On Subjectivity

I often speak of the value of subjective truth, the truths by which are related to one’s self, inwardness, and basic desires and passions. Many who hear that I value subjective truth often quickly draw a conclusion that I am against objective truth, or, that I do not believe in objective truth.

Both of these conclusions are wrong and hasty. Finding value in subjective truth is distinct from subjectivism, the epistemological position that is skeptical of or denies objective truth. Using a quote from my upcoming presentation at the International Kierkegaard Conference, “There is a stark fundamental distinction between epistemic subjectivism and the value of subjectivity. Whereas subjectivism may deny or attempt to eradicate any value of objective knowledge, the virtue and value of subjectivity affixes personal desires, characteristics, and traits to objective knowledge” (Stark, “The Virtuous Self: Kierkegaard’s Virtue Epistemology). Subjectivity does not deny objectivity. For instance, I believe that God is an objectively true being and belief in God is an objective one. The value that subjectivity brings is an embracing of one’s passions, existential desires, and personal history in proper connection with objective truths.

One can claim to possess objective truth, but of what good is that truth if not appropriated in a subjective manner. For I myself might believe that the statement “God is love” is true just as much as a good friend. But we are both a unique self, thereby we will interact and appropriate that objective claim in distinctly subjective manners. The acquisition of truth should, in some manner, impact your life. The manner by which it alters your life is subjective.

Be wary of those who say that emotions ought to be sacrificed for objective truth. While it is true that emotive states can interfere with one’s ability to properly evaluate contrasting truth-claims, it is a danger to sacrifice emotions and desire altogether. Some posit this idea. Not only is it impossible, but it abstracts the passion by which one first decides to investigate knowledge-claims. Further, certain emotive states can be considered a rational basis for accepting truth, thereby they might not be as opposed to objectivity as some think (this concept will be the topic of a forthcoming article).

This article is short and hopefully serves as a brief introduction to more I will be posting throughout the summer. Evaluating subjectivity as an intellectual virtue is the focus of my studies this summer for a research fellowship on Kierkegaard. I will obviously be quite busy, but will try and post various articles that relate to this concept. Hopefully, however, this brings for new food for thought.

2 thoughts on “On Subjectivity

  1. agholdier says:

    It strikes me that the first sentence of your excerpt could also be capitalized as follows: “There is a Stark fundamental distinction between epistemic subjectivism and the value of subjectivity.”

    Was this intentional or simply happy serendipity?

    1. michaeldstark says:

      Surely happy serendipity, but I won’t be so quick to say it is never intentional.
      Other comments I get regarding my last name:
      1. Intellectuals: Are you related to Rodney?
      2. Geeks: Are you related to Tony?

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