Re: Serious thoughts about objectivity

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 6 Oct 1996 12:50:53 +0900

Responding to my remark that:
>>Sustaining the difference between observed and composed is where things get

Andrew Petto writes,

>What's worse is that in the "hard(er)" sciences, we pretend that there is no
>composition -- no tendency to organize information so that what we even observe
>is filtered/composed in some substantial way. Even when we (for example, we
>classically trained, 4-fielders) KNOW how culture constructs knowledge even to
>the point of affecting the "objective" observations, we often overlook the
>subtle ways in which our best efforts fit what we count as observations
>into >our composed reality.

We can, I think, go a step further, with an observation that my
all-too-fallible memory tells me that I owe to A.N.Whitehead in _Science
and the Modern World_. That is, the classical models of science seized on
just those aspects of the world we experience that are (1) easiest to
measure and (2) easiest to agree on how to measure. Ease of agreement on
measures and methods makes objectivity easy to sustain. Difficulties arise
when properties less easy to measure are disregarded as inconsequential or
epiphenomenal to those which lend themselves to measurement.

At this point, the temptation is to throw up one's hands and say "It's all
subjective. Do your own thing." Given economic realities that force policy,
a.k.a. political, decisions, this naive position is untenable. Dr.
Johnson's real problem isn't stubbing your toe on a rock; it's the king
having your head. (For the "king" feel free to substitute "Dean","Human
resources director," "the customer," "the market," as you will.)

Failure to reach some minimal agreement on measures and methods is a recipe
for chaos, a war of all against all, or a market free of Adam Smith's moral
sentiments. Would it not be better to meditate a bit on what we can agree

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo