The treacherous slope of subjectivity

Artist Jack Armstrong's "Cosmic Starship" Harley Davidson is unveiled on October 21, 2010 in Marina Del Rey, California. Priced at $ 1,000,000 (one million), this is the world's first and only million Harley. Armstrong was a protege of Andy Warhol and his paintings retail for 300K to 2M USD. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

The most expensive Harley Davidson yet, priced at $1 million, covered in celebrated artist Jack Armstrong’s paint job, a style he calls ‘Cosmic Extensionalism’

Good and bad are ultimately subjective attributes, but people tend to lose sight of the functional “ultimately” in that statement. Objective truth is good enough to hold till a certain threshold; and even if it doesn’t, even if good and bad are made victims of a boring, soul-killing materialism that would have quality reduced to impersonal chemical processes, it behooves us as brain-endowed human beings to arrive at a plateau of consensus as to what constitutes that quality. Beyond this threshold, there is scope for subjective bias, but to bicker about what precedes it is to run around in circles like a dog chasing its own tail. Some premises are too ludicrous to be tolerated, molecular interactions be damned; if everything is qualitatively valid, then we begin voluntarily eroding our capability for discursive thought and action. Compromising lateral, intellectual movement and the ability to cut through an idea and inspect its innards, traps us in a state of dull stasis. What after this willful castration, one wonders?

Exposing relativism for the tedious and subliminally smug chore that it is, is not a task for science, but one for common sense. However innocuous its origin, and wherever that origin lies, this line of inquiry, once launched, begins penetrating other aspects of our interaction with the world, too. To understand that things external to us have an inherent quality in themselves is insight, to appreciate our biological inability in grasping the true nature of those things is humility, and to extrapolate an approximate value from them such as is nourishing to our living experience is holistic intellect. There are degrees of truth, on an inclined plane; the degree attained corresponding directly to our intuitive and learned grasp of the preceding three factors.

No one person’s breadth of knowledge can extend uniformly in all directions. Through this realization, we ought take heed of two hopefully self-evident rules: (1) to refrain from offering an opinion on matters beyond one’s knowledge, and (2) that the onus to establish the common threshold falls on those versed with granulated modes or sub-categories of a particular strand of knowledge. Discussion of subjective merits beyond this threshold enriches us while arguments below it simply become a cause of aimless exhaustion to be avoided at all costs.

Cosmic Extensionalism, an acquired taste.

Cosmic Extensionalism, an acquired taste


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