Forms of Objectivity

The following are excerpts from the book “The Thinkers Guide For Conscientious Citizen’s in How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda” by Richard Paul and Linda Elder:


“Objectivity” may appear in three ways. Two are genuine. One is a facade, a counterfeit of objectivity.

The Objectivity of Intellectual Humility
The first form of objectivity is based on the possibility of developing intellectual humility, knowledge of our ignorance. Thus, a critical consumer of the news knows the difference between hearing a story and verifying the truth of that story.

A critical consumer of the news knows that what is presented as fact in the news may not be fact. It may be propaganda, misinformation, distortion, or half-truth. Knowing this, critical consumers of the news “bracket” what they hear, read, and see in the news. Recognizing that they don’t themselves know the facts, they “suspend” belief. They take in information in a tentative fashion (“ This may or may not be true!”). For example, “objective” jurors will not come to a conclusion of guilt or innocence after hearing only one side’s case. Unfortunately, intellectual humility is a rare quality in human life. The majority of people in the world have been exposed to a limited range of views and have been most influenced by the viewpoint dominant in their own culture. As a result, they take them-selves to be in possession of the TRUTH. This confidence is in fact proof of their lack of objectivity. They do not know what intellectual humility is, and they do not take steps to achieve it.

The Objectivity of Fair-minded, Multi-dimensional Thinking
A second form of objectivity goes beyond the first. It is based on intellectual humility and also on having done substantial intellectual work in reasoning within multiple conflicting points of view in addressing questions, problems, and issues of significance. It is connected to positive insight into the complexity and many-sidedness of most important world issues and large-scale conflicts. Those who have achieved this state can insightfully role-play multiple perspectives on a multitude of issues. They can identify and weigh relative strengths and weaknesses within those perspectives. They are comfortable playing the role of dissenter, though they don’t dissent for the sake of dissent. They reject party lines, sociocentric mindsets, and intellectual conformity. They are intellectually independent, are intellectually perseverant, and have intellectual integrity.

Sophistic Objectivity
The third form of objectivity is “sophistic.” This intellectual state results from studying a range of views with the overriding motivation to defend a predetermined choice. This mind-set is common in intellectuals who make their income (and achieve their prestige) as apologists for powerful interests. The temptation to become an apologist for a well-established point of view or economic interest is enormous because money, position, and prestige are involved. Lawyers and politicians, as well as public relations experts, are typically ready to play such a role. Most national news commentators routinely play such a role. They present positions consistent with a picture of the world shared by most of their readers or viewers. They are viewed by their audience as “objective” only to the extent that what they present reflects mainstream views.

~Richard Paul and Linda Elder, “The Thinkers Guide For Conscientious Citizen’s in How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda


“There are (typically) multiple points of view from which any set of events can be viewed and interpreted. Openness to a range of insights from multiple points of view and a willingness to question one’s own point of view are crucial to “objectivity.” […] Objectivity is achieved to the extent that one has studied a wide range of perspectives relevant to an issue, obtained insights from all of them, seen weaknesses and partiality in each, and integrated what one has learned into a more comprehensive, many-sided whole. Each should serve to “correct” exaggerations or distortions in the others and to add facts not highlighted in the others.”

~Richard Paul and Linda Elder, “The Thinkers Guide For Conscientious Citizen’s in How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda

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