Soc310 Portfolio1

Soc310 Portfolio1 - Thursday Portfolio#1 The Subjectivity...

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Thursday, September 13, 2007 Portfolio #1 The Subjectivity of Empiricism In class yesterday we briefly went over embryonic positivism, and the emphasis on empiricism. I have trouble seeing how reliance on the five senses is completely objective. Each person experiences things differently; my interpretation of what I call the color “red” may be different from my husband’s interpretation. Is there really a way of being objective in any situation, especially when one is relying on one’s senses? It seems that objectivity is highly emphasized in today’s world, but seldom actually achieved. When I was younger, I believed that the newspaper and evening news programs were delivering the absolute truth about what went on in the world. To my mind, journalists and newscasters were the source of true, objective information and could be counted on to provide good analyses of the news items they presented. Unfortunately, I now believe that, like most people, journalists and newscasters use their personal experiences and views as a filter for interpreting what goes on. Many news programs are highly politically biased, as are major newspapers. This realization has made me wonder whether it is ever possible to be unbiased. The most basic facts, of course, should be things that we can discover using our senses: the sun shining, the grass is green, the air is warm. However, as I mentioned, who is the authority on what constitutes “green”? The air may be warm to me, but someone else may think it’s chilly. We can use a thermometer to measure the temperature; does empiricism mean avoiding subjective terms such as “warm” and “cold” and instead using numbers wherever possible?
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This seems, to me, to remove something from life. To say that it is 61°F outside only has meaning insofar as I can contextualize that number and recall my own experiences with similar weather. When I lived in California, 61°F was quite cool, and I would need to put on a sweater before going outside. Here in Provo, there are days when I would gladly dance outside in a t-shirt and shorts if it got to 61°F. The number itself does little more than let me know which past experiences I should remember and base my present actions of off. We use subjective words to communicate all the time. Different materials can be hard or soft, people can be tall or short, music can be loud or soft. Yet even when there is an objective scale set up to provide us with numbers for measurement, we interpret those measurements based on our own experiences. I think that part of what I have misunderstood about empiricism is that the point is to rule out the possibility of things that cannot be observed through any of the senses. Thus, we no longer say that the lightning is caused by the anger of the gods or that the earth is flat (at least, most of us don’t think so). But I still think that science is not fully objective, especially in some fields. When I took geology my freshman year, I had a really hard time
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Soc310 Portfolio1 - Thursday Portfolio#1 The Subjectivity...

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