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Objectivity as a Moral Duty

Ville Kokko

Posted on April 13, 2019 06:47

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While we must not neglect our subjective feelings and thoughts, there are powerful reasons why we need to strive to transcend them.

It doesn't always matter what's objectively true. In particular, it's often not right to correct other people in things that are emotionally important to them just because they're getting some details wrong. For one thing, it's not good to question others' religious beliefs without an especially good reason. It's often much more important to be sensitive to emotional truths.

Suppose, for example, that someone is afraid of snakes. Then it's not all right for you to hand them your pet snake because it's not objectively dangerous to hold it. Their fear is still real and you should take it into account.

And yet...

If you are biased against a person and see them as, say, scheming and insincere, that may be your emotional truth. But if it's not based on objective truth, is it right for you to treat the person as if they have done something wrong without really knowing whether they have?

If you feel afraid of vaccinations causing autism, that may be your emotional truth. But if scientific evidence is clear in that there's no such connection, and further, if not vaccinating children can lead to a measles outbreak (for real, objectively), is it right for you to hold onto your "truth" and suppose that scientists are all in on some big conspiracy?

Suppose your version of your religion tells you to discriminate against some people, such as homosexuals? What if your emotional truth is that women are inferior? Black people? What if your emotions lead you to treat your own side favorably and what you see as the other side unfairly? Condemn "them" while letting "us" off the hook for wrongdoing? What if you simply condemn others for being wrong and foolish when they have the better objective reasons for their beliefs?

Our minds and selves are complicated tangles of various emotions, beliefs, unconscious influences and who knows what. All kinds of different things lead us to have beliefs. Emotions are a part of this process that cannot and should not be taken out of it. Nevertheless, they often lead the process astray. We need to use enough cool, objective reasoning to see that we don't cling to strong beliefs that we could be able to tell are just wrong.

It's wrong to judge or treat people in ways they don't deserve. It's wrong to take harmful actions when you could have known better. It's harmful to deceive oneself. Fairness, justice, humility, the principle of least harm, they all lead to this conclusion:

We have a duty to be objective in forming our beliefs so as to make them as true as possible.

It doesn't apply to everything and always, but there are many cases in which it does, and it's probably better to take it as a general guideline. Doing otherwise risks treating other people unfairly based on our own biases as well as causing concrete harm.

Ville Kokko

Posted on April 13, 2019 06:47

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Source: sheknows

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: as most parents well know, the war rages on, with emotions running high on both sides....

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