posted on 2021-06-29

disclosing subjectivity

we all know that when expressing opinions, subjectivity is implied; however, i still feel like there are reasonable steps one can make to disclose the degree of subjectivity of claims; both for opinions and for factual claims.

the objective, when communicating honestly, is to make sure that the person being communicated with isn't misinformed about the shape of the world; including how much a given fact is commonly believed. most importantly, one must be consequentialist about it: you should care about the actual outcome, not whether you have successfully played by some principles.

for example, if i were to say "i think that china is the most populated country, and that some US intelligence agencies make big CPU manufacturers put backdoors in their CPUs", even though i'm making two factual claims that i believe about the world, i might misinform someone about how widely believed that latter claim is, when it's in fact a relatively niche conspiracy theory, whereas the former is overwhelmingly accepted fact. something like "now, personally, i also believe…" might help make the recipient more aware that the claim isn't widely accepted, however they choose to go about utilizing that information.

one example that has occured to me a bunch, is when saying that i think "consuming art is less about enjoying oneself, and more about receiving an artist's intended ideas", i go to significant lengths to make clear that this is one interpretation of what art can be about. the importance here lies not (just) in highlighting that a position isn't consensus, but also that other positions might be valid and that the matter is very subjective: not only is what i like about art not universal, but i don't think i could even always claim that other people are "wrong" to have different interpretations of what art is about (though i could probably claim that sometimes).

note that this doesn't mean strongly subjective statements can't be disputed: even though having your own interpretation of art is valid, you might be lying or even wrong about what your own interpretation is.

note also that here an important point is that subjectivity vs objectivity, while for simple statements (like "minecraft looks pretty" or "4 is an even number") is relatively straightforward, for most real statements the degree of subjectivity is going to be more nuanced than a simple binary.

posted on 2021-06-29

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