• Xtrix
    831
    I'm wondering how many people in this forum still see the world in this way or something similar to it. It seems to be the philosophical basis for modern science, at least since Descartes.
  • Wayfarer
    9.6k
    It's an inevitability of human existence. Newborn infants have no such conception and it is one of the broad parameters that is developed in the first several years of existence. Thereafter it forms a kind of implicit understanding of the nature of the world.

    Historically, this becomes especially significant since Descartes, as you note. In fact a philosopher named a condition which he says characterises a lot of human thought since Descartes, which he described as 'Cartesian anxiety':

    Cartesian anxiety refers to the notion that, since René Descartes posited his influential form of body-mind dualism, Western civilization has suffered from a longing for ontological certainty, or feeling that scientific methods, and especially the study of the world as a thing separate from ourselves, should be able to lead us to a firm and unchanging knowledge of ourselves and the world around us. The term is named after Descartes because of his well-known emphasis on "mind" as different from "body", "self" as different from "other".

    Richard J. Bernstein coined the term in his 1983 book Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.

    In my analysis this marks the advent of the distinctively modern outlook, formed by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which sought to sweep away all of the ambiguities and obscurities associated with metaphysics and view the world and its problems solely through the perspective of scientific rationalism. However as various critics of the Enlightenment have long since noted, this too embodies a kind of metaphysics, or rather, attempts to address many of the questions associated with metaphysics through the perspective of naturalism.
  • tim wood
    4.4k
    I'm wondering how many people in this forum still see the world in this way or something similar to it. It seems to be the philosophical basis for modern science, at least since Descartes.Xtrix
    With reference to the OP, do you see the world in some other way? what other way would there be to see the world?
  • bongo fury
    416
    at least since Descartes.Xtrix

    Or at least Ockham.

    "Idea" is the great interloper, an unnecessary middle man between word and object.
  • Andrew M
    967
    It's worth noting the grammatical origin of those two terms which have often acquired different meanings in the history of philosophy (including with Descartes' subject-object dualism).

    The subject is, according to a tradition that can be traced back to Aristotle (and that is associated with phrase structure grammars), one of the two main constituents of a clause, the other constituent being the predicate, whereby the predicate says something about the subject.Subject (grammar)

    For example, consider the sentence, "Alice sees Bob". Alice is the subject, sees Bob is the predicate and Bob is the object.

    In the early 20th Century, self-awareness about the use of language in philosophy was marked by the linguistic turn and, specifically, ordinary language philosophy.

    Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical methodology that sees traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by distorting or forgetting what words actually mean in everyday use.Ordinary language philosophy
  • Mww
    1.5k
    see the world in this way or something similar to it.Xtrix

    Chalk me up in the pro subject/object notion column, but I don’t see the world that way.
  • Andrew M
    967
    Chalk me up in the pro subject/object notion column, but I don’t see the world that way.Mww

    Performative contradiction? Or do you mean other people generally see the world that way, but not you?
  • Mww
    1.5k


    Nahhhhh.....nothing as exotic like that. The notion of subject/object is me thinking as subject in relation to the world as object, not the world as subject/object in itself, which is how I understood the question, re: “see the world that way”.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    Can you expand the question more please? Don’t know what you’re asking.
  • Andrew M
    967
    ↪Xtrix Can you expand the question more please? Don’t know what you’re asking.I like sushi

    It's like a "choose your own adventure" book. You fill in the details and then answer that. :-)
  • Xtrix
    831
    In my analysis this marks the advent of the distinctively modern outlook, formed by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which sought to sweep away all of the ambiguities and obscurities associated with metaphysics and view the world and its problems solely through the perspective of scientific rationalism. However as various critics of the Enlightenment have long since noted, this too embodies a kind of metaphysics, or rather, attempts to address many of the questions associated with metaphysics through the perspective of naturalism.Wayfarer

    Very true.

    With reference to the OP, do you see the world in some other way? what other way would there be to see the world?tim wood

    What's "OP"? Original Post? Anyway, yes when I'm thinking about the world I think this distinction makes sense, and I see why it's been so powerful.

    Or at least Ockham.bongo fury

    Hmm, really? That's interesting. Never read Ockham. Where does he touch on this?

    The notion of subject/object is me thinking as subject in relation to the world as object, not the world as subject/object in itself, which is how I understood the question, re: “see the world that way”.Mww

    Very true. I meant it in the former way.
  • Xtrix
    831
    The idea as human beings being subjects and the world being the object is what I'm referencing here. That we're thinking things in the sense Descartes meant -- consciously aware beings, and since Kant subjects with object as "phenomenon" and representation. Schopenhauer discusses this at length as well, as one of the most basic principles of all knowledge.

    It's hard to see things any other way, I realize...hence why I'm wondering about others' opinions.
  • StreetlightX
    5.4k
    A distinction of provisional use, tends to be more obfuscating than clarifying, has led hundreds and thousands of people astray for the most part. Liked it better when the terms used to mean the opposite of what they do now. A decade or so moratorium on it's use - to usher in the new year, say - would probably leave everyone better off.
  • Andrew M
    967
    The idea as human beings being subjects and the world being the object is what I'm referencing here. That we're thinking things in the sense Descartes meant -- consciously aware beings, and since Kant subjects with object as "phenomenon" and representation. Schopenhauer discusses this at length as well, as one of the most basic principles of all knowledge.

    It's hard to see things any other way, I realize...hence why I'm wondering about others' opinions.
    Xtrix

    I normally think of them as:

    Subject: A person or thing that is being discussed, described, or dealt with.

    Object: A person or thing to which a specified action or feeling is directed.

    In a scenario where Alice sees Bob, Alice is the seeing subject and Bob is the seen object.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    I see the as relational antonyms because they’re relational antonyms. Many mistaken them for complimentary antonyms.

    In phenomenological terms all ‘objects’, are objects, in the sense that they’re ‘intersubjective’.

    I still don’t really understand what is being asked for. I get that there is some kind of stretching for some equivocation between ‘physicalism’ and ‘objectivism’ yet the terms ‘object’ and ‘subject’ are not necessarily just about that - nor primarily about that given that they have linguistic weight to them in terms of grammar and also in terms of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ (regarding reality and evidence). I mention this because scientifically speaking when we talk about being ‘objective’ we mean this in a ‘gradable’ way (gradable antonym) which does help to pull back the veil of of this false, yet convenient and useful, misappropriate antonym.

    Have I slayed the dragon my quest? What page number do I turn to next?
  • frank
    5.1k
    It's hard to see things any other wayXtrix

    "To see things" can imply that one has a distant vantage point on the world, as if one is separated from it, perhaps in some eternal realm. Maybe it's an intellectual space that we inhabit when we take the world apart. It's an inner sanctum where imagination is God.
  • SophistiCat
    1.2k
    I'm wondering how many people in this forum still see the world in this way ["The Notion of Subject/Object"] or something similar to it. It seems to be the philosophical basis for modern science, at least since Descartes.Xtrix

    This seems to be too thin for a philosophical basis. Can you elaborate? Not the specific meaning of "subject/object" (I think we have clarified that part), but how you think that forms the philosophical basis. A philosophical basis would have to be something substantive, non-trivial, something that is both consequential, and that could plausibly be constituted differently and have different consequences.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    I’ve been told it’s a guessing game - seems to be a recent trend on this site
  • Mww
    1.5k
    Very true. I meant it in the former way.Xtrix

    Cool. I’d add that the subject/object notion isn’t even used in the internal, everyday occupation of the brain. The image of tying a shoe is much more the case than the thought, “I am tying my shoe”. Reason creates the dualism as the means to explain itself internally in thought, or express itself externally in language, the intrinsic circularity of which tends to make reason its own worst enemy, a condition the pure physicalist/naturalist/empiricist exploits, and the speculative philosopher ameliorates.

    Humans....what an odd bunch, eh?
  • frank
    5.1k
    Reason creates the dualism as the means to explain itself internally in thought, or express itself externally in language, the intrinsic circularity of which tends to make reason its own worst enemy, aMww

    But don't we arrive at this insight by way of reason?

    The eye can't see itself.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    The eye cannot ‘see’, legs cannot ‘walk’ and mouths cannot ‘talk’. I think this may be the point if the OP?
  • frank
    5.1k
    The eye cannot ‘see’, legs cannot ‘walk’ and mouths cannot ‘talk’. I think this may be the point if the OP?I like sushi

    Could be.
  • NOS4A2
    3.3k


    I think it’s a distinction without a difference. All subjects are objects.
  • Xtrix
    831
    This seems to be too thin for a philosophical basis. Can you elaborate? Not the specific meaning of "subject/object" (I think we have clarified that part), but how you think that forms the philosophical basis.SophistiCat

    Again, it seems to me that since Descartes epistemology has become predominant, the "problem of knowledge" -- how we know anything at all, what knowledge is, etc. This view of a conscious being (a subject) which takes in the "objective" world through means of sensibility (the "representations" of Kant) is an underlying assumption in modern science to this day. It barely gets questioned anymore, thus serving as a philosophical basis and a framework for understanding human knowledge, perception, and thus the universe.

    The image of tying a shoe is much more the case than the thought, “I am tying my shoe”.Mww

    That's a very interesting point and, incredibly, often overlooked when discussing human action.

    I think it’s a distinction without a difference. All subjects are objects.NOS4A2

    But not all objects are subjects it would seem, unless you attribute to rocks conscious awareness, which I doubt anyone would.
  • Xtrix
    831
    I think Schopenhauer puts it best:

    "Descartes was probably the first to attain the degree of reflection demanded by that fundamental truth [that the world is representation of a subject]; consequently, he made that truth the starting-point of his philosophy, although provisionally only in the form of skeptical doubt. By his taking cogito ergo sum as the only thing certain, and provisionally regarding the existence of the world as problematical, the essential and only correct starting-point, and at the same time the true point of support, of all philosophy was really found. This point, indeed, is essentially and of necessity the subjective, our own consciousness." World as Will and Representation Vol. II, p 4.

    I think he's correct, and I think this idea -- as I said originally -- still dominates much of philosophy and science today, especially in epistemology.
  • Xtrix
    831
    A philosophical basis would have to be something substantive, non-trivial, something that is both consequential, and that could plausibly be constituted differently and have different consequences.SophistiCat

    Says who? That's a nice list, but you'll rarely find that to be the case in the sciences. The philosophical justifications that many modern scientists make (if pushed, at least in my experience) is from the philosophy of science of maybe 100 years ago or so.
  • Xtrix
    831
    In a scenario where Alice sees Bob, Alice is the seeing subject and Bob is the seen object.Andrew M

    Yes, that's a linguistic distinction. That's not what I was getting at, as I feel I've made clear already.
  • Wayfarer
    9.6k
    Even in your apparently simple construction, there's something unstated, which is that 'Bob' is an object for Alice, whereas Alice is an object for Bob. Whether there are objects without subjects, or subjects without objects, is left open.

    As I see it, the process of 'objectifying' is specific to the modern outlook. I am of the view that pre-moderns did not instinctively think of the world in the objective terms we now take for granted, because the world was seen in terms of an 'I - you' relationship rather than in terms of things or objects; the Universe was animated by spirit. I think that shift to the objective is a matter of historical conditioning or development of consciousness (a theme which I believe is explored in depth by Owen Barfield.)

    This is why the use of the term 'objectivity' as the criterion for what is considered truly existent, is a characteristic of modern thought, generally (i.e. to determine whether something is real, we ask if it is 'objectively real'). To the extent that this sense of the 'I-you' relationship was eliminated, then what remains are individual subjects and individual objects of perception; a stance which would have appeared incoherent from the pre-modern p.o.v. (because, lacking in reason or cause.)

    I understand also that this was a theme in Heidegger's philosophy:

    Heidegger believes that early Greek thinking is not yet metaphysics. Presocratic thinkers ask the question concerning the being of beings, but in such a way that being itself is laid open. They experience the being of beings as the presencing (Anwesen) of what is present (Anwesende). Being as presencing means enduring in unconcealment, disclosing. Throughout his later works Heidegger uses several words in order rightly to convey this Greek experience. What-is, what is present, the unconcealed, is “what appears from out of itself, in appearing shows itself , and in this self-showing manifests.” It is the “emerging arising, the unfolding that lingers.” He describes this experience with the Greek words phusis (emerging dominance) and alêtheia (unconcealment). He attempts to show that the early Greeks did not “objectify” beings (they did not try to reduce them to an object for the thinking subject), but they let them be as they were, as self-showing rising into unconcealment. 1

    Bolds added. I think this 'unconcealment' that he was seeking to illuminate is similar in essence to the Buddhist intuition of 'Tathātā', thusness or suchness (see this note.)

    All subjects are objects.NOS4A2

    Subjects are called 'beings' for a reason; whereas objects lack being. I think this is a valid ontological distinction but one that is obfuscated in much modern thought. So it is wrong to treat beings as objects, except for technical purposes, such as demographics or epidemiology. (Interesting to note that the airline industry uses the expression 'sob' for those lost in airline crashes, where the term stands for 'souls on board'. )
  • Janus
    8.9k
    Subjects are called 'beings' for a reason; whereas objects lack being. I think this is a valid ontological distinction but one that is obfuscated in much modern thought.Wayfarer

    Do animals "have being" according to you?
  • Mww
    1.5k
    The eye can't see itself.frank

    A perfect example of the problem: reason thinks it can see itself, knows it makes mistakes, so informs as to how to prevent them. It’s all a mere chimera: we in our very nature are required to use something to express what we do when we think. But when we think qua thought alone, we require nothing of the sort.

    So, no, the eye cannot see itself, but the eye still needs to construct an explanation for what it does see.
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