Objectivity in Music and the Dogmatic Censorship of Subjective and Rational Thinking

Chances are if you’ve ever discussed music on the Internet (or, god forbid, in reality), you’ve come across a person who’s exclaimed “Guys, what’s the point of fighting about it? It’s subjective! Stop talking as if your opinions are facts!”. Maybe you’ve even been the dullard that made that statement. This fallacy is so frequently made that it has finally compelled me to put my thoughts into this essay, which I hope will dispel this ignorant thinking once and for all (at least for the few who will read this).

There are a lot of ways to approach this, so I’m going to try and tackle this from all angles to get a fully fleshed-out perspective about why this is such a useless and irrational argument to make. Let’s start off with the basics: objectivity and subjectivity. Objectivity being the unbiased factual statements, subjectivity being the personally held opinions. When someone states their opinion “like a fact” (i.e. not tacking the rather pandering “in my opinion” on the end of their statement), they technically are stating a fact. Their opinion is a subjective assessment of their objective view on the topic. It’s a fact that this is what they feel. I hope everyone understands this basic concept. Now let’s go onto something a bit larger in the scope of this argument: the concept of “good” and “bad”.

Now, these are and always will be inherently subjective terms. Nothing—and I really mean this, because it’s true—nothing is objectively good or bad. These two terms are always viewed with a bias from the person who perceives them. So let’s wrap our heads around this one. When something is considered “good” in the general moral sense, this is not an objectively “good” thing. Let’s say cancer is cured forever. Sounds pretty good, right? I should hope all of the readers would agree that this is a good thing. But that’s not an objective view. That is just the opinion demonstrating the moral and ethical values most rational people hold dear.

When we start trying to objectify what is good and what is bad (or, for the sake of this next argument, “evil”), we become a dogmatic society or group. Compare this to the idea of a common religion like Christianity. It’s a very basic and old belief that within the doctrines of the almighty Lord, “evil” is defined as anything that opposes it. Let that sink in: evil is not defined by the so-called “mundane” evils we mere humans conceive like murder or rape, etc. Evil is solely defined by what defies the word of God, no matter how “evil” we may think some of the things He has condoned are.

With this in mind,  if we are to avoid telling people how they should think, lest they be considered “wrong”, “evil”, “bad”, etc., we need to understand that everything is subjective and available for debate, discussion, refutation. Under this logical conclusion, how would debating the qualities of our music tastes differ from, say, debating our political standpoints? Are we all of a sudden expected to start throwing this “that’s your opinion!” fallacy into every debate imaginable? Of course not.

When a person states an objective fact, they will typically be stating something that is an objective fact, and they will often have sources and evidence to back up their standpoint. Let’s just take the idea of discussing how gravity works and then pushing an old lady down the stairs. That’s gravity in effect, no? This is not my opinion of gravity or anything, this is a fact. Now, when a person states a subjective opinion, it will be of something that is obviously subjective, and requires no question of whether they’re acting as if it’s factual. Let’s say that somebody says “This orange is disgusting!” Now, would you hear this and rush in and say “Well, hey now, you can’t go around stating your opinion about how you think that orange tastes as if it’s a fact! You may not like the orange, but that doesn’t mean it’s disgusting!”? No? I should hope you wouldn’t. Because it’s dumb as fuck. So why should it be any different if somebody says “This band is terrible!”? It shouldn’t.

These things are obviously opinions relative to the person who speaks them, and people shouldn’t need to consciously censor the way they perceive things just because you might get peeved about their point of view. To the person who says “this band sucks!”, that is unequivocally undeniable. When you come and say, “You may not like them, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad!”, you are forcing your dogma upon people. When somebody says it’s bad, then it is bad, because badness and goodness are subjective qualities apparent to them.

This is only such an annoying problem because it kills the chance for worthwhile debate in so many circumstances. When people come in and kill stimulating talk about music with their “it’s all a matter of opinion” babble, that always turns the conversation into something less worthwhile, something that shouldn’t need discussion or need to be addressed. Of course it’s all opinion—that’s why it’s so much fun to discuss, debate, argue! Opinions can be swayed, or they can be solidified. Sometimes people may truly discover how they feel about a band or an album or anything once they’ve had a chance to logically evaluate their enjoyment in a thought-out discussion.

Of course, there are always exceptions: people who legitimately do believe their opinions are undeniable facts. This seems to be prevalent in childish mindsets where a person will claim that if you don’t like band x, you are wrong and you are obviously ignorant about that type of music, etc. But these people are far and few between if you choose the right people to affiliate with, and it’s best to just ignore this mindset. So next time you see someone claim that a band is awesome, or that a band is terrible, or any other variations of these statements, don’t quickly run in and tell them not to state their opinions as “facts” and bullshit on and on about that. Maybe say, “Oh, you’re not a fan of x? That’s a shame. What don’t you like about them? I quite enjoy them because of reasons x, y and z.” Discuss. Learn. People can point out factors you never even thought of due to their unique perspective. It’s always a delight to legitimately discuss something you love. If you are one of those people who refuses to accept that proper opinionated discussion can exist and that we all need to tip-toe around stating our feelings for certain music (or anything), then you are the problem you so desperately seek to vanquish.

About Michael Snoxall (9 Articles)
Michael Snoxall spends most of his time reading obscure occult books whilst he cheerfully nods along as if he actually understands what he's reading.
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