Voices in Dispute: Objectivism Vs. Interpretivism
O: "We seek objective, precise, practical knowledge that we can USE to better control our environment. Under conditions x and y, A will result. Under conditions a, b, and c, Y will tend to vote Q. Without this sort of predictive power, we could not exist as a society. Our very way of life depends on how we USE knowledge to get what we need and obtain what we want. The power to explain the world around us and to predict human behavior serves everyone's interests. Accuracy, stability, and control are the goals of our knowledge."
I: "We seek to understand subjective, that is, individual experience comprehensively, with a view to multiple and complimentary perspectives. 'Reality' so-called is negotiable and human beings are far too complex to be subject to precise prediction and control. And even if it were otherwise, who’s to say that (YOUR) control of human behavior is desirable? We seek empathetic understanding, with a keen eye toward social justice -- to liberate the oppressed. Meaning and understanding is the goal of our knowledge, and with it we can revolutionize society."
O: "Give us a break! Your knowledge is imprecise and impractical. It is not the way of Science and not based on Universal Truths about the world or about human beings. Our knowledge stands the test of time. Yours changes on the whim of every new intellectual or popular fashion that comes along! Your knowledge produces confusion and fragmentation. Since it is not based on OBJECTIVE STANDARDS or TESTABLE THEORIES it is powerless to predict or control and therefore of little value to human society. So, you value multiple perspectives and interpretations. Interpret THIS!… And while you’re at it, behold: A BRAVE NEW WORLD!"
I: "We'll give you more than a break! We'll give you a clue! Your knowledge is impersonal and exclusionary. Your 'big buck' mentality, your quest for control, is precisely what results in human exploitation. In clean and well-lit prisons do you labor under illusions of utopian grandeur. You give us control by robbing us of freedom. You give us precision at the expense of faith, hope, and love. Our knowledge aims at the whole person, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and despair, bondage and freedom, good and evil -- a full range of human ideals and values. Yours is the knowledge OF….ABOUT….and FOR robots. Ours is the knowledge of fully-thinking, fully human – beings. Of you is the saying true: 'If using your mind causes you to sin, stop thinking! For it is better to enter the kingdom of God as an imbecile than to have your whole being cast into hell.'"
1.The tension between objective and subjective approaches to knowledge will express itself throughout this course, and indeed throughout your college matriculation. You will likely find yourself in agreement with some aspects of one way of knowing and in agreement with some aspects of other ways of knowing.
2. The subjectivist approach is, in part, a reaction against the failed utopia of the scientific vision born of the Enlightenment. Science gives us electricity, the cure (or at least the hope of a cure) of many life-threatening diseases, TV, packaged music, and the computer. It also gives us blackouts, the prospect of even more deadly diseases, mass destruction at the atomic level, germ warfare, and, the Urban Ghetto.
3. These camps need not be mutually exclusive. Most "ways of knowing" fall in between.
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Michael E. Eidenmuller.
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