Comparing Apples and Oranges
14 August, 2017 - 3 min read
Although, at face value, the answer to the posed question only decides which fruit to indulge in at any given time, the process by which that solution is achieved is far more rewarding than the juicy treat yielded by the initial inquiry. In accident, the two items are quite similar. They are both small, brightly colored, juicy, equally affordable, healthy fruits. Neither one possesses an objectively superior quality which would advance it in the hierarchy of otherwise equally delectable fruits. In essence, however, one may be much more preferable to its consumer. Although the decision between two good things ought to be easy, it is often, in fact, the hardest. As human beings with extensively complex consciences, decisions between an objectively good and bad thing are comparatively easier to make than those choices we make which have no impact on our moral status or those around us. There is no empirically accepted metric by which the average, non-citrus-allergic human being can inherently compare the meaningful goodness of two things as similar as apple and orange. Thus, human beings’ thoughts are far more susceptible to being hijacked by the contemplation of which fruit to omit from their salad, than they are to struggle with Solomonic moral dilemmas regarding the splitting of babies. Therefore, the best way to analyze two similar and morally irrelevant objects is to assess their ability to fulfill their purpose relative to the individual affected.
Luckily for the indecisive and hungry thinkers of the 21st century who find themselves stuck between the ongoing internal struggle between red and orange, the German philosopher Edmund Husserl pioneered an appropriate framework which can be used to begin to assess such seeming equivalencies as apples and oranges known as phenomenology. In attempting to achieve an objective determination, Husserl thought it was first necessary to not only acknowledge our own subjective biases which impact our decision making, but to embrace them, so as to strip away all the additives which contaminate our perception of an object’s or experience’s essence. Expanding upon this means of analyzing the world around us, I would argue that these biases, although menial when taken by themselves (orange or red, needs peeling or can be eaten whole, sweet or tangy), carry the most weight when acknowledged collectively according to the individual. By departing from the objectivity-driven quest for certainty pursued by the phenomenological lens of Husserl and those who followed him, in favor of a focus on those subjective qualities we, as fruit consumers, ascribe to our agonizingly tantamount produce, a relativistic structure of thought can be used to reveal the the solution as to which fruit we ought to choose. Whereas Husserl’s phenomenological approach still attempts to yield an objective answer through acknowledgement and subsequent removal of subjective factors, I think that these subjective factors provide the most informative measure of a fruit’s efficacy to satiate the individual’s desire.
When picking between an apple and an orange, perspective is everything. Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological approach to analyzing the nature of an experience according to the extensive context by which it is observed can only get us so far when examining things of such little consequence as fruits. When faced with the crux of Granny Smith or Clementine, and after reducing either to a lump of its essence –the sum of only its eidetic parts– how could anybody enjoy either? If an object is only comparable according to its ability to fulfill its purpose as defined by its user, don’t let the question consume you; consume the apple (or orange if that’s what you prefer).