6 Aug

No such thing as pure objectivity

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/06/15

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on lessons for faith from physics

“We know today that in a physical experiment the observer himself enters into the experiment and only by doing so can arrive at a physical experience. This means that there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experiment, nature’s answer, depends on the question put to it. In the answer there is always a bit of the question and a bit of the questioner himself; it reflects not only nature in itself, in its pure objectivity, but also gives back something of man, of what is characteristically ours, a bit of the human subject. This too, mutatis mutandis, is true of the question of God. There is no such thing as a mere observer. There is no such thing as pure objectivity. One can even say that the higher an object stands in human terms, the more it penetrates the center of individuality; and the more it engages the beholder’s individuality, then the smaller the possibility of the mere distancing involved in pure objectivity. Thus, wherever an answer is presented as unemotionally objective, as a statement that finally goes beyond the prejudices of the pious and provides purely factual, scientific information, than it has to be said that the speaker has here fallen victim to self-deception. This kind of objectivity is quite simply denied to man. He cannot ask and exist as a mere observer. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Even the reality ‘God’ can only impinge on the vision of him who enters into the experiment with God — the experiment that we call faith. Only by entering does one experience; only by cooperating in the experiment does one ask at all; and only he who asks receives an answer.”

—from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1968)

Click here to subscribe to the Addenda RSS feed.