Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics

Objectivity requires not only seeing the object as it is but also seeing oneself as one is, i.e., being aware of the particular constellation in which one finds oneself as an observer related to the object of observation. Productive thinking, then, is determined by the nature of the object and the nature of the subject who relates himself to his object in the process of thinking. This twofold determination constitutes objectivity, in contrast to false subjectivity in which the thinking is not controlled by the object and thus degenerates into prejudice, wishful thinking, and phantasy. But objectivity is not, as it is often implied in a false idea of “scientific” objectivity, synonymous with detachment, with absence of interest and care. How can one penetrate the veiling surface of things to their causes and relationships if one does not have an interest that is vital and sufficiently impelling for so laborious a task? How could the aims of inquiry be formulated except by reference to the interests of man? Objectivity does not mean detachment, it means respect; that is, the ability not to distort and to falsify things, persons, and oneself. But does not the subjective factor in the observer, his interests, tend to distort his thinking for the sake of arriving at desired results? Is not the lack of personal interest the condition of scientific inquiry? The idea that lack of interest is a condition for recognizing the truth is fallacious. There hardly has been any significant discovery or insight which has not been prompted by an interest of the thinker. In fact, without interests, thinking becomes sterile and pointless. What matters is not whether or not there is an interest, but what kind of interest there is and what its relation to the truth will be… It is never an interest per se which distorts ideas, but only those interests which are incompatible with the truth, with the discovery of the nature of the object under observation.

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