Objectivity and Reality
Notwithstanding that all social conventions, including language, are built from shared understanding that are to some extent ontologically subjective, they are not completely arbitrary. Language – as well as social reality – is built upon objective reality itself. Words and conventions have become abstract representations and codifications, respectively, of the complex dynamics of human beings within reality. There are a number of realities that interact together to form social reality. Both physical reality and its forces along with spiritual reality and its forces influence human thought – which is the reality of a human being. These three realities come together to shape social reality, which itself also influences human thought. Language both builds and is built upon this reciprocal interplay between human thought and society – and ultimately, rests upon the objective spiritual and physical realities themselves.
Let us take our previous post’s somewhat objective statement a bit further. Instead of simply claiming the color of something to be “green”, the property of an object that determines it to be “green” can be explained:
The color of a thing arises from its interaction with light. In order for something to be visible, light – composed of packets of energy called photons or particles – hits an object, interacts with it, and emits photons back into our eyes. Visible white light from the sun (or a bulb) is actually a mixture of a range of frequencies by which its photons vibrate – each one corresponding to a color on a spectrum. Frequencies are measured by the photon’s wave cycles per second. When this white light interacts with something, some frequencies are absorbed and others are reflected. The frequency of the reflected photons determine what color this object appears to be in a beholder’s eye.
This explanation that accompanies the statement “that thing is green” is much more objective. It’s true, this paragraph – as with all of language – includes many names that are based on social convention. For instance, why is it named “light” or “frequency”? However, the naming included in this previous paragraph is not simply subjective social convention – there must be some agreement as to the underlying reality on which these names are based. One who agrees with this paragraph must have at least a basic level of understanding of physics to understand that “light” is made up of “energy packets” characterized by “frequency”. Furthermore, this paragraph goes beyond naming – it establishes relationships between concepts (X is composed of Y which is characterized by Z) and attempts to explain them a bit (Z is some unit of space per time). Regardless of the naming, these relationships and explanations are objective. To agree with this paragraph is not a matter of convention – it is based on reality itself.