META: The Problem of Subjectivity

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Wed Mar 12 23:41:40 PDT 2008

On Mar 13, 1:29 pm, Andrew Burton <tuglyrai... at> wrote:
> Martin Phipps wrote:
> > I wouldn't go that far because that would mean that all criticism is
> > subjective.  If we eliminate value judgements from our reviews and
> > just make factual statements then those factual statements are, by
> > definition, objective.
> And by definition, that's not a criticism, it's recounting facts.

crit·i·cism      / kr t  s z m/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled
Pronunciation[krit-uh-siz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA
�noun 1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2. the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
3. the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality
of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit,
dramatic production, etc.
4. a critical comment, article, or essay; critique.
5. any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the
purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their
authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc.: historical
criticism; literary criticism.
6. investigation of the text, origin, etc., of literary documents,
esp. Biblical ones: textual criticism. Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc.

I concede that the usual definition of criticism involves "passing
judgment" but "analyzing content" is also criticism.  You can analyze
the works of Shakespeare without dismissing any of them as "clunkers".

> What's the point of an "objective review" the way you describe it, and
> why would I bother reading it when the full story is just as readily
> available?

I would never read a review of a story I hadn't read or didn't plan to
read: I wouldn't want to have the nature of the story distorted as it
was filtered through a third party's invective.

>> pointing out errors is not the same as making
>> a value judgement.

>It can be.

Pointing out errors _alone_ is not the same as making a value
judgement.  I can like a story and still find fault with it.


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