Is it possible to understand others in a way that is unbiased? Can we discover the ultimate reality? These questions are addressed by Brian Fay in a chapter entitled, “Can we understand others objectively?” Fay uses the topics of objectivism, perspectivism, fallibalism, critical intersubjectivity, and accountability to argue his views. His views can be connected to other topics to show that science can be viewed as an alteration of our normal ways of thinking.
The first topic Fay addresses is objectivism. Objectivist theory states that reality exists independent of the individual. It states that the world has a preexisting structure, and theories describe this structure. Objectivists believe that truth exists when theory corresponds with the world.
Fay then presents an opposing viewpoint. He shows us about perspectivism. Perspectivism declares that all theories are based on an individual’s view of the world. Each person has their own view of the world, so there cannot truly be an objective theory. Supporters of perspectivism believe that because everyone has different interpretations of the world, there can’t be one true reality, and that the world can be interpreted in different ways.
Fay goes on to further disprove objectivism by presenting us with fallibalism. Fallibalism reveals that nothing about the world can be known for sure. It shows that a theory could be false, even the ones that we all believe to be true. Through fallibalism, we find that there is no ultimate reality, that the world can not truly be interpreted in an objectivist manner.
At this point, Fay introduces a view that brings in objectivism while still being aware of fallibalism and perspectivism. He makes known the topic of critical intersubjectivity. Using critical intersubjectivity, scientists begin to focus on the process of experimentation, instead of the outcome. Scientists must stay open to other interpretations of reality, and they must leave their own work open for constant examination by peers. By using critical intersubjectivity, scientists can form theories without being concerned about discovering the “real world.”
Fay believes that scientists must also concentrate on accountability. They must know how evidence shapes the results. They must know who an experiment is related to, which people were involved in the experiment. Scientists must be self-critical in their experiments. In this way, scientists stay more open-minded to the findings of others and of themselves.
In the end, Fay shows that he believes that it is not possible to find objective truth. However, by using critical intersubjectivity, scientists can study the world without focusing on ultimate reality. Instead, they put their focus on criticism and accountability. They can use open-mindedness, and accept the fact that there are many different views of the world. Critical intersubjectivity acknowledges the actuality that there is no truly objective world, but still encourages scientists to study and experiment.
Fay’s arguments can be related to the topics of observation, consciousness and talking. His ideas have many factors that can be linked with these processes to show that there is no such thing as truly objective reality. Also, Fay’s views can lead to a method of standardizing these ideas, so that people can create a similar understanding of the world.
Fay tells us that there is no one true version of reality, because everyone interprets reality in a different manner. Our interpretation of the world begins with observation, what we see around us. In observation, our previous ideas about the world effect what we see. That means that two people looking at the same thing will not necessarily view it in the same manner. This supports Fay’s theory, in that we interpret the things we see in the world in different ways.
After we observe something, it enters into our consciousness. In consciousness, people process things differently. They excerpt different features in the world. They order them differently. They get rid of different information. All of this leads even more to differing views of the world, which further shows that objective reality cannot be found.
Once something has been organized in our consciousness, it can be transformed into words. However, not every person uses the same metaphors in language, and it can sometimes be hard to put a perceived object into words. A statement might not mean the same thing to one person as it does to another. Because of this, no one can actually say whether a statement is a true and an accurate interpretation of an object or situation.
Einstein stated that science is, “A refinement of everyday thinking.” I believe that Fay’s arguments support this statement. To be able to interpret the world in any way, we must change the way we think. We must realize that instead of discovering truth or reality, we should instead try to find an explanation that makes sense and is generally acceptable. We must adjust our views so that we operate in the same paradigm.
Another thing that must be refined is our processes of observation, consciousness, and talking. Parts of the process have to be standardized. We have to be able to use similar language to convey messages. We have to agree on what constitutes facts. Perceptual frames and methods of organization must be more alike for each individual. It is only by changing these things that we can form scientific ideas and theories.
Fay believes that there is no such thing as objective reality, but by using critical intersubjectivity and adjusting the way we think about the world, we can study the world and create theories. He believes that scientists should be accountable in their work. If his views are connected to the processes of observation, consciousness and talking, they show how those processes must be standardized to create a more common view of the world. Fay strongly supports the use of critical intersubjectivity in science so that we can study the world in a somewhat objective manner.
Fay, Brian “Can We Understand Others Objectively?” 2006