Thursday, June 02, 2016

Objectively True Subjective Truths

Every subjectively true statement worth its salt can be rephrased as an objectively true statement.

My preference for butterscotch over chocolate is said to be a subjective preference.

It is something that is true of me. However, it does not imply that butterscotch has a quality such that everybody should like it, and that those who do not like it are somehow defective. I cannot argue legitimately argue from the fact that I prefer butterscotch that anybody who prefers chocolate is suffering from some sort of physical or mental defect denying them the capacity to appreciate true value.

In raising objections as I do to subjective morality I should not be interpreted as raising objectives to subjective values like these.

However, for every subjective value that actually exists it is possible to create an objective claim that says exactly the same thing. Subjectivity, in this sense, is not the opposite of objectivity; it is a sub-type of objectivity.

In the case of my preference with respect to butterscotch over chocolate, the claim that "I prefer the taste of butterscotch over chocolate" is an objectively true claim. It is a fact of the world. Anybody who says that I do not prefer the taste of butterscotch over chocolate would be mistaken. They have a false belief about the world.

The claim, "I prefer butterscotch to chocolate" is used to explain events that happen in the real world. If I go to a picnic, and there are bowls of butterscotch pudding aside chocolate pudding, I will pick up the butterscotch pudding to eat.

This is an event in the real world, which my preference for butterscotch over chocolate helps to explain. It explains this fact in the same way that gravity explains the orbit of the earth around the sun and the polarity of water explains why water expands at it freezes.

That it is a fact about me does not imply that it either is or should be a property of others as well. The fact that I am in Colorado does not imply that other people is or should be in Colorado. The fact that I am over 6 feet tall does not imply that others are or should be over six feet tall. The fact that I prefer butterscotch over chocolate does not imply that everybody else either does or should prefer butterscotch over chocolate as well.

Similarly, the fact that a claim that I have a particular property does not imply that others either do or should have the same property does not prevent it from being objective. My height, my location, and my preferences are objectively true statements even if it is the case that nobody else has the same height, the same location, or the same preferences. Facts that identify individual differences are not a "different kind of fact". They are not something other than objective.

This implies that, in any discussion, any legitimate use of a subjective claim can be replaced by its corresponding objective phrasing, and the conversation can go on much as before.

If a subjective claim cannot be replaced by an objective claim, then this suggests that we should not let it pass as something that is "true for you." We should call it out for what it is - a claim that is objectively false. This is the case of somebody trying to embrace a fiction and avoid the task of defending it. It is not a legitimate move - and it should not be treated as legitimate under the name "subjective truth".

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