Pragmatic Objectivity

Michele Marsonet
Nicholas Rescher writes that “objectivity is not something we infer from the data; it is something we must presuppose. It is something that we postulate or presume from the very outset of our dealings with people’s claims about the world’s facts”. Such definition is just the opposite of objectivity conceived of in classical terms, but it cannot be equated with an idealistic viewpoint according to which objectivity is something that our mind simply creates in the process of reflection. It is, rather, a sort of cross-product of the encounter between our mind-shaped capacities, and a surrounding reality made up of things that are real in the usual meaning of the term. Science itself gives us some crucial insights in this direction, since it shows that we see, say, tables and trees in a certain way which, however, does not match the image that scientific instruments are able to attain. Does this mean that our commonsense view of the world is totally wrong and that nature deceives us? This is not the case. The difference between the commonsense and the scientific image of the world is explainable by the fact that we are evolutionary creatures. Nature has simply endowed human beings with tools and capacities that enable them to survive in an environment which - at least in remote eras - was largely hostile. Our way of seeing tables and trees is what is requested for carrying on a successful fight for the survival of the species: nothing more - and nothing less - is needed for achieving this fundamental goal. Turning once again to the problem of ontological objectivity, the picture has now gained both strength and clarity. If we recall that human endeavors, although occurring in a largely autonomous social and linguistic world, are nevertheless limited by the constraints that natural reality forces upon us, we begin to understand that the social-linguistic world itself is not a boat freely floating without directions. If the boat is there, it means that an explanation of its presence is likely to be obtained if only we are patient enough to look for it. Some kind of hand must be on the wheel, giving the boat indications on Contrary to other pragmatist-flavored positions popular nowadays, this approach maintains that universality has a fundamental and unavoidable function in our rational endeavors. This is due to the fact that “presupposition” and “hypothetical reasoning” are key ingredients of our very capacity to rationalize the world in which we live. Indeed, there can be no rationality without universality.

Objectivity; Pragmatism; Realism; Idealism; World; Rationality

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