Objective Knowledge vs. Subjective Knowledge

Something is objective when it is independent of an individual’s personal preference, interpretation, belief or opinion. For example, 2×2=4 is the case whether or not one agrees or feels any different on the matter.

Something is subjective when it depends on personal preference, interpretation, belief or opinion. For example, “Chocolate ice cream is the most delicious flavor of ice cream ever!” This statement is the case because I think it so, and not because it is the case independent of my personal opinion.

In The Moonstone, the relationship between objective and subjective knowledge is largely portrayed by the multiple narration style of the novel. The reader is given several different perspectives that build on the mystery of the missing moonstone and attempt to arrive at the truth. Often times, subjective accounts and events related by different characters skew the truth and lead to further confusion. In the First Period of the novel, Gabriel Betteredge offers his account of the facts on the loss of the moonstone based on his memory of events.  But how reliable are accounts based on memory? Betteredge claims that recalling dates is a helpful way to retrieve memories. He says that “When you come to fix your memory with a date in this way, it is wonderful what your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion. The only difficulty is to fetch out the dates, in the first place.”

There have been studies performed on the creation of false memories as well as on eye witness accounts of crimes that show that memory is not always a reliable method of accounting for factual events. There have been cases of erroneous criminal convictions based on false memories much like Rachel’s report of “seeing” Franklin Blake take the diamond.

Here are some interesting videos on memory you can take a look at when time permits:
This is a short youtube video that briefly speaks on the subject of false memory:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHPQYQ3NOjg

This is also a very short video that briefly speaks on studies that were made on people who tend to remember based on dates of events: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkvOMt34hAo

You can also watch this video when time allows (it is longer) but more detailed when it comes to erroneous eyewitness testimony based on memory:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB2OegI6wvI

Different narrators in the novel report accounts of events based on their subjective experience and memory. Some narrators depended on the memories of others as a means of filling in the gaps of their own memories. Here is a quote that is a clear example of the reliance on another’s memory for reassurance: “I resolved—as a means of enriching the deficient resources of my own memory—to appeal to the memory of the rest of the guests; to write down all that they could recollect of the social events of the birthday; and to test the result, thus obtained, by the light of what had happened afterwards, when the company had left the house.”  Ultimately, attempting to reach objective truth based on subjective knowledge is doomed to fail.

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