[ExI] Striving for Objectivity Across Different Cultures

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Aug 8 03:36:01 UTC 2008

Stefano writes (Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2008 9:19 AM)
Subject: Re: [ExI] Eurocentric Bias in Human Achievement

> On Tue, Aug 5, 2008 at 5:18 PM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
>> He [Murray] lists dozens of Chinese
>> and Japanese contributors to human achievement alone. And
>> breakthroughs from many cultures, not to mention amazingly
>> long lists of Indian or Arabic breakthroughs. The Europeans
>> were simply by far the most *numerous* contributors.
> There is also a subtler point.
> While it is part of the (European) historiographic tradition to take
> into account to some extent external narratives, it is delusional -
> and ultimately the fruit of a parochial view of quite specific
> European ideological traditions - to assume that it makes sense to
> strive for some kind of "disembodied", "objective"  perspective.

Yes, in certain kinds of things like this, an *extremely* highly objective
view or summary is not possible to attain. We must consider (as usual)
a continuum of success when trying to reach towards objectivity.
(Pace the good folks who just junk *objectivity* altogether, and
so remove this concept---and this whole axis---from our vocabularies
and from our abilities to describe "the world".)

We should start at one end and say that some conclusions are perfectly
objective: "Some people have been to Hawaii" (my Great Hawaiian Truth,
which is almost impossible to criticize, I claim), "water molecules comprise
two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom", "Genghis Khan was a mighty
ruler of the Mongols" and so on. 

Then we slide down the scale just a bit with "American culture is
highly pervasive in today's world, much more so than it was in 1800",
"some breeds of dogs are far tamer than certain other breeds",
"heroin is highly addictive for some people", and so on.

So in these cases, thus far, wouldn't you agree that "it makes sense to
strive for some kind of "disembodied", "objective"  perspective"?
Your blanket statement above seems not to allow for this.

Moreover, I frankly disagree with your claim, at least when I
emphasize a certain word there:  "it [doesn't make sense] to
*strive* for some kind of "disembodied", "objective"  perspective.

I say we should always strive, to the greatest degree we are able,
towards making as objective as possible whatever we investigate!
True, we must necessarily come up short in many inquiries, but
we must always try, right?

And you write "it is part of the (European) historiographic
tradition to take into account to some extent external narratives..."
as if there were any question that this is an entirely laudable activity.
To me, of *course* taking into account external narratives is 
something that always ought to be done.

> If one is looking for a China-centric account of human history,
> anthropology and destiny he or she has better look for it in China.

And I'll counter that with this:  the more and more that honest
Chinese academicians and other seekers of knowledge look 
into things, the more that they too will take other narratives 
into account, and---unless there is something really wrong and
really sick about them---they'll strive for rational, objective,
falsifiable, lucid, and clearly presentable understandings also.


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