is a constant and integral part of the human experience. Love,
lust, like, dislike, taste, smell, views about beauty and ugliness
and art. How you view this paragraph and this book involves subjectivity-
your taste about the writing style, word choice, chapter subjects
and length, book cover.
By definition, a subjective experience is a product of the
individual's mind. While real and often profound, the subjective
experience cannot be objectively measured by others. When someone
is listening to music, the music's note, pitch, speed, volume
and the listener's ear vibration and heartbeat can be measured
by scientific instruments, but the listener's aesthetic experience
cannot. This experience is experienced by the listener alone.
Even if asked to, the listener could not fully translate the
experience to others, in part because it is beyond words.
It's doubtful that two people have the same subjective perceptions.
People may have similar, but not identical perceptions. People
regularly like the same song but perceive it differently. It's
common for best friends to like a movie, but one likes it more
than the other or for different reasons.
* * * *
A large range of things determines a person's subjective perception
and experience. This includes genes, education, culture, where
and when born, personal experiences, upbringing, travel, family
make up and personalities, friends, acquaintances, natural temperament,
mental abilities, physiological abilities (quality of eyesight,
hearing, smell), talents, language, health, hobbies and work.
Little things influence, like what toy one had as a six year
old and what tea grandmother drank. While walking in a foreign
land, the scent of jasmine tea can bring back a rush of memories.
The appearance of the toy in a movie will alter one's emotional
reaction and interpretation of the move. It may have been chance
that the movie viewer's parents bought that toy, making his movie
interpretation a result of chance. It's not just the tea and
a toy, but millions of little things that influence, including
from forgotten events.
If a bird watcher and a rock collector go for a walk together
in the park they may have equally grand times, one due to the
birds in the trees and the other due to the rocks on the ground.
Though they were side by side, they will give decidedly different
descriptions of the walk.
Do you dislike a name simply because it was the name of someone
you couldn't stand?
* * * *
Even when they experience similar feelings people will usually
have these feelings under different circumstances, if only slightly
different. People will be artistically excited, but for different
works of art or when interpreting differently the same work of
art. People have similar feelings of romantic love, but for distinctly
different people- different looks, personality, culture, interests,
sex, race. The emotional states may be alike, but the objects
of desire are not.
* * * *
You cannot separate your biases from your perception, because
it is those biases that help create the perception. Without those
biases, you would have a different perception. Even that childhood
toy affected the movie goer's perception thirty years later.
* * * *
Humans believe they receive important objective insights,
including cosmic truths, through strong subjective experiences-
such as through the sublime experience of art, epiphany of music,
nature, love, lust, religious experience. The psychological power
of these experiences is considered verification of the 'truths.'
A question is whether these experiences involve genuine insight
into external reality or are merely strong biological reactions.
Love and lust themselves, after all, are standard genetic reactions.
Psychological reactions to certain sounds, such as in powerful
music, involve genetics.
The reactions to high delicate notes (like from song birds
or a pop song) and low booming notes (distant thunder, the start
of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony) have been shared by humans for
thousands and thousands of years. You and your ancient ancestor
have remarkably similar psychological reactions to the sound
of a songbird and the sudden deep roar of a bear. It's not coincidence
that church music uses delicate high notes to invoke heaven in
the audience, and the loud, deep bass of the organ to invoke
power and awe.
It's not coincidence that horror movies use discordant notes.
The director knows audiences find the sounds scary and creepy.
In the famous 1960 Psycho shower scene, the sharp, grating, discordant
musical notes invoke violence, evil, something gone horribly
wrong. They sound similar to someone scratching a chalkboard,
one of the most despised sounds to humans.
It can never be known to the experiencer that an epiphany
made through a strong psychological experience is anything more
than a genetic reaction. If there is insight into the external,
the insight is shaped by the expieriencer's subjectivity, and
what parts of the insight are objective and what parts subjective
Even if important insights into the universe are gained they
still are in subjective format. For example, if your epiphany
comes through your experience of art, your experience of art
is personal and different than that of others. Not only is your
'insight' intrinsically tied to your subjective views, you likely
would not have had the insight at that same time, place or format,
or at all, if you had different aesthetic views.
* * * *
Humans use aesthetic rules for defining truths, including
what is good and evil, what is moral and immoral. Common rules
include conditions of beauty, symmetry, color, tone (light versus
dark), fashion and order.
Even if the rules were valid, it would mean truth is subjective.
If truth is beautiful, your definition of what is beautiful differs
from others' definitions. Further, an individual's perception
of beauty changes with time and experience. A culture's perception
of beauty changes with time. Compare the depictions of the desirable
feminine body from 1450, 1850, 1950 and this year.
Cultural definitions of 'objective truth' are formed by cultural
sensibilities, including fashion, politics, gender, race, beauty,
geography, self interest, desire for social order, etc. There
is no indication these are identifiers of objective truth, or
are even related, but they are still used as criterion.
(c) david rudd cycleback, cycleback.com
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