Some time ago I published a piece on bias, Breaking the Mold. It listed a number of words and asked you to think of the first thing that came to your mind, to see what image the word triggered in your mind. It was simple exercise designed to make you aware of your own inherent biases; to realize you had them no matter how hard you tried to suppress them.
I recalled it during an exchange with the Logistician recently. In the exchange, I had asked how knowledge might be presented without the infusion of the bias of the presenter.The context was political sophistication but the question is broad enough for almost any context.
One of the things I do on this blog is try to induce you to think about various things, some of which might have become nothing more than background scenery in your life. I think it is important to be aware of as much as you possibly can; to consider things both in and out of context. In a sense, I am trying to do what I told the Logistician in our recent exchange was virtually impossible to do:
I know I have biases which cause me to prejudge. I fight them. I feel I can fight them effectively only because I am aware of them. Without that awareness, they would easily influence me. Even with the awareness, they can still do so. It is a constant battle. It is also one I do not mind waging.
However, even as I try to teach objectively I infuse a bias into the process. In this case, the belief that everyone has them and the belief that all biases must be questioned. So, how could I teach anyone to be unbiased if I am biased myself? Where is the objective position?
The answer is there is no absolutely objective position.
Therefore, it is impossible to teach how to be unbiased. I can, however (and hopefully), teach someone to strive for objectivity. But I must do that in a context that is essentially limited in its partisanship (I use that term in a broad sense, not a political one). That is, a context that is already pretty much non-subjective.
Here's an example of a poor choice of context: Mac vs PC.
Another might be Rap Music. Or politics. Or religion.
You see, the problem lies in the fact that we are creatures who have emotions. An we attach those emotions to objects and concepts. In order to become objective, we must detach our emotions from the object or concept and view it outside of the context of ourselves.
So, how do we detach our emotions, or detach from our emotions? Just how do we step outside of ourselves so we can view something truly objectively?
I think I can do it but I am not sure how I do it. I began doing it a long time ago when I started hearing that old adage about walking "a mile in someone else's shoes." I am averse to walking a mile in my own shoes, much less in shoes that probably wouldn't fit me very well. But the concept was simply "put yourself in his place" or "see it from another's perspective."
We can't really see things from someone else's perspective, can we? To do that, we'd have to know all the life experiences of that person because these form his perspective. What we can do, though, is reject our own life experiences while examining something. To do that, you must first examine your own life and determine how those experiences influence you. Once you do that, you can ignore those influences and become relatively objective. But only relatively, you can never be free of bias entirely.
A Night Unremembered
7 years ago