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October 3, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Reflections on the Critique of Science, Positivism and Objectification

Why is objectification bad?
• Truth: Its a failure to see the complexity–its only looking at one perspective–its only one very limited viewpoint (at a minimum its an abstraction). There’s more to humanity than test tubes, labs, and chemical reactions.
• Value: Destroys relationships, community, and love, which are the core of humanity–destroying human potential.
• Value: Looking at living beings as mere matter and cause and effect.
• Value: Classification = Ranking of humans (difficult argument to make, due to inevitability of ranking–for instance grading)
• Value: Material focus trades off with spiritual focus. (similar in some respects to #2 & #7). This is more a critique of science or positivism as being reductionist.
• Value & Impact: Expendability
• Value & Impact: Dehumanizing. Humans aren’t objects or robots. This destroys human spirit, essence, and potential.

At its essence–the objective (in the way it is used in science) is meant to erase the subjective–the subjective is identity. Identity is the basis of humanity. (maybe harder to articulate, because at the end of the day subjective and objective probably both have their place–or should be balanced or integrated. I think that reason does it to one extent–but I think the way science operates–it takes it to a whole other level. For instance, reason would still allow intuition or reasoning based on intuition–but science makes every effort possible to exclude those things or has done so as a general practice.

Also, you can find evidence for every -ism in the practices and history science (capitalism, militarism, racism). I would get a book on each and go deep–if that was the route you were trying to go.

Historical examples, which serve as a larger metaphor for a systemic problem:
• Slavery, Nazism, Dalits in India (due to caste system–referred to as the untouchables), etc…

* The dalits probably aren’t a good example of this specific K, because you can’t create a clear line between science & the practice (in fact it might be the opposite). Or it may be that British rule, which was grounded on enlightenment science or at least order is the problem.

Three Possible Alternatives:
Goethe had an end road around this–he provided both the subjective & objective. However, his alternative stands in sharp contrast to the way all science is typically done.

In the social sciences there are some examples of the studier blurring the lines of the studied (for instance in the practice of ethnography). For instance, studying organizational or cultural practices from the inside versus the outside. I assume there are others.

The feminists talk about a feminist science or a standpoint view, the former of which I have no idea what exactly it means–that separates it from the old science. or how its any different from “add women and stir”. (the destroying non-patriarchal values is another reason why its bad).

I would echo what was said above, specifically this:
“A critique of objectivity is similar to, though by no means the same as, a critique of consequentialism/utilitarianism (I use critique in the general sense of criticism).”

I would echo the goal being universalism or something close to it–with an effort to exclude outliers–(aka those who don’t fit in the box, mold, or box).

One other thing–if this is a critique of science–you might look at the idea of quasi-solutions, which is the idea that technology just creates a treadmill (the example is pesticides & nuclear power, although both are rigged examples IMHO). Each technology creates second order effects which the next technology tries to solve–and it goes on an infinite iterative loop. (this trend can even be seen in wind power & solar power–killing birds & using land on the one hand–or potentially creating multiple forms of heavy metal disposal.)

There is an upside to science, but thats for another day.


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