 hours long seem like they last for fucking days. others that claim the same duration seem like they are over in a few minutes. of course to someone else, those movies might seem like the reverse.
i also like this answer because i see "time" as one of the tools of hierarchical institutions....

today "is a weekday or weekend", today "is christmas", you don't stop working until the clock hits a certain "time", the whole "week" thing bugs the fuck out of me. i feel like smashing a clock!
–1 vote

Objective is that on which ALL observers would agree independently - without communicating. Picture a nucleus and electrons, with the nucleus representing a true, real, objective fact, and the cloud of electrons are things that would be affected by it even if each experienced the nucleus alone.

Subjective is that on which universal agreement requires communication. I sometimes like to call it "illusion" or, if shared thanks entirely to direct or indirect interaction between the perceivers, a "construct."

Reason being a sort of communication with oneself as talker and listener in the same head, rational beings (ie humans) are naturally very, very bad at determining what's objectively real.  We can hope to arrive at objective truth (yes, I think it conceivably exists) only by trying very hard to resist biases. For example, we can try to overcome confirmation bias by eagerly seeking to prove oneself wrong - I desire to be right in saying "I'm wrong."

An example: I am watching an ant. I perceive an obstruction just ahead in its path. I tell myself the rock maybe doesn't really, objectively exist (to avoid any indirect or telepathic suggestion that might affect the ant). The ant stops at the rock, then goes around it. I think, "aha! the ant and I both agreed on the existence of the rock." But wait, was the ant real? Did it really go around the rock? Or am I just dreaming?... Look for other things that were or weren't but should've been affected by its presence or movement... I keep looking for clues until finally I say "Well, that's good enough for me to confidently say it is real."

The idea that everything is subjective simply because no two perspectives are the same is the equivalent of a mental shrug. The more things I can observe being affected by the rock - independently - the greater the probability of its objective existence.

It doesn't have to be a physical, material thing. Any idea on which completely independent agreement is conceivable is potentially an objective statement. Free will? I intentionally wave my arm; I ask my wife "did I just do anything?" "Yeah, you moved your arm." The kids agree. The dog perked up in reaction to my movement. a sheet of paper fluttered on the desk because I disturbed the air. All that goes in the right direction. Free will. Whew. I'm still not certain, but reassured.

Just because we have trouble perceiving objective reality doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I think we should just admit humans can't, alone or between themselves, be relied upon for objectivity. That's why I like to let plants and insects disprove the ideas I get. 

Edited to be more objective

by (600 points)
edited by
About running in place on the path to enlightenment... I'm not happy with that image. I think it is more important than that. Here's a better image: The path to enlightenment is a wide treadmill in empty space with randomly scattered rocks on it; I'm on a bicycle, my feet glued to the pedals. This wide treadmill is crowded with lots and lots of others of all species, also on bikes with their feet glued to the pedals. If I stop my furious pedaling.... not only will I fall over and be out for good, I'll cause others to crash and pile up.
free the tortured metaphors!
Your question, Funky, was how others' concept of objective/subjective relate to their own anarchic perspectives.

Our concepts of objective/subjective seem pretty close; so at least there's not much risk of semantic confusion when we use those words on each other.

Now for my answer to the crux of your question, I suspect the following statements are objectively true in that nothing could possibly disagree when viewing them from diverse points of view unless it has been misled by faulty reasoning:

(1) Living things have to overcome powerful forces if they are to remain alive through time: Livin' ain't easy. It doesn't just happen, it has to make itself happen.

(2) The forces to overcome are unpredictable and irresistable - but more or less local/specific. The only way life as a whole has endured and can endure any length of time is by (a) dispersing itself in myriad differentiated parts (so no likely single mass extinction event can wipe them all out) and (b) keeping all the parts flexible, fresh and young. At our level, the parts are individuals.

(3) Things like governments, states, religions and multinational corporations limit differentiation, individuality and flexibility. In them we find desires for permanence and uniformity.

Now, it is painfully obvious to me that life as a whole is all the more fragile and all the sooner doomed to extinction if it unites.

If you try or accept to be different, adaptive and temporary - and make or allow everything else within your reach different, adaptive and temporary - you are acting in a way that's in accordance to the survival strategy of life as a whole. Individuals don't have to care about "life as a whole."

You don't have to contribute to adaptive radiation. You are free to work against it, to build something big and rigid, to crush the innovators and rebels and whatever gets in the way of your consolidating desires. You won't go to hell. You're just, quite simply, letting everyone down. Expect some resistance.

That is what I call the universal "ethics" applicable to all living things.

Sorry, but these premises seem so "objective" I cannot fathom any free thinker disagreeing. Ironically, it would be "unethical" for me to want anyone to agree with me, and even worse to try to get people to agree with me: I might be wrong, so we best spread our perspectives in order to not all be wrong in the same ways. And ironically, it would be "unethical" for me to hold onto my "truth" to the point of inflexibility ! My position should be, intentionally, temporary, subject to constant change.

Damn, livin' ain't easy. Thinkin' ain't neither.
@dot can i get an amen up in here?!

@syrphant i didnt mean to imply i believe in some sort of 'path to enlightenment', i using the idea to mock spiritual-type people who think they have it all figured out.

i do not think there is any 'end goal' such as enlightenment, and existence certainly doesnt feel very linear, at least it doesnt have to.
if you cant fathom any free thinker disagreeing with you, then im not really sure how much of a point there would be to disagreeing with you.  ill try it anyway.  

you might not agree that you are 'letting the side down' to the extent that you dont believe there to be a 'side' to be 'on', simply experience.  to me the idea that letting them down, or being some sort of 'societal parasite' fills me with a modest amount of pride.  alternatively they could also just view me a someone who was in the way and deal with me accordingly.  and they wouldnt go to hell for either.  the people who survive longest will be those who are able to deal with all the weird shit life throws at them.  people, as you pointed out, are free to do as they please, hence the chaos around us.  i mean, that is what historically has happened.