Objectivity?

Objective starts with O. That is an objective statement that no one can object to. Right? It assumes nothing, shows no bias – except that the beginning of the word is on the left and not the right. It also shows a possible preference for the letter at the start of a word rather than other letters in the word. Why do we alphabetize words using the letter at the start, or left-most edge of the word? Why not write things vertically? Or even ndyrolam?

Ok. In English we have developed a symbol system for language that runs from left to right, and traditionally have organized lists and records based on the first, or left-most letter of words. So it is a traditional system that we are taught and use in common. Why not change it? Well why? Language systems shift, organizational practices change but they tend to do so glacially. Why so slow? Well we might find it difficult to communicate otherwise.

It is hard to be objective, even when making a simple statement about a word. The statement can be unpacked and found to rest on traditional choices made, then propagated by repetition and teaching because common systems make communication easier. Common systems sometimes also make the boxes we live in difficult to see, the presuppositions that we carry with us hard to leave behind. This difficulty means we all bring bias to our work, even work in math or science where things seem more countable and certain. Can we ever get rid of this bias, our presuppositions, our lack of objectivity?

I’m not sure we can entirely ditch bias and become completely objective. But I think a quest for better objectivity, for other ways of looking at the world, for ways to see what kind of box we think inside, is a good idea.

How do we do this? Read widely. Listen. Look. Think. Ask questions. Try different things. If you creep up something from multiple directions, if there is a convergence onto some key ideas from multiple lines of evidence, then you might be onto something. Truth may be nearer than you think. But it is hard work.

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