Objective Reasoning means reasoning according to a set of logical and objective standards, while subjective thinking refers to reasoning without objective standards. Objective reasoning means reasoning that is independent of the specific subjective context, not influenced by personal characteristics, feelings or opinions of the subject.1 An idea can be said to be objective when it is not conditioned by the subject stating it; when it expresses a reality without subjectively modifying it. Objective thinking implies an impartial and balanced inquiry. In reasoning one has to define what is of value and relevance, in so doing assign weight to the different factors involved. This assigning of importance to the different factors involved then defines much of the context to the following process of reasoning and its outcomes. when this is done subjectively an overemphasis is placed on some factors while others are diminished, depending on the character of the subject doing the reasoning. Objective thinking, however, implies an impartial balanced inquiry that applies relevant weight to the different factors involved in the process. This objective view of the world does not come naturally to human beings, in fact, quite the contrary, the biological evolutionary context to our condition originates in a very subjective perspective, one which leads to an imbalanced view of the world.
Subjective thinking, in the form of egocentric thinking for example, comes natural to humans, we do not have to train people to believe what they want to believe, what one wants to believe is what one will naturally believe. In contrary people need to be trained or train themselves if they want to believe something other than this. Whereas the subjective thinking of altruism and egoism both lead to an imbalanced valorization and emphasis – either on the individual or on others – objective thinking strives to overcome this in order to achieve a balanced judgment.
Objective thinking represents the capacity to experience phenomena as in some way independent from our subjective condition; to be able to regard other entities as existing in and for themselves independent of our own will. As this is not an innate feature of human cognition it involves having to develop a framework based on some objective logic that can define the value of things independently from their significance and value in relation to one’s own agendas and desires. It is only in being able to do this that one can ascribe the appropriate significance to things and thus make a balance inquiry that is a central part of critical thinking.
Objectivity thinking is only really achieved by creating standards because the results of one’s thinking cannot be any better than the quality of the process by which conclusions are reached.2 With the use of standards one can develop objective thinking; the placing of an objective value on phenomena. Unlike altruism that is inclined to place an over value on other people and things or egoism that is inclined to place an overemphasis on oneself, objective thinking involves making an assessment to derive the balance value and significance of both.
Differentiation of the individual is an important part of achieving balanced, objective reasoning. Differentiation during the individual’s development means the separation of different spheres, in particular, the separation of self from others and other things, so as to not be as psychologically and emotionally attached to them; which results in one placing an over evaluation on them.3
This distinction between subjective and objective thinking can be understood as a relationship between a system and its environment. When something is subjective it is a point of view, it is not based upon some logic within the environment. When thinking is objective it is true regardless of points of view as it is based upon the logical set of relationships within the environment. If one’s ultimate aim is not to adapt and conform one’s reasoning to some larger logic within the environment then the reasoning will invariably be flawed. Objective thinking is about following standards that will enable us to develop knowledge that reflects the logic of our environment. It does not matter if one makes a mistake during reasoning, what is important is that we have the frameworks in place that make reasoning responsive to some broader environmental context, so that we can identify when our reasoning is misaligned. What is important is that our conceptual system can adapt and change in response to the logic of some broader context. The logic of one’s thinking must conform to the logic of the environment for it to be successful and the objective standards of reasoning create the framework for confirming our reasoning to the logic within our broader environment.
A central question in the distinction between objective and subjective thinking is then, whether the individual adapts reality to their thinking or do they accommodate and adapt their thinking to reality? Critical thinking and science aim to create standards so that we accommodate our thinking to the logic of the world around us, not the other way round; because this is the only effective solution in the long term. Trying to shape reality to fit into our misconstructed conception of it will only last for a certain period of time as the conceptual system at some stage will be forced to deal with the reality of its environment.
This can be understood with reference to systems theory. All systems are dependent on their environment in some way, when the individual miss constructs the environment they degrade its state and that degradation over time leads to a reduction in the required input for the system, which ultimately means that it will not have the resources required to sustain itself and will eventually disintegrate and be faced with the degraded state of its environment. In order to avoid this, it is necessary to focus on maintaining standards that ensure that we conform our beliefs and conceptual system to the logic within our broader environment. In so doing we show respect for something greater than ourselves and we also sustain that environment; making possible long-term cumulative development.
Subjective thinking leads the individual to conclusions that are in some way desirable to that subject. The world though, does not always turn out to be how people would like it to be, in fact, it has no regard whatsoever for how people would like it to be and thus often turns out to be something different. To believe something that is an undesirable logic requires discipline and living by the standards of reasoning.
All thinking is by its nature subjective but by adhering to standards we try to achieve greater objectivity in our thinking. Our minds will tend to take a path of least resistance unless we make a specific high-energy effort to step out of these processes and think in a more clear and logical manner. Cognitive biases of subjective thinking lead us into invalid or fallacious thinking rather than into formal logical ways of thinking. These biases are numerous, pervasive, and can have a very powerful influence on how we think and it requires exerting a concerted effort to overcome them in the form of applying cognitive standards to our thinking. If one wants to be the best high jumper one has to be disciplined in the usage and training of one’s body in order to again a certain high achievement. The higher one wants to jump the more disciplined one will have to be in the training of the body. The same is true for thinking, there is the same standard, but this time it is not about jumping higher it is about being able to use higher levels of abstraction effectively. One can only do this by structuring the more basic elementary concepts, once one has these basic building block it is then possible to move up to building more complex and abstract patterns out of them. However, one can not move on to higher level reasoning until the basic concepts have been formed, if one tries to do this the reasoning will be floored. Just like building a house out of weak building blocks that will fall apart if we build too high.
In order to make the basic building blocks solid one has to have discipline in their construction so that they are well structured and balanced. What this means in more practical terms is that one has to define things properly. Until a concept has been properly defined it is not possible to use it properly in the building of higher level more abstract structures. Thus we need to employ discipline in our reasoning in order to define things properly. The better we can define things the more solid our reasoning will be and we will be able to build larger, more abstract conceptual systems which in turn means that we can reason effectively about more complex systems. When we properly define things we try to get at their most elementary features that define them as distinct from other entities. Every word is distinct in some way or else it would not exist, it may be very similar to others but never exactly the same in all contexts. If one does not use objective standards in reasoning and define things properly then it will not be possible to see what is the same and what is different and thus we will form false categories – that will not correspond to those within the environment, creating tension and conflict.