On the impossibility of personalizing a judgment
As soon as modern people start exchanging views that claim a certain general validity, either on talk shows, on panel discussions, or on a private level, it becomes absurd. Example:
A: “An impressive film! The screenwriter hit the nail on the head.”
B: “How? Not at all! It was absolute nonsense.”
A: “For me, this film is true. Maybe not for you. In my opinion, it rings true to life.”
“A” makes a mistake that is dealt with in epistemology under the keyword “subjective truth.” The mistake consists in simply refusing to believe that a thought, a judgment, is or is not valid regardless of the character of a person. The first indication of this: why else would “B” have thought of starting an argument? And the worrying thing is that the “A” doesn’t mind making the mistake; he is even happy to make it! He seriously considers it an expression of his personality. The following is about the embarrassments this entails.
The substance of the mistake
The mistake lies simply in denying the objectivity of a thought. Every thought – we are talking about thoughts of a general interest, thoughts whose general meaning is expressed in the form of a judgment – is objective. This is no dogma, but a simple statement of the fact that the connection of a sentence subject with a predicate by a verb standing in the indicative – if it is the copula “is,” it is a verb already partly containing the predicate – asserts no more and no less than the existence of a general connection between the contents spoken of. Some random examples: “The element uranium is radioactive”; “Sigmund Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis.” Regardless of who can be convinced of the truth of these thoughts, and regardless of whether the person expressing the judgments really believes in them in his heart of hearts: these thoughts are objective by the mode of the indicative, i.e., for example, old Mr. Freud and the founder of psychoanalysis are identical, they are set as identical contents. Nothing more is in this sentence: the person who is responsible for this sentence is neither in it with his taste nor with his understanding; he is not found in it at all.
So it is with every judgment. The judging subject does not appear in his judgment, even if he might go to great lengths to appear in it – he just judges, nothing more. Even if he talks about himself, then he is just the subject that judges about comething – here too his judgment has the form of a generality, and it does not matter who says it. When modern idiots exchange views, they gladly consider it the other way around and can’t refrain from introducing every judgment with phrases like: “I think, I believe, I feel, one could perhaps also see it this way ...” All these kinds of efforts must remain unsuccessful and do not save them from the objectivity that always follows: after these empty introductory phrases, a “that”-phrase – a sentence which includes – exactly! – a judgment. And this judgment, which is surely the point, again includes nothing about the person.
Hence it is ironic that everyone, no matter how personally modest, hardly speaks about something before emphasizing its objectivity, whether they want to or not.
The objectivity of truth and its reason
Now, of course, if one thinks up a judgment and announces it as a statement, that does not guarantee that it is also true. Ultimately, anyone can maintain anything. So thinking it over is called for. In thinking it over, not only are the subject and predicate of the sentence set in relation to each other, but their various determinations. In this thinking activity, one clarifies what relations exist in particular. The reason for a judgment is then based on one’s knowledge about the nature of these relations. Again, the thinking subject is nowhere to be found in this, except insofar as he just thinks. The reason exists – objectively. By the way, even if it is wrong. Then it is just objectively wrong.
The right to a personal opinion – or: the right to a conceit
Strangely, adherents of subjective truth don’t want to make the effort of this – often difficult – way of thinking. Nevertheless, they describe their thoughts, framed in such a way, as true and valid, even if only for them – simply because they think them and consider them true. They reject the suggestion that such statements be put to the test of reason because they believe they have a right, not only to whimsically air their opinion, thereby dismissing any refutation, but to claim what’s personal for them is general.
A strange right. Because, first of all, surely nobody wants to seriously take this right away from them: everyone may think whatever they want. One would like to say to them: think whatever you want, as long as you don’t bother others with it … Secondly, the desire to enjoy this right is the desire to uphold a contradiction: they want to consider their views already valid, and believe this is the way it is; but they do not want to know whether the certainty they aim at is true. An adherent of subjective truth must always reproduce this contradiction over and over again. And he always has to go to the effort of wrapping up the thought he has just expressed, which is free for everyone to evaluate, in the haze of the private, as if nothing happened – “I only meant ...”
These people never tire of claiming that their thoughts are both personal and universal because they have grown fond of their thoughts. But how does that really work? In the end, they are neither nice, nor polite, nor pleasant. No, one can grow fond of them only because they represent a familiar view of things. One can certainly be familiar with total bullshit. Someone who is no longer bothered by the fact that his ideas might be mixed up with bullshit no longer wants to do anything with his mind. To be nasty: somebody like this has probably understood the fact (on his own) that, according to the criteria of reason in this great country, truth counts for nothing. Then one does not see the mind as the means to one’s own practical freedom, begins to know about the strange world in which one lives in order to deal with the living conditions according to whether they are beneficial or not, but as the instrument for an inspection of the world which should remain inconsequential from the get-go. In other words: one does not regard reason as a means to understand and change the world, but only to interpret it. Then, of course, it doen’t matter any more whether or not one makes a mistake in thinking, but whether the inspection of the world shows one’s self-worth and, as such, gives something to the subject. If the subject gets nothing from his examination, then he wants to at least enjoy it. Thus the former free thinker condemns himself to an existence as a beautiful soul.
In this respect, the beautiful soul who cherishes his subjective truth wants to know this as a truth about himself, the subject. While he has in fact said something, but doesn’t want to maintain anything objective, he no longer offers the thought according to its content, but so as to be interesting as its author. Judgments about the world and its principles become expressions of personality. This is extremely irrational because “personality” in this context has no other content than the sum of his views. But he has selected them himself – and indeed completely at random, on principle – and nevertheless these should make up the source of his personality and have their criteria in it too?!
Views turn into convictions and elevate integrity as an ideal: the subject sees their value in the fact that they remains true to him and nobody else. And authenticity is a word in great demand.
The rewards of the right to conceit
What does the right to subjective truth give somebody? First, an imaginary freedom: the freedom to be allowed to judge according to mood. And secondly, an imaginary duty: the subject’s obligation to remain consistent with himself. Subjective truth has no more meaning than this.
By the way: these are idea that he holds. And they are judgments that he expresses. Yet he treats knowledge here as a matter of taste!!
P.S. Is there then objective truth? Of course not: the pure contradiction of a mistake is surely only another one. Objective or absolute truth is the fittingly idiotic counter-image to subjective truth, namely the image of an existing truth fixed independently of human reasoning. This then would be a higher bullshit ...