Objectivity is both a metaphysical and an epistemological concept. It pertains to the relationship of consciousness to existence. Metaphysically, it is the recognition of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness. Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a perceiver’s (man’s) consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic). This means that although reality is immutable and, in any given context, only one answer is true, the truth is not automatically available to a human consciousness and can be obtained only by a certain mental process which is required of every man who seeks knowledge — that there is no substitute for this process, no escape from the responsibility for it, no shortcuts, no special revelations to privileged observers — and that there can be no such thing as a final “authority” in matters pertaining to human knowledge. Metaphysically, the only authority is reality; epistemologically — one’s own mind. The first is the ultimate arbiter of the second.
The concept of objectivity contains the reason why the question “Who decides what is right or wrong?” is wrong. Nobody “decides.” Nature does not decide — it merely is; man does not decide, in issues of knowledge, he merely observes that which is. When it comes to applying his knowledge, man decides what he chooses to do, according to what he has learned, remembering that the basic principle of rational action in all aspects of human existence, is: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” This means that man does not create reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality.
Objectivity begins with the realization that man (including his every attribute and faculty, including his consciousness) is an entity of a specific nature who must act accordingly; that there is no escape from the law of identity, neither in the universe with which he deals nor in the working of his own consciousness, and if he is to acquire knowledge of the first, he must discover the proper method of using the second; that there is no room for the arbitrary in any activity of man, least of all in his method of cognition — and just as he has learned to be guided by objective criteria in making his physical tools, so he must be guided by objective criteria in forming his tools of cognition: his concepts.
Most people . . . think that abstract thinking must be “impersonal” — which means that ideas must hold no personal meaning, value or importance to the thinker. This notion rests on the premise that a personal interest is an agent of distortion. But “personal” does not mean “nonobjective”; it depends on the kind of person you are. If your thinking is determined by your emotions, then you will not be able to judge anything, personally or impersonally. But if you are the kind of person who knows that reality is not your enemy, that truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to you and to your own life — then, the more passionately personal the thinking, the clearer and truer.