Critical Thinking Part 2: The Inevitability of Subjectivity

It’s best if we admit to ourselves up front that we are bound by what Joseph Conrad calls “the ball and chain of our personality.” We are bound to see things through our own unique lenses, forming our own limited perspectives. Any illusion that we can somehow be completely objective is a dangerous delusion. We must accept our subjectivity—as we accept the grammatical “I” (that subject position from which we syntactically arrange the world)—and realize that our analyses, our critical thinking itself, is bound to be flawed.

If we accept and acknowledge our human fallibility and subjectivity, we’ll become better critical thinkers. By being honest with our audience and ourselves, we’re more on the lookout for flaws in our analysis. AND, we’re triumphing—at least momentarily—over hubris, that deadly sin of pride which clouds our eyes and obscures our vision from any apprehension of “Truth,” with a capital T.

Before we can fully engage our critical thinking skills, it’s important to ground ourselves in self-awareness and a thorough grasp of objectivity and subjectivity. In essence, we attempt to be objective by recognizing and regulating our subjectivity. We must strike a balance between them: being as objective as possible regarding our subjective positions. It is perfectly natural, in other words, for us to be subjective. That’s human nature, as my quoting of Conrad alludes. But scholars learn to discriminate between their subjective opinions and the subjective opinions that others hold. All people, in other words, have their own perspectives.

To be continued…

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