Does Individuality Impair Objectivity?
How Can Objectivity be Cultivated, or Can it?
[INDIVIDUALITY: the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, esp. when strongly marked]
[OBJECTIVE: (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts]
As the years passed, I ceased to make my personal tastes the criterion for my views of the social order. I discovered that the politically-minded may be divided into those who accept the facts of human nature and those who plan their programmes on the naive assumption that man is what they wish man to be. It is, perhaps, regrettable that man is a hierarchical animal, with an invincible tendency to create distinctions, but the realist starts from facts, and does not plan for the future on the assumption that a classeless society is realisable in this geological period.
People without human passions, loyalties and appetites could undoubtedly handle the world’s problems with laughable ease: a restatement of the view held by Aristotle (and your grandfather) that human nature is our chief problem.
Tolstoy begins by saying that throughout life Shakespeare has aroused in him “an irresistible repulsion and tedium.” Conscious that the opinion of the civilized world is against him, he has made one attempt after another on Shakespeare’s works, reading and re-reading them in Russian, English and German; but ‘I invariably underwent the same feelings; repulsion, weariness and bewilderment.’ Now, at the age of seventy-five, he has once again re-read the entire works of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, and ‘I have felt with an even greater force, the same feelings—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits—thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding—is a great evil, as is every untruth.’ Shakespeare, Tolstoy adds, is not merely no genius, but is not even ‘an average author.’
The first condition of right thought is right sensation.
T. S. Eliot
Vanity is the most potent of forces in the shaping of life and in the choice of political creeds. We tend to think well of institutions which think well of us. The man who is born into a family with a long tradition of distinguished service to the State derives some reflected glory from England’s greatness, and tends to be a conservative. His instinct is to conserve a state of affairs which assigns to him high rank in the social hierarchy. And if, as a boy, he has reverently fingered an old sword hanging in the hall, if one of his uncles was a V.C., and one of his grandfathers a famous general, he will naturally accept without question the feudal scale of values which holds in high honour physical courage and the military virtues. If, on the other hand, your grandfather entered England in the 1850s as an immigrant from South-Eastern Europe, if you yourself are an intellectual with more brain than brawn, if you were kicked about at school by embryo Blimps, if you have no stomach for fighting and, in consequence, a detestation of war, you will naturally resent a criterion of values which assigns to you a low place at life’s table.
In an early letter [Hugh] Kingsmill’s friend Hesketh Pearson inquired: ‘Why do you and I, who have so much in common as human beings, differ so widely in our artistic tastes?’ Kingsmill replied: ‘As a matter of fact, I think I do understand your frenzy. It’s pure religious fanaticism, a very fine quality, but out of place in the realm of literature... Your hatred of Christianity is proof that your religious sense is still active, and you pour it into your literary affections. My view of literature is that a man appreciates what he can, and should keep his appreciation supple by not conceiving fanatical hates and loves, and also by not straining it where it doesn’t arise naturally. Writers who don’t appeal to me I don’t bother about but I don’t mind my friends liking them.’
Richard Ingrams (from God’s Apology)
Thoughts about Individuality & Objectivity
After appetite human beings seem to be driven by aversion as much as by anything.
We often irritate others when we think we could not possibly do so.
de La Rochefoucauld
At the heart of our friendly or purely social relations, there lurks a hostility momentarily cured but recurring in fits and starts.
We are full of odd hates and dislikes.
C. S. Lewis
Be sparing in praise, and more so in blame.
We all have sharp likes and dislikes, and hand out praise and condemnation with equal ease.
Between a man’s emotional responses to some subject and his considered judgment upon it, the relationship will not necessarily be simple.
Speaking of her neurotic brother Pedro St Teresa of Avila wrote, ‘I ought to be moved by his distress, but I confess I feel most uncharitable towards him.’
Everyone is guilty of enjoying the comfort of opinion without submitting himself to the discomfort of thought.
If we could add up all the minutes we have dedicated to a critical examination of one of our most deeply held beliefs, we would probably be shocked at the ridiculously small sum.
I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
She likes herself, yet others hates
For that which in herself she prizes.
And while she laughs at them, forgets
She is the thing that she despises.
It is a general mistake to think the men we like are good for everything, and those we do not, good for nothing.
Marquis of Halifax
The human mind is generally far more eager to praise or blame than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value.
C. S. Lewis
It is in our private life that we find people intolerably individual.
G. K. Chesterton
The very same conditions of intimacy which make affection possible also make possible a peculiarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.
C. S. Lewis
Most people are more conscious of their dislikes than of their sympathies. The latter are weak while hatreds are strong.
[Evelyn] Waugh was a perfectionist; his dislike of ‘all things uncomely and broken’ was not merely an abstract aesthetic ideal but a governing passion.
Martin Stannard (biographer)
Objectivity means that we can separate facts from our thoughts and feelings about those facts.
Feelings of antipathy are instinctive and have to be recognized as such. Since we can’t pretend we feel differently than we really do we simply have to accept our instinctive dislikes as an unavoidable trial.
Obviously, it is the degree to which life is seen objectively that it is interesting.
Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.
G. K. Chesterton
One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
A friend of Bertrand Russell’s, a professor of pure mathematics, informed him that if he could prove Russell was going to die in five minutes he would of course be sorry to lose him, but his sorrow would be quite outweighed by the pleasure afforded by the proof. A mathematician himself, Russell said he understood perfectly and immediately forgave him.
People are disliked not for what they do, but for what they are.
All of us admire people we don’t like and like people we don’t admire.
There is a certain distance at which each person we know is naturally placed from us. It varies with each, and we must not attempt to alter it. We may clasp him who is close, and we are not to pull closer him who is more remote.
A different taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.
There is no such thing as objectivity in anything involving human interpretation.
We have a duty to be as objective as our limitations allow, limitations which include the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every individual necessarily suffers.
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
It’s a seldom realised truth that those we know longest we often know least, and that a person will frequently understand a casual acquaintance better than the wife or friend whom his affection, vanity, or self-interest show not as they are but as he wishes them to be.
We resent offenses against our taste at least as much as offenses against our conscience or reason. If we are not careful criticism may become an excuse for taking revenge on things we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgements.
C. S. Lewis
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.
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