Twilight (The Twilight Saga, #1) Twilight discussion


239 views
The limits of Subjectivity?

Comments Showing 1-50 of 103 (103 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 31, 2012 06:25PM) (new)

So a common argument in defense of Twilight is, of course, "it's subjective."

I'm going to be a little blunt here, but I think that argument is stupid. Incredibly, incredibly stupid. It's just...I mean, really? How dumb can it get after that?

Well, not always. Sometimes it can be effective, depending on how it's used. But it does annoy me when people use it as an excuse to dismiss a person's arguments. That's not a rebuttal, that's a freaking dismissal.

The problem with the subjectivity card is that it can be used for anything. It does not require any kind of proof, evidence, or support in any shape or form and sometimes it's just an excuse for people to be lazy instead of actually coming up with a halfway decent rebuttal.

I mean, I don't claim to be the best at argumentation--if anything I'd say I'm at best adequate at it. It's just something I thought of.

So what do you think are the limits when someone pulling this card is legitimate, and what line, when transgressed, it becomes illegitimate?


message 2: by M.R. (new) - rated it 1 star

M.R. Graham Oh, absolutely.
I mean, what you like is certainly subjective. I don't like Twilight, but I have no business telling anyone else that they shouldn't, because preference is subjective.
The problem is that people so often use subjectivity in reference to the actual quality of literature. Quality is not subjective -- unless you're talking about quality of entertainment, which goes back to preference, and preference is useless as an argument... 9_9
As soon as subjectivity enters in, I usually regard the argument as over. Nothing constructive or informative is going to be said after that point.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 31, 2012 06:13PM) (new)

The thing is that people act as though objectivity is impossible. That we are 100% ruled by our personal preferences, and that everything is a subjective opinion.

I mostly hate it because it's often an excuse to be lazy instead of coming up with actual argument. It's also hard to point that out without making it look like an ad hominem attack. They can understand the fact that it is "ad hominem" but they CAN'T understand the purpose behind that "ad hominem." It's just frustrating sometimes.

I agree. Subjectivity does not only prevent an argument from moving forward, it pretty much stops it permanently.


Nuran I think it's lazy, adds nothing to the discussion, especially where people are having deep discussion, whether for or against. Fair enough if you added your points across and it's an afterthought. But on it's own, it adds little value because everything is subjective.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 31, 2012 06:14PM) (new)

Yep. It just stunts any kind of forward momentum and is beyond frustrating. I think it's a really dumb and irrelevant thing to point out subjectivity unless one is acting as though their subjective opinion is, in fact, objective. But the opposite actually, in my experience, happens more.


Naiya One of the most important rules in holding a discussion that relates to value is defining the parameters and language used. If you're gonna say something is, for example, "immoral", you need to pin down what morality system you're using. If you're talking about writing quality, you're gonna have to define that too, and that's where people start running into trouble.

Art is very hard to pin down, especially as it is in a constant state of flux. When you add the fact that a person's enjoyment is value all of on its own, whether it be positively or negatively correlated with quality, it becomes even more complicated.


message 7: by M.R. (new) - rated it 1 star

M.R. Graham Indeed. Specificity is the soul of communication. :)

Literature, though, is a special form of art, because language does actually have sets of rules. When those rules are broken, comprehension suffers. So there are some objective criteria for gauging literature.


Kirstyn Unfortunately "It's subjective" is a quick and effective way to end a discussion you don't feel is going your way.


message 9: by Naiya (last edited Dec 31, 2012 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Naiya M.R. wrote: "Indeed. Specificity is the soul of communication. :)

Literature, though, is a special form of art, because language does actually have sets of rules. When those rules are broken, comprehension su..."


Even there, there are plenty of examples of so-called rule breaking in creating literature. It's easy to point at poetry, but even within long prose, you get avant-garde, dadism, futurism, ascemic writing in novels...

And so we come to the question of what we value in writing - do we measure art by how much it appeals to the regular reader? its entertainment value? how different it is? how many academic works have been written about it? on how much we understand of what it's saying? how long it took the author to write it?


message 10: by Sarah (last edited Dec 31, 2012 08:33PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sarah OK that's mean. My only intrest in Twilight is Taylor L. So i'm not a big fan, but don't go around saying terrible things about a book like that. The plot might be annoying but the author's grammer was awesome (not like mine). She is improving too! Plus the story is based off of a dream and all dreams are pretty stupid. That was her first book and I think she rocked it!


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

M.R. wrote: "Literature, though, is a special form of art, because language does actually have sets of rules. When those rules are broken, comprehension suffers. So there are some objective criteria for gauging literature."

That's exactly what I think bothers some people. They don't like the idea of actual "criteria" being used to judge literature because it is, first and foremost, an art. Therefore any "criteria" is seen as something used to distinguish right from wrong when there is no right and wrong in literature.

Personally I believe those rules should be followed, but they can be broken--as long as the author has a decent reason to break those rules, because those rules are set in place for a reason. People have studied literature for thousands of years to put these rules in place, so it always astounds me when people so carelessly and nonchalantly reject these rules as some kind of "oppressor" to their "opinions." Perhaps it's a bit bitchy of me, but it makes me more than a little irritated when people act like those standards exist for no reason. Because that is not true in any way.


message 12: by Eml (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eml It is subjective though, you can't get around that. Perfect example is looking at books they make you read in school; half of them suck. The Pearl. Out of the Dust...I could go on and on and yet these books are considered to be fantastic literature. I like the Twilight series. I’m not going to be embarrassed about liking it either like most people are and say, “Well, I only like it on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and maybe on Saturdays too.”(Okay, I’ve never seen someone write this, but it’s the same thing pretty much as saying you kinda like a series) I don’t think Twilight books are deep philological books, but Meyer has never claimed they are. They’re just a fun read. And while they are not some big social commentary, at least be happy it’s getting people to read. I don’t understand the obsession some people have with slamming the entire series. Wouldn’t your time be better spent talking about books you do like, instead of trying to make someone feel bad about something that gives them a little bit of joy? You can’t ask someone to look at literature objectively because it’s not that kind of thing. Books are art, and art is meant to be interpreted. Especially if it is fiction. Maybe people only bring up the fact that literature is subjective is because they know no argument will change your opinion about the series. A lot of people like to argue about Twilight, but they aren’t willing to open their minds to the possibility of the series being good.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Blueturtles wrote: "She is improving too!"

Gotta agree with that. ;) I actually think Meyer improves her writing with every book she puts out.


Mochaspresso I hate Papa John's pizza. One reason is because I think the sauce is too sweet. My brother loves Papa John's precisely because he likes the sweetness of the sauce. Our opinions of whether papa john's pizza sauce is good or not are subjective because they are based on personal tastes and preferences.

Some opinions on literature are subjective and work exactly the same way. It isn't always about someone being too lazy to form an argument. Sometimes the actual argument boils down to personal tastes and preferences. One person criticizes Twilight's simple prose. Another person happens to like the simplicity. One person doesn't like Edward's controlling tendencies. Another person likes literature that features dominant controlling alpha males. (...which happens to be an actual key character trait of an entire sub-genre within romance novels, btw.) One person likes the invented vampire lore...another person doesn't. One person has issues with the pacing....another thinks the pacing was just fine. Some reasons why a person likes are dislikes a book can actually be subjective.


message 15: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 01, 2013 12:33AM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: " Sometimes the actual argument boils down to personal tastes and preferences."

Why, yes, I do acknowledge in the OP that sometimes it's not all about laziness.

However, quality in literature is not subjective, and the fact is that sometimes, using the "subjectivity" card contributes nothing whatsoever to the argument, and does not move it forward in any way. The two main problems with it is that 1) this "argument" applies to every. single. little. thing. and 2) because it requires no support, evidence or proof to back it up.

One person criticizes Twilight's simple prose. Another person happens to like the simplicity. One person doesn't like Edward's controlling tendencies. Another person likes literature that features dominant controlling alpha males. (...which happens to be an actual key character trait of an entire sub-genre within romance novels, btw.) One person likes the invented vampire lore...another person doesn't. One person has issues with the pacing....another thinks the pacing was just fine.

The problem with that is you're assuming that, since people have different opinions, it must be subjective.

People do think differently, but they can still legitimately back up their opinions with logical evidence, in which case IMO it crosses the "objective" line. Objectivity does not constitute complete agreement. Arguments involving subjectivity are, in my opinion, not arguments, just an exchange of personal tastes.

I get it that sometimes people use their personal tastes to justify what they consider to be an objective opinion--I get that. However I still think that the "it's all subjective" is used way too much in general as a lazy crutch, rather than a necessary way to point out that someone is using their personal tastes to justify their opinion.

Some reasons why a person likes are dislikes a book can actually be subjective.

Yes, but like I said, most of the time people do know whether their criticism is subjective or not.

It's still possible to be objective, and trying to devalue someone's objective criticism with the "subjectivity" card is just stupid IMO. Using one's subjective opinion to justify an objective one, I can understand. But this is what I see happening a lot:

One person: So this is some criteria that I'm applying, here is why x author is a bad writer, here are some quotes, etc. I understand that x author's writing is not to my taste but I think there are technical issues with it that should have been caught by a professional editor.

Responder: It's all subjective!!! Therefore you are WRONG!.


message 16: by Mochaspresso (last edited Jan 01, 2013 01:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: However, quality in literature is not subjective, and the fact is that sometimes, using the "subjectivity" card contributes nothing whatsoever to the argument, and does not move it forward in any way. The two main problems with it is that 1) this "argument" applies to every. single. little. thing. and 2) because it requires no support, evidence or proof to back it up."

I don't agree that it applies to each and every thing. It only applies to those opinions that are based on personal taste or preference. As for backing it up.....how do I "back up" my dislike of sweet pizza sauce and how does my brother "back up" his preference of it? In that particular instance, there isn't any backup necessary other than other than our personal preferences.

The problem with that is you're assuming that, since people have different opinions, it must be subjective.

Actually, I don't think I am. I think the subjective label really only applies to the opinions that seem to be rooted in personal preference.

People do think differently, but they can still legitimately back up their opinions with logical evidence, in which case IMO it crosses the "objective" line. Objectivity does not constitute complete agreement. Arguments involving subjectivity are, in my opinion, not arguments, just an exchange of personal tastes.

Who decides what is logical and what isn't in this type of exchange, though?





I get it that sometimes people use their personal tastes to justify what they consider to be an objective opinion--I get that. However I still think that the "it's all subjective" is used way too much in general as a lazy crutch, rather than a necessary way to point out that someone is using their personal tastes to justify their opinion.

It's still possible to be objective, and trying to devalue someone's objective criticism with the "subjectivity" card is just stupid IMO. Using one's subjective opinion to justify an objective one, I can understand. But this is what I see happening a lot:

One person: So this is some criteria that I'm applying, here is why x author is a bad writer, here are some quotes, etc. I understand that x author's writing is not to my taste but I think there are technical issues with it that should have been caught by a professional editor.

Responder: It's all subjective!!! Therefore you are WRONG!


First, I think this is a over-simplification (and misrepresentation) of some the discussions here that have involved the issue of subjectivity. I will only speak for things that I have said.....I don't think Twilight was particularly well written. I agree with you on some of the more technical aspects of the writing. However, that is not the only criteria that I use to judge the overall quality of a writer and some of those criteria can be highly subjective. (Did I find the story to be engaging? Did the author put a creative new spin on something....like vampire lore? ) In my opinion, the answers to questions like that are subjective.

Another thing is this: if it's "all subjective," what's the point of discussion? What's the point of everything? Why the hell are we even on this site dedicated to book lovers? There are times when yes, it is subjective, but there are also times when it's objective, and mainly what I'm trying to point out is that the "subjectivity" card CAN BE POSSIBLY used as a lazy shield in argumentation, and often is. And that an objective viewpoint on literature is, in fact, possible, and I keep wondering why so many people in general deny this.

Yes, it can sometimes be a lazy shield...but I disagree that it often is being used that way here in these discussions.


as an aside....at this very moment, I am watching Aaron Sorkin on Pierce Morgan's CNN show. Pierce asked him if he thinks that his show "The Newsroom" is a realistic portrayal of an actual newsroom. His answer was along the lines of "Ya know, I am so lucky that I am a fiction writer and that I don't necessarily have to live in the real world in my writing." He went on to say something to the effect of how he has the freedom within fiction to make his world as idealistically perfect or as dysfunctional as he wants it to be. I loved that answer. :)


message 17: by Gerd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gerd M.R. wrote: "The problem is that people so often use subjectivity in reference to the actual quality of literature. Quality is not subjective -- "

Agree and disagree.
Before we can talk about the "quality" of something we would need to establish a standard to measure it against or define its function.
Without that, talking about quality is just a subjective matter.


Nichola Jocelyn wrote: "So a common argument in defense of Twilight is, of course, "it's subjective."

I'm going to be a little blunt here, but I think that argument is stupid. Incredibly, incredibly stupid. It's just...I..."


I think this is a doube edged sword to be honest. Any experience the reader has with a book is completely subjective. Their own outlook and experiences can influence the way they interpret a book or even whether they enjoy it or not. However, when you find someone who refuses point blank to see something in a book which is obvious to everyone else, just because it upsets them or sees something they just want to see it's complete balderdash not sujectivity. In this case yes, it's frustrating when your point is completely dismissed.

I wouldn't mind so much if the other person in the discussion will accept your view as valid whilst holding their own view, the people I follow or whose friends requests I accepted are all very good at this.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "I don't agree that it applies to each and every thing. It only applies to those opinions that are based on personal taste or preference. As for backing it up.....how do I "back up" my dislike of sweet pizza sauce and how does my brother "back up" his preference of it? In that particular instance, there isn't any backup necessary other than other than our personal preferences."

Well I'm not sure if I can draw an appropriate parallel between literature and sauce but I'll do my best...

I suppose you could test the 'quality' of the sauce by its nutritional value. That's the best analogy I can come up with. Nutritional value is to quality and the taste is to taste in literature. Eh. That's the best I can do. I don't think sauce and literature is too good of a comparison because literature is an art and sauce-eating is not (well, I guess one could look at it that way but you know what I mean).

Mocha Spresso wrote: "Actually, I don't think I am. I think the subjective label really only applies to the opinions that seem to be rooted in personal preference."

Ah, sorry. I'd made a bad assumption. Thanks for clarifying.

First, I think this is a over-simplification (and misrepresentation) of some the discussions here that have involved the issue of subjectivity. I will only speak for things that I have said.....I don't think Twilight was particularly well written. I agree with you on some of the more technical aspects of the writing. However, that is not the only criteria that I use to judge the overall quality of a writer and some of those criteria can be highly subjective. (Did I find the story to be engaging? Did the author put a creative new spin on something....like vampire lore? ) In my opinion, the answers to questions like that are subjective."

Well I could argue that the creativity of vampire lore can also be objective, but that's fair enough. I agree. Some questions are subjective.

Yes, it can sometimes be a lazy shield...but I disagree that it often is being used that way here in these discussions.

I had a discussion once that went a little like this:

Commenter: Can you please explain to me why you think x author is a bad writer?

Me: Sure. [insert lengthy explanation]

Commenter: Cool. But isn't writing a matter of opinion?

(btw, that's not very simplified--the only thing I cut down was the lengthy explanation, and the second quote from the "commenter" is nearly an exact one.)

I don't know. It's just in my personal experience, I guess. Or maybe you and I have different standards or something.

Personally for me, when someone pulls out the subjectivity card without directly answering to my points, it's just frustrating. It stunts the discussion. It doesn't move it forward. It kind of makes the other side look like they didn't even read your post--they just skimmed it, caught a few 'negative' opinions and yelled out, "subjective!!!" And it's really hard to point it out without making it look like an ad hominem attack, because the inevitable response is usually something like, "You're being disrespectful to my opinion!"

I think the subjectivity card should be used to directly answer someone's points--directed specifically at a certain point(s) for using one's personal preferences and calling it objective. And people should be able to acknowledge one's objective points before they could ever pull out the subjective card. But I can't say that's the only way I see it being used in the GR discussions.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Nichola wrote: "However, when you find someone who refuses point blank to see something in a book which is obvious to everyone else, just because it upsets them or sees something they just want to see it's complete balderdash not subjectivity."

But then they'll say "just because everyone else thinks so doesn't mean I have to." (Which is a legitimate statement, I'm not trying to argue that it isn't--and unfortunately I think that's the very problem.)

But yeah...it's frustrating because sometimes, you can really tell whether the subjectivity argument is working or not. When it does, you can acknowledge it. When it's not, you can tell that the person is just dismissing your points.


message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:15AM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "Who decides what is logical and what isn't in this type of exchange, though?"

Sometimes everyone can tell whether it's logical or not.

For example, if someone were saying (I'm dumbing this down a lot for the sake of argument) "I hate sparkly vampires, therefore Meyer's vampires are horrible" I think we can pretty much all agree that it's not being logical and objective.

Sometimes it requires debate to decide. If one believed that another's evidence and support wasn't logical, s/he would probably just point it out. The truth is that no one gets to decide anything. That's why we're here to discuss stuff. But basically this was what I was talking about--a person should, if using the subjectivity argument, direct it at a specific point or points instead of the arguments as a whole.


message 22: by Gerd (last edited Jan 01, 2013 09:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gerd Jocelyn wrote: "I suppose you could test the 'quality' of the sauce by its nutritional value. That's the best analogy I can come up with. Nutritional value is to quality and the taste is to taste in literature. Eh. That's the best I can do. I don't think sauce and literature is too good of a comparison because literature is an art and sauce-eating is not (well, I guess one could look at it that way but you know what I mean)."

Ah, but here come the problems, if we talk about sauce for sustenance the yes, nutritional value should absolutely count - but if we talk about sauce solely served to please the senses, what point does nutrition hold then? Long as it isn't exactly detrimental to health?

For me the problem with talking about the quality of literature stems largely from the still widely held notion that reading should mainly consist of so called "Bildungsliteratur" - the idea that reading anything that doesn't educate you is wasted time and therefore all literature that only aims to entertain is by default of low to no quality.


message 23: by Mochaspresso (last edited Jan 01, 2013 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: " Well I'm not sure if I can draw an appropriate parallel between literature and sauce but I'll do my best...

I suppose you could test the 'quality' of the sauce by its nutritional value. That's the best analogy I can come up with. Nutritional value is to quality and the taste is to taste in literature. Eh. That's the best I can do. I don't think sauce and literature is too good of a comparison because literature is an art and sauce-eating is not (well, I guess one could look at it that way but you know what I mean).


You've just altered the discussion and taken it out of "subjective" territory by talking about nutional value, though. Nutritional value isn't subjective. FLAVOR preferences are, though. Then there is also the question of whether my brother cares about nutritional value at all when he is evaluating pizza sauce. Is nutritional value even relavant to a discussion of which sauce TASTES better?

which sauce tastes better? (subjective)

which sauce is healthier for you? (not subjective)

which sauce is better? (possibly subjective based on the value system of the persons evaluating the sauces)

Personally for me, when someone pulls out the subjectivity card without directly answering to my points, it's just frustrating. It stunts the discussion. It doesn't move it forward. It kind of makes the other side look like they didn't even read your post--they just skimmed it, caught a few 'negative' opinions and yelled out, "subjective!!!" And it's really hard to point it out without making it look like an ad hominem attack, because the inevitable response is usually something like, "You're being disrespectful to my opinion!"

Talking about nutritional value would stunt a discussion about Papa John's pizza sauce with my brother because he doesn't care about the nutional value at all. He likes how it tastes. Me harping on nutritional value also stunts the discussion because deep down, I know that nutritional value isn't my biggest objection to it. I really just don't like how it tastes.

I think the subjectivity card should be used to directly answer someone's points--directed specifically at a certain point(s) for using one's personal preferences and calling it objective. And people should be able to acknowledge one's objective points before they could ever pull out the subjective card. But I can't say that's the only way I see it being used in the GR discussions.

That seems fair enough, but by the same token, wouldn't you also have to be willing to acknowledge that when the issue of subjectity does aris that it may not necessarily be that the person is too lazy to form a valid argument?


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 01, 2013 11:11AM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "You've just altered the discussion and taken it out of "subjective" territory by talking about nutional value, though. Nutritional value isn't subjective. FLAVOR preferences are, though. Then there is also the question of whether my brother cares about nutritional value at all when he is evaluating pizza sauce. Is nutritional value even relavant to a discussion of which sauce TASTES better?

which sauce tastes better? (subjective)

which sauce is healthier for you? (not subjective)

which sauce is better? (possibly subjective based on the value system of the persons evaluating the sauces)"


Apologies. I'd thought I was making a clear separation between the subjectivity of personal preferences and objectivity of quality and I'd thought that was obvious. I shouldn't have done that.

To clarify, what I originally meant was that quality is objective, and it doesn't just boil down to subjective preferences.

Talking about nutritional value would stunt a discussion about Papa John's pizza sauce with my brother because he doesn't care about the nutional value at all. He likes how it tastes. Me harping on nutritional value also stunts the discussion because deep down, I know that nutritional value isn't my biggest objection to it. I really just don't like how it tastes.

That's true. If the discussion was about subjective tastes. If it was about quality, i.e. the nutritional value in this case, then talking about subjectivity would stunt the discussion.

That seems fair enough, but by the same token, wouldn't you also have to be willing to acknowledge that when the issue of subjectity does aris that it may not necessarily be that the person is too lazy to form a valid argument?

Wholeheartedly agree--though I can't remember saying that using the subjectivity argument always means the person is being lazy. I did acknowledge that multiple times. It's not always a "stupid" argument--only sometimes it is.


Nichola Jocelyn wrote: "Nichola wrote: "However, when you find someone who refuses point blank to see something in a book which is obvious to everyone else, just because it upsets them or sees something they just want to ..."

You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink. People who dismiss the opinions of others generally don't have scope to learn beyond their current level. This is very much my opinion not stated as a fact. I always think that if you're going to argue something then at least be able to back it up with reasons for why you think it otherwise there's no discussion and no good reason not to at least consider someone else's opinion especially if they believe they have good reason to think it.


message 26: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I know I often just give up on beating a dead horse. People who strongly dislike Twilight are not going to be convinced the series has merits. People who strongly like Twilight are probably not going to change their opinion either. I could argue with direct quotes with page numbers, but a person who hates the series will never see the point I would make because he or she will still twist and interpret the text how she or he sees it, which is subjectivity.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Amy wrote: " I could argue with direct quotes with page numbers, but a person who hates the series will never see the point I would make because he or she will still twist and interpret the text how she or he sees it, which is subjectivity."

That is true. But I have seen the subjectivity card used in an attempt to disarm long arguments, with no support or evidence of any kind. That's what mainly troubles me about it, because oftentimes people don't use it to point out a specific argument--they only do it at the argument as a whole to dismiss it.


message 28: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Jocelyn wrote: "Amy wrote: " I could argue with direct quotes with page numbers, but a person who hates the series will never see the point I would make because he or she will still twist and interpret the text ho..."

Maybe it is "laziness," but I know I don't want to expend a lot of my time looking up direct quotes and page numbers to support my argument for people who hate the series and will never agree with my textual interpretation anyway. I have summarized instances from the books to support my argument but have been told I am wrong or not supporting my point. Sorry, I have too much to do to whip out the book and dig for page numbers.


message 29: by Mochaspresso (last edited Jan 01, 2013 01:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: Apologies. I'd thought I was making a clear separation between the subjectivity of personal preferences and objectivity of quality and I'd thought that was obvious. I shouldn't have done that.

To clarify, what I originally meant was that quality is objective, and it doesn't just boil down to subjective preferences.


and...

That's true. If the discussion was about subjective tastes. If it was about quality, i.e. the nutritional value in this case, then talking about subjectivity would stunt the discussion.



I'm fairly certain that I understand exactly what you mean. I am trying to explain that quality can indeed be subjective if the two people discussing it have varying viewpoints on what quality actually entails or doesn't entail. According to my brother, nutritional value has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of pizza sauce. He cares about is how it tastes based on his preferences. Now we could throw some other arguments into the mix such as whether the sauce from another place is of better quality because it is hand made from fresh ingredients....but none of that is going to matter to him if he doesn't think it also tastes good to him based on his preferences. Same with me. He could tell me that Papa John's uses fresh ingredients for their sauce too (I don't really know for sure whether they do or not. Let's just pretend for argument sake that they do). It wouldn't sway me in the least because I still think its too sweet. That is when quality does indeed become subjective.

I understand that you feel that there is already an established standard for quality with regards to evaluating literature and you think that Twilight fails in some of those areas and therefore isn't "quality". What I am trying to explain is that not everyone is basing their impressions of quality on those same "standards" and even when they are, not everyone agrees on where Twilight fails and succeeds and some of the reasonings behind those opinions may or may not be subjective.


message 30: by Cassie (last edited Jan 01, 2013 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cassie Some things in life ARE subjective, weather you like it or not (Call it a paradox, if you must)
You can't prove everything with science and facts, ESPECIALLY a person's PERSONAL preference.

That's something the world will just have to deal with.
The "false consensus effect" (a cognitive bias whereby a person tends to overestimate how much other people agree with him or her. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False-co...) strongly comes to mind as I read through these comments.
What many believe to be the standard of good or bad literature that you claim exists, is nothing more or less than a popular opinion, but it is by no means whatsoever the "correct" or "incorrect" opinion.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "I understand that you feel that there is already an established standard for quality with regards to evaluating literature and you think that Twilight fails in some of those areas and therefore isn't "quality". What I am trying to explain is that not everyone is basing their impressions of quality on those same "standards" and even when they are, not everyone agrees on where Twilight fails and succeeds and some of the reasonings behind those opinions may or may not be subjective."

I know that.

Okay, just as a general statement: the OP was not meant to say that subjectivity was stupid. It really wasn't. That's just what everyone seems to be taking it as. I'm not trying to put down anyone who did use the subjectivity thing. I'm not saying, at all, that subjectivity in general is stupid.

My main point is that just as there are things that are subjective (see, right there, please notice this--I acknowledge that things are subjective), there are things that are objective as well. The reason why I put up this discussion question was because I saw a few people acting as though objectivity was impossible, and that's not true. Not because I don't believe in subjectivity, or I think it's stupid. What I think is stupid is the way the subjectivity argument is sometimes used. Not subjectivity in and of itself like people seem to be taking it.

What you seem to be uncomfortable with is the idea of subjectivity being challenged. That's not what I'm trying to do. What I'm pointing out is that sometimes (emphasis on SOMETIMES--I did not not not say "always"), using the subjectivity argument doesn't really do anything for the discussion because occasionally it's more of a "pointing out the obvious general" thing than a "pointing out someone using personal preferences as justification for an objective opinion."

That is all. I don't think we can get any more out of this discussion since I've acknowledged multiple times that subjectivity is possible, and I think the point I'm trying to get across is interpreted more as some kind of challenge to the right people have to their individual opinions. And that's not what I'm trying to do.


Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: Okay, just as a general statement: the OP was not meant to say that subjectivity was stupid. It really wasn't. That's just what everyone seems to be taking it as.

Yet, in the first line of the original post, you referred to the argument of subjectivity as stupid and dumb. How else would those words be taken? Those were your words and they were very clear. Yes, you do later go on to add caveats and disclaimers for it up the wazoo....but you did use those words originally.

That is all. I don't think we can get any more out of this discussion since I've acknowledged multiple times that subjectivity is possible, and I think the point I'm trying to get across is interpreted more as some kind of challenge to the right people have to their individual opinions. And that's not what I'm trying to do.


I don't think that you are challenging anyone's entitlement to their own opinion at all. What I was challenging was your assertion that if they view certain opinions as subjective, that it is frequently done so out of laziness and an inability or unwillingness to form a "proper argument". You also said that this seemed to happen often. Well, that is true. It does, but in most of the instances that I have seen it happen, it seemed to be applicable imo. You also said that quality is not subjective when it comes to literature. I disagree with that wholeheartedly.

What you seem to be uncomfortable with is the idea of subjectivity being challenged. That's not what I'm trying to do.

That isn't what I am uncomfortable with. I fully understand that you are not arguing against subjectivity....you are arguing against how you think it is frequently being used in discussions. I fully understand that because you said.... What I think is stupid is the way the subjectivity argument is sometimes used. Not subjectivity in and of itself like people seem to be taking it.

The problem is that this is not what you originally said in the original post. This is your clean up and clarification later on.


message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 01, 2013 10:44PM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: Yet, in the first line of the original post, you referred to the argument of subjectivity as stupid and dumb. How else would those words be taken? Those were your words and they were very clear. Yes, you do later go on to add caveats and disclaimers for it up the wazoo....but you did use those words originally.

This is what I wrote:

How dumb can it get after that?

Well, not always. Sometimes it can be effective, depending on how it's used.


In the second line I acknowledge that sometimes, it is not stupid. Also, note that I said the argument of subjectivity was sometimes stupid, not that subjectivity in and of itself is stupid. There is a difference between the two.

The problem is that this is not what you originally said in the original post. This is your clean up and clarification later on.

Like I said, there is a clear distinction between the way the subjectivity argument is used, and subjectivity in and of itself. The line there seemed to be blurring a bit, so I decided to emphasize it. The application of something is very, very different from actual said thing.


message 34: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 01, 2013 10:54PM) (new)

I don't think that you are challenging anyone's entitlement to their own opinion at all. What I was challenging was your assertion that if they view certain opinions as subjective, that it is frequently done so out of laziness and an inability or unwillingness to form a "proper argument". You also said that this seemed to happen often. Well, that is true. It does, but in most of the instances that I have seen it happen, it seemed to be applicable imo.

Well then, it looks like we have very different standards as to when it's actually applicable and when it's not. For it to be applicable to me, this argument has to be directed at specific point(s), not a simple one-liner in an attempt to disarm long arguments in the guise of trying to be clever. Also, the person using it has to acknowledge objectivity first before pulling this card. In my own experience this is kind of rare.

You also said that quality is not subjective when it comes to literature. I disagree with that wholeheartedly.

Yes, I did say that.

We aren't ruled 100% by our personal preferences. People in general can tell when something's "simply not to their taste," and when something actually has some problems.

Just because we criticize a book, does not immediately mean that it's simply "not to our taste." Sometimes we actually have some valid criticism for it that doesn't boil down to personal preferences. In fact, I've defended books that I "personally" disliked but "objectively" regarded as quality literature.

I mean, of course we'll have some bias. It's impossible not to be biased. But we're not completely biased. To make it a little more specific: quality is not wholly subjective, it is only a little subjective.

It is possible to be objective, and the idea that it's impossible is mainly what I'm objecting to. (Maybe I should use a different word other than "object" with all this objective subjective stuff going around but at the moment my vocab is a little limited :P)


message 35: by Mochaspresso (last edited Jan 02, 2013 02:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: "Mocha Spresso wrote: Yet, in the first line of the original post, you referred to the argument of subjectivity as stupid and dumb. How else would those words be taken? Those were your words and the..."

I wonder if you even realize what you are doing. You did this before with the lazy housewife discussion. You make statements (with some rather inflammatory word choices). Sometimes you even throw in a small contradictory disclaimer that is supposed to magically negate the original statement in some way but actually doesn't. People address those statements. You attempt to either "rephrase" them (you call it "clarify") or call attention back to the minor disclaimer and then claim that you were being misunderstood all along. It's a very convenient method of backtracking on your words.

The holidays are over and I'm off to work. I will say more on the original issue later which is, if I understand you correctly, the way that the subjectivity argument is sometimes used (or misused) in discussions. (If so, this is what thought I was talking about all along...but whatever)


Cassie Would anyone be so kind as to give a few examples of what is not subjective in literature?

I can think of a few things, like whichever coast of Brazil being inaccurate, or a comma being in the wrong place. But while these are factually inaccurate, what is subjective is how much you actually care. Am I supposed to be bothered or upset about that comma? Is it supposed to have any effect on my reading experience?

There are also things like saying Alice bribed a security guard with a currency that doesn't exist, which is factually incorrect. No matter how you try to view it. ... Well using factually incorrect examples is more complicated, I don't really know what I'm saying here. Even though the statement is incorrect, that doesn't really mean someone is going to view Twilight any better because of it.

As for it being a lazy approach, I say that's true, but it's okay. Some discussions are just completely pointless to some people, especially if the discussion has been had before. If you've had the discussion "is Stephenie a good writer?" We all know how it's going to end up. You are either going to have to agree to disagree, or you're going to make a new enemy. Sometimes, it may be a better decision to just skip the discussion entirely. Not all literary discussions are enlightening or even entertaining.


Also, I would strongly consider looking into the false consensus theory. That "it makes me a little more than irritated" comment was almost the epitome of it and frankly the most subjective comment on this thread.


message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 02, 2013 09:38AM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "Sometimes you even throw in a small contradictory disclaimer that is supposed to magically negate the original statement in some way but actually doesn't. People address those statements. You attempt to either "rephrase" them (you call it "clarify") or call attention back to the minor disclaimer and then claim that you were being misunderstood all along. It's a very convenient method of backtracking on your words."

When you say "minor disclaimer" are you saying I didn't put "enough" emphasis on it to be believable?

If you are...well, I don't know what to do, then. It feels like I have to repeat and acknowledge something ten thousand times before I can "legitimately" say I actually did do that.

Sometimes I wonder why certain things fly over people's heads so easily but other things are so serious to people they keep harping on it and refuse to let it go when it was really just an irrelevant detail.

I don't know if you took one look at the sentence "I think that argument is stupid" and got irritated or something.

I don't think that disclaimer was contradictory. I put it in there because I didn't want to use absolutes and generalize. "Oh, the argument of subjectivity is ALWAYS stupid." I want it to look like "the argument of subjectivity is SOMETIMES stupid."

Or maybe the connotation of the word "stupid" is so strong that everything else pretty much fades to the background?

If that's the problem here, well, I'm sorry then. I should not have used that word. That word choice was problematic and "inflammatory" as you put it. I'll replace it with "sometimes I think the argument of subjectivity is used illegitimately." Is that okay?


message 38: by Jeni (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeni For me, how the story makes me feel is what is subjective. Commas, typos, poor grammar, inaccurate historical details are all things that I feel give us legitimate reasons to take a critical look at a work.

Despite all of the grammatical errors, typos, strange phrasing, and inconsistencies, many people subjectively enjoy the Twilight story because they feel a certain way when reading it.

There is no right or wrong with regard to someone's feelings. They are what they are and are subjective. Anything else that can be legitimately criticized for poor execution is fair game. That's what language rules are for.

An observation: many people feel so strongly about a story that they cannot take a step back and see error or anything wrong with it as presented. When others can do this, and enjoy discussing these aspects, they are often attacked as "haters" of the stories, when in fact, many would just have liked the opportunity to enjoy the story more if these things had been eliminated.

TL;DR: How you feel is subjective; language rules are not.


message 39: by Alex (last edited Jan 02, 2013 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alex Fundamentally I don't believe in objective standards of aesthetic criteria, and do believe in the notion of subjectivity, but even moreso I think the random ramblings of someone who knows little about literature and who has never so much as picked up a book written by Eliot or Dickens and proudly proclaims "this book is good because I like it and who are you to tell me otherwise ... it's all subjective" are a little cheap.

What I don't like about it is that it makes no attempt to engage with the text on any level beyond "I liked it" which is a completely benign, empty statement. It's meaningless. It doesn't engage with the way the text was written, the culture it was written in, the meaning of the text or ask questions as to the effect that the text has on people. In short, there's no framework - critical or otherwise - for approaching the text beyond simple like or dislike.

One could argue that framework is legitimate. I think it is. But it's also boring and reductive and has no place in an actual conversation about any book due to the solipsistic nature of it. The second that you start discussing the contents of a book with another person the onus is on you to create a framework for conversation that meets others on a common intellectual ground. The question could simply be "why do you like it?" or - as we've had a long debate on recently "can Meyer write well", if you're going to ask that question you need to set up an arena and rules for that critical debate, not simply bow out with "well, it's subjective" as soon as anyone makes a comment that looks like objectivity. "i.e Meyer cannot write well because..." One can talk about the politics or problems behind creating aesthetic standards for literary appraisal if one wants to, but I suspect people don't want to do that.

In short, talking about literature is absolutely nothing like - not even the same ball park - as talking about the subjectivity of one's preference for one pizza over another.


message 40: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Alex wrote: "Fundamentally I don't believe in objective standards of aesthetic criteria, and do believe in the notion of subjectivity, but even moreso I think the random ramblings of someone who knows little ab..."

You bring up some great points. I have read many "classics" (obviously had to do some "heavy" reading to complete my undergrad in English), and while I could never, ever compare the quality of Dickens or Austen to Meyer, there was something I actually really liked about Twilight.

It is hard to put my finger on it, but I think it was just that it was escapist literature. Sometimes, I don't feel like working as hard to read Bronte for example, so I like a novel that requires little thought that I can lose myself in.

There were times I thought Edward was dead (pun intended) sexy when he was kissing along her jawline, for instance. My husband is not very touchy-feely, so maybe Edward's touchy-feely behavior filled some sort of void, ha ha.

Anyway, I guess my roundabout point is that even though I enjoyed Twilight, I can separate my analysis of Twilight (and other simpler escapist lit) from my analysis of higher literary works. Even though I cannot give a very deep analysis of why I liked Twilight, I can say I enjoyed it without putting it on the same level as a classic. Now, I'm just rambling...


message 41: by Darci (new) - rated it 1 star

Darci Layla wrote: "Alex wrote: "In short, talking about literature is absolutely nothing like - not even the same ball park - as talking about the subjectivity of one's preference for one pizza over another. ..."

I ..."


No one is attempting to argue that preferences are not subjective. In your Dickens example, you even says "did not like". That's a subjective preference.

What people are saying is that there are also objective criteria involved in literary analysis, which cannot be ignored simply by waving a hand and saying, "I liked/didn't like it, you're opinion is invalid." Grammar and sentence structure are objective. Adherence to point-of-view is objective.

Some of the problem is that there's also a thing we call "good writing" that is easy to recognize but hard to pin down. Can you objectively measure how well a sentence flows? No, but an experienced reader can tell.


message 42: by Mochaspresso (last edited Jan 02, 2013 08:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mochaspresso Jocelyn wrote: When you say "minor disclaimer" are you saying I didn't put "enough" emphasis on it to be believable?

If you are...well, I don't know what to do, then. It feels like I have to repeat and acknowledge something ten thousand times before I can "legitimately" say I actually did do that.


Minor disclaimer as in yes, you do say it....but then you also said something else that directly contradicts or negates it. The disclaimer then comes across as conciliatory and insincere.


Sometimes I wonder why certain things fly over people's heads so easily but other things are so serious to people they keep harping on it and refuse to let it go when it was really just an irrelevant detail.

I don't know if you took one look at the sentence "I think that argument is stupid" and got irritated or something.

I don't think that disclaimer was contradictory. I put it in there because I didn't want to use absolutes and generalize. "Oh, the argument of subjectivity is ALWAYS stupid." I want it to look like "the argument of subjectivity is SOMETIMES stupid."

Or maybe the connotation of the word "stupid" is so strong that everything else pretty much fades to the background?

If that's the problem here, well, I'm sorry then. I should not have used that word. That word choice was problematic and "inflammatory" as you put it. I'll replace it with "sometimes I think the argument of subjectivity is used illegitimately." Is that okay?


I think people should use whatever words most accurately describe how they truly feel. I think people should own their words, too.

It doesn't matter how you attempt to rephrase it. I don't agree. My reason for not agreeing is not because I am misunderstanding you. You are very clear. I don't agree that the argument of subjectivity was used illegitimately as often as you are trying to imply. In most instances, I seemed legitimate to me.

For example, someone argues that Twilight is sexist because Bella cooks for her father. They think that this is an objective argument. I say that this argument can also be highly subjective because not everyone views cooking as solely a female endeavor. The observation of the action is objective.....but the interpretation of it is what is subjective because that is based on personal views.


message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 03, 2013 03:36PM) (new)

Mocha Spresso wrote: "It doesn't matter how you attempt to rephrase it. I don't agree. My reason for not agreeing is not because I am misunderstanding you. You are very clear.

That wasn't really the line I was taking. I rephrase it not to imply a different meaning but to soften the connotations, because that's what I thought seemed to be bothering you. I'm sorry, but I can't help but speculate that if I had used a different word choice your reaction to the OP would have been different. You said my word choice was "inflammatory" so I figured the connotations of my words came across as stronger than reasonable.

Both statements describe with relatively equal accuracy how I feel. The only difference is, like I said, the connotations, because that's what I thought seemed to bother you. Sorry if that's not correct--in that case you can correct me on that one.

For example, someone argues that Twilight is sexist because Bella cooks for her father. They think that this is an objective argument. I say that this argument can also be highly subjective because not everyone views cooking as solely a female endeavor. The observation of the action is objective.....but the interpretation of it is what is subjective because that is based on personal views.

Yep. I never said otherwise.

Actually, that's a good example of what I ALSO would consider to be valid use of the subjectivity argument. It's directed at a specific point, and it acknowledges the objectivity. I agree with you on that one.


message 44: by Layla (last edited Jan 03, 2013 12:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Layla Payne Darci wrote: "No one is attempting to argue that preferences are not subjective. In your Dickens example, you even says "did not like". That's a subjective preference..."

I was replying to the statement that literature cannot be likened to tastes and preferences in sauce as was the example stated earlier.(refer to my earlier post). What you are talking about is a different matter all together.


message 45: by Gerd (last edited Jan 03, 2013 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gerd Alex wrote: "What I don't like about it is that it makes no attempt to engage with the text on any level beyond "I liked it" which is a completely benign, empty statement. It's meaningless. It doesn't engage with the way the text was written, the culture it was written in, the meaning of the text or ask questions as to the effect that the text has on people. In short, there's no framework - critical or otherwise - for approaching the text beyond simple like or dislike."

You're probably right, but "twilight" just isn't the kind of book that lends itself to this kind of discussion, much, it's like trying to get all philosophic over "Dallas" (I used to watch it religiously, but it doesn't have much meaning beyond being a Pop-culture-phenomena).



Darci wrote: "Grammar and sentence structure are objective."

But a lot of the criticism aimed at it is not.
I’ve seen dozens of posts where people complain about Meyers punctuation - often solely because it isn’t standard use, but not factually wrong. So, even there you have fields of subjectivity. Some of the rules she uses are considered outdated in modern writing - but that is not the same as being grammatically wrong.

Darci wrote: "Some of the problem is that there's also a thing we call "good writing" that is easy to recognize but hard to pin down. Can you objectively measure how well a sentence flows? No, but an experienced reader can tell."

But the "flow" is a completely subjective measure. Therefore, a reader will judge the flow of a sentence on his personal preferences, which makes it a useless tool for objective measurement - further, just because a sentence may have a great flow, it could still be not conductive to "good writing".


Alex Gerd wrote: "Alex wrote: "What I don't like about it is that it makes no attempt to engage with the text on any level beyond "I liked it" which is a completely benign, empty statement. It's meaningless. It does..."

So "it's all subjective" is an argument that can only be considered to apply when we're talking about literature that is commonly perceived as "bad literature"?


message 47: by Gerd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gerd Not really, so called "good literature" is just as subjective and may be just as "shallow" - the only difference is that trivial literature like "twilight" is honest about it. :)


Alex Gerd wrote: "Not really, so called "good literature" is just as subjective and may be just as "shallow" - the only difference is that trivial literature like "twilight" is honest about it. :)"

This subjectivist position seems a little confused to me. Surely there's no "shallow" or "deep", merely the blunt fact of whether one happened to enjoy it or or not - like a pizza.


message 49: by Gerd (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gerd Now you begin to get what literature is all about! :D


message 50: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 03, 2013 01:27PM) (new)

Just as a little note:

In the OP I wasn't trying to challenge subjectivity.

I was questioning at what limit should people stop using the argument. i.e., at what point does this argument become illegitimate? (^^See???? It's the freaking discussion question!!! The limits of subjectivity?)

I think we can all agree that the line exists, because subjectivity is so applicable to every damn thing that if there was no line all literary discussion would be empty and meaningless.

To put it another way:

People could use subjectivity to defend things like racism. "Oh, I think racism is awesome, it's my opinion, so fuck you for contradicting that."

Or antifeminism. "It's okay to beat up women because it's my opinion and feminism is alllll subjective."

Or child abuse. "I think children are stupid animals that deserve to be whipped! It's my opinion!"

Or Hitler. "I think Hitler was awesome to slaughter six million Jews. It's my opinion and it's subjective."

If all we talked about were subjective preferences and therefore makes every opinion a valid one, why do we even bother to fight things like antifeminism, racism and child abuse? It's all subjective, right?

Why do we even exchange ideas? Why do we question our society and our way of life? It's subjective, right?????

So again: I'm not trying to say that subjectivity is stupid, but questioning at what line this card becomes illegitimate. It's there, all right...but where is what I'm asking.

For those of you who thought I was saying subjectivity is stupid...no. I apologize if it came across that way and hope I was able to make it a bit more clear.


« previous 1 3
back to top