Objectivity and subjectivity - perceptive reality

Let’s first turn to the question of objectivity: How objective is our perception in reality? A statement is objective if it is neutral and not influenced by prejudices, feelings and interests. An objective statement is consequently independent of the person who makes this statement. The objective statement corresponds with the facts. We often tend to view our own perception of things or events as objectively correct. What others think of the same events or things we frequently categorize as incorrect or subjective (perceptive reality).

A good example is the weather: Two weeks of sunshine, high temperatures and no rain for many people is seen as desirable and good. The farmer however would like some rain in between times because otherwise his fields dry out, older people are not so happy with high air temperatures because it causes breathing difficulties etc. Who is being objective here? Obviously our assessment of the weather depends amongst other things significantly on what we want to do (swimming in an outdoor pool, working in the field, working in an office, travelling, resting etc.), upon our mood and our state of health. Exactly the same weather on a given day gives one person great pleasure and another one annoyance. But even within ourselves the assessment depends strongly on our plans: If we are working in an office three successive days of rain normally would not bother us too much. If however we are on a beach holiday we would want other weather!

We largely influence our perception ourselves as to whether we find the weather «good» or «bad». No one forces us for example to feel that hot summer weather is «bad». We are free to choose whether this is good or bad in our own eyes (perceptive reality). Each of us has certain individual claims on the weather today or tomorrow. According to what the weather is really like will we be more or less satisfied.

Just imagine how much trouble there would be if human beings could actually control the weather! Presumably you will agree that in our judgement of the weather there is no objectivity. Every opinion is correct, but every opinion is also subjective.

Let’s look at the question of the objectivity of our perception in another example: We will examine personal relationships between people and in particular here the relationship between man and woman. Most of us have probably already experienced more than once the end of a love affair: If it was not you but your partner who ended the relationship, with great probability you will have seen the end of the relationship at the time as being awful, unjust and wrong. Weeks, months or at least years afterwards people normally feel that the end of that relationship was a good thing. They are presumably happy about it because completely different options opened up for them.

What happened in the meantime? The event is still the same: Our partner left us. If we no longer judge this to be awful and unjust, but instead sensible and good, it must be we ourselves who have changed - perceptive reality. Our perception of the same event reflects this change (perceptive reality). Just like our example of the weather our perception with respect to personal relationships is also subjective.

In the course of our personal development our perception changes. It is however true that no one can force us to develop ourselves further. If for example we want to be miserable for the whole of our life because of the end of a relationship, we can do so. The decision is ours alone and not that of our neighbourhood for example, or our previous partner!

We could still give pages of examples of such situations and events which we only perceive subjectively. It is therefore possible to put the opposite question as to whether we human beings can perceive things or events objectively at all!

The most obvious fields to consider here are those of science and/or technology. In these fields we can define a respective partial system and then establish the relevant laws in this partial system according to our current knowledge. Within this partial system and under the defined preconditions we can then make «objective» measurements and observations. As soon as we leave this partial system however it loses its objectivity since there the preconditions are no longer conclusively valid. It is only when we know and understand everything on the earth and in the cosmos, that objectively correct observations are theoretically possible. However we are still a long way from this...

  • Before it was found that the earth was round it was assumed to be a disc. All the navigational calculations for ships for example were based on this assumption. Pity those who took no notice of this assumption.
  • Before the discovery of the theory of relativity the corresponding calculations were made without the use of this theory. There was lots of evidence that the existing theory was correct and complete. No one said: «Stop, the theory of relativity is still missing».
  • The model of the structure and properties of an atom has drastically changed in the last fifty years. Many times the scientists were convinced that we now know «everything» about the structure and properties of the atom.

We have tried to illustrate with these three examples that our knowledge is constantly expanding. Those things which we recognize as good and correct in science and technology today, can be proven in the future to be incorrect or incomplete on the basis of new findings. Looked at from the viewpoint of the whole «earth system», our perception within the scope of our science and technology is therefore also subjective.

Without wanting to interpret the above examples and elucidations as evidence, we therefore venture to make the statement that our perception of everything around us (perceptive reality) is purely subjective.