I asked her if she believed you could ever truly understand another culture. I told her the longer I stayed, the more asinine the attempt seemed, and that what I’d become more interested in is how we believed we could be objective in any way at all, we who each came in with our own personal definitions of kindness, strength, masculinity, femininity, God, civilisation, right and wrong.

Of course, I do not believe that there is such a thing as a ‘value-free’ science, much less a value-free ‘social science.’ Hence, I do not urge anything so naive as a value-free observer or observation; on the contrary, what I urge is that the observer’s aims and values be as clear and explicit as possible.

Given cognitive vulnerabilities, it would be convenient to have an arrangement whereby reality could tell us off; and that is precisely what science is. Scientific methodology is the arrangement that allows reality to answer us back.

She finds this objectivity of hers, this clarity, almost more depressing than she can bear, not because there is anything hideous or repellant about this man but because he has now returned to the ordinary level, the level of things she can see, in all their amazing and complex particularity, but cannot touch.

It should be apparent that the belief in objectivity in journalism, as in other professions, is not just a claim about what kind of knowledge is reliable. It is also a moral philosophy, a declaration of what kind of thinking one should engage in, in making moral decisions. It is, moreover, a political commitment, for it provides a guide to what groups one should acknowledge as relevant audiences for judging one’s own thoughts and acts.

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