Friday 27 April 2012

re: 'Can I tell the difference between the the objective and the subjective?'

Response to: Richard Murphy's 'Can I tell the difference between the the objective and the subjective?' - and subsequent comments

Too true(!).

The carving up of reality into the objective and subjective is a power play. Once you've made that incision anything that you can convince people is on the 'objective' side cannot be argued with -- it simply is, 'whether you like it or not.' Its propagation therefore no longer requires assent; it can be taught as fact and beaten into stubborn skulls if needs be.

While it's true that Austrian economics reacted against the scientistic and state-centric economic orthodoxy, which promoted central, 'objective' planning, it makes little sense to deny that Austrian economics, in many circles, has become the new orthodoxy and is treated as if it were the objective truth 'whether you like it or not.' For this reason it is regularly subject of such power plays that would seek to make its claims unassailable.

And this is terribly unfortunate since few scientific doctrines have ever been so thoroughly and consistently refuted by experience and kept on walking.

And that brings me to the undiminished importance of relative truth even in the absence of absolute truth (i.e. 'objectivity').

If your complaint, my namesake, is that Richard was implying possession of objective knowledge by saying that you are 'wrong' on matters subjective then I think that your objections are misplaced. Words such as right and wrong, true and false are still perfectly applicable in a world devoid of any hard and fast subjective/objective distinction. They represent not claims on correspondence to reality 'out there' but rather denials of reasoning and demands for evidence. Because we still have these things -- reasoning and evidence -- even if they can never give us 'objectivity.' They are devices of argumentation and are intrinsic to all scientific and political discourse.

If the 'subjectivism' of Austrian economics absolves it from defending the inadequacies of its own reasoning and evidence then this is a worrying thing -- objectivity or no objectivity.