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JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Are subject/object values and appropriate way to look at the world?

Asked by JeanPaulSartre (5779points) March 23rd, 2009

We divide everything into these two categories. I wonder if this is best, or more limiting.

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9 Answers

Zaku's avatar

Say more about what you mean by subject/object values, or there won’t be a very communicative discussion, I fear.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Zaku and everyone: Sure, I’m sorry I was not clear. subject/object values indicate that everything in the world can be divided into either a subject or an object as a category. Although, particularly according to Western philosophy, this is true, I wonder if we’re “missing the forest for the trees” with these classifications.

dynamicduo's avatar

I would greatly benefit by seeing a real life example, if you’d be willing to provide one, @JeanPaulSartre.

Do you mean the traditional definitions of the words? I’m finding it hard to differentiate between myself as a subject or as an object as they differ in different situations.

In general I try to not define things in the world. While I love understanding, I do realize there’s a limit between pondering something casually and obsessing over it, and my mental powers are best spent on having effect or creating over defining what already exists.

Harp's avatar

The subject/object paradigm has its place, but it’s not the only valid way of understanding reality.

Subject/object is the necessary starting point for analytical thinking. The very act of defining a phenomenon for scientific study begins from this premise. Science supposedly minimizes the role of the observer, but simply by identifying the object of study, the subject (observer) makes an indelible mark.

There is an equally valid way of understanding reality that does not involve this dichotomy. It doesn’t lend itself to analysis, though, because it refutes the terms that make analysis possible.

Which mode is “best” depends. Technology relies on the kinds of reasoning that are rooted in the world of subject and object. But in matters of art, religion and human relations, we’re often better off tuning in to the holistic understanding of the world. Happily, with practice, both are available as needed.

Zaku's avatar

I still don’t see a well-defined context here. My input would be that these are analytical places to stand, rather than absolutes, and I don’t see that all analysis would be impossible without this dichotomy, but maybe again that’s just because I don’t see solid definitions.

I get subjective versus objective. And I get subject versus object in grammatical terms, which seem rather different. And in neither case do I feel like it’s true that those terms are how I or others divide our understandings of the universe. Are you talking about observer/perceiver/thinker versus what is observed/perceived/thought-about?

Maybe this is relevant, though. One view is that there is a reality out there which we could try to describe as accurately as possible with words. This seems a pretty common view and it does lead to large blind spots, particularly because we tend to decide that we know and/or are correct about things, and so we stop paying attention and stop questioning and looking for new insights. I think this idea however is actually more general than subject/object; it’s about language and analysis versus experience/perception and reality. So, pardon the topic drift or spread…

Harp's avatar

@Zaku The subject/object view is the world of things. if your mind, or anyone’s mind, percieves things, then it is in subject/object mode. This is the perspective that delineates the borders separating one thing from another, that defines them. In that mode, there is necessarily an observer, a subject, because it is the subject that does the defining. No subject, no things.

Zaku's avatar

@Harp – Interesting. In that definition it seems to me the “thing” is the idea, not that which actually is.

Harp's avatar

@Zaku Exactly!

Jiminez's avatar

Objectivity/subjectivity is only a valid way of looking at things if you self-associate as a theist, or maybe a pantheist. Objects don’t have values, and subjects are objects, too, in a way. We’re made of physical stuff. To me, the subjective/objective debate is dead.

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