Monday, July 12, 2010

The Danger of Objectivity

The pursuit of objectivity about issues is considered a virtue. It is often deemed “good” to be unbiased about a topic, as if that makes one more qualified to speak authoritatively on it.

This charge of a lack of objectivity often works its way into debates. “You’re not objective about it,” charges one side or the other, as if that puts a nail in the coffin of a viewpoint.

J. P. Moreland has some helpful thoughts in his JETS article entitled “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn.”

Psychological objectivity is detachment, the absence of bias, a lack of commitment either way on a topic.

… It is not necessarily a virtue. It is if one has not thought deeply about an issue and has no convictions regarding it. But as one develops thoughtful,intelligent convictions about a topic, it would be wrong to remain “unbiased,” that it, uncommitted regarding it. Otherwise, what role would study and evidence play in the development of a one’s approach to life? Should one remain  “unbiased” that cancer is a disease, that rape is wrong, that the NT was written in the first century, that there is design in the universe, if one has discovered good reasons for each belief? No, one should not (pp. 81-82).

The more we study, the less objective we should become. Those who are uncommitted to a proposition after having studied the proposition are hardly virtuous. After all, that’s the point of study, is it not? To develop convictions about propositions.

Truth should affect us. It should change the way we think about the world that we live in. It should affect the way we live. To remain uncommitted after having after discovered truth is a form of treason against truth. It is ultimately a betrayal of both God and self, for it devalues God and harms the self by believing a lie.

It is true that a lack of objectivity can be a problem when it causes us to overlook truth, or minimize certain realities in favor of highlighting others. But such a state is not problemmatic because it lacks objectivity, but because it believes lies. And lies are always destructive.

Let us not fall for the canard that objectivity is any virtue in the battle for truth.


Kent Brandenburg said...

This reminds me of the Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom. I hadn't heard that it was called objectivity. Interesting.

Larry said...

He actually distinguishes between psychological objectivity and rational objectivity. It is a distinction and argument that makes sense to me. IT was helpful.