This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
http://host.uniroma3.it/progetti/kant/field/suob.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware.com For evaluation only.
Subjectivity & Objectivity
[Draft 1.0, Please do not quote. Feedback welcome]
1. Introduction Many philosophical issues concern questions of objectivity and subjectivity. Of these questions, there are two kinds. The first considers whether something is objective or subjective; the second what it means for something to be objective or subjective—questions that inquire as to the very essence of objectivity and subjectivity. I call questions of the first kind "questions of application" and questions of the second kind "questions of constitution". Examples of questions of application include (but are not limited to) the following. Is it possible for science to be objective, or are the claims of science inextricably bound up with subjective points of view? If science is indeed objective, is there anything that escapes its grasp in virtue of being essentially subjective (as some have claimed for consciousness)? Are the things that comprise the subject matter of scientific and folk theories things that exist objectively or are they instead the subjective results of the way our ways of thinking and talking carve up the world? Must all physical things exist objectively and vice versa? Examples of questions of constitution include (but are not limited to) the following. Is objectivity an unachievable ideal that can only be approximated by degrees of intersubjectivity? How deep is the common analogy between objectivity and subjectivity on the one hand and the literary conventions of third-person and first-person points of view on the other? Are subjectivity and objectivity ways that things exist (mind-dependently vs. mind-independently) or are they ways of representing things (from a particular perspective or point of view vs. from no particular perspective or point of view)? If subjectivity and objectivity are ways of representing, then what are the proper roles of notions of truth and indexicality in a theory of objectivity and subjectivity? Most if not all of the above questions should strike the philosophical reader as familiar. Each of the above questions has been explored individually by many philosophers, though few have explored them conjointly. I mention these questions to preview terrain I plan to traverse. I mention them also to call to mind concepts that will be key in my discussion of objectivity and subjectivity—notions such as representation, truth, perspective, point of view,
1 of 8
2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ.ﻕ
then. pictures are the prototypically subjective representations and objective representations are to be defined in contrast. prototypically objective judgements concern matters of empirical and mathematical fact such as the moon has no atmosphere and two and two are four. The central issues to be examined concerning this sense of the objective/subjective distinction concern the most theoretically useful and tractable way to construe mind-dependence. Objects exist objectively if they do not depend on minds to do so. The idea of this kind of objectivity can be extended to include the existence of objects as well as the instantiations of properties.) objective and subjective. respectively. Among the issues to be sorted out in considering the "truth". An example of this alternate usage would not call the judgement that the earth has an atmosphere objective. ways that are indexical and non-indexical. Such a usage contrasts against a usage whereby it is not judgements but things themselves that are either objective or subjective. In this discussion. Yet another approach seeks to classify representational schemes in terms of the degree to which they reflect a particular perspective or point of view in the literal sense that pictorial representations represent the visual appearance of objects from a point of view. You and I can both utter "I am here" and thereby express different propositions. The question arises. whether they are compatible. but only to call attention to a typical way of using "objective" and "subjective".uniroma3. ways that are relativist and absolutist. whereas the truth of subjective judgements is relative to the person making the judgement: my judgements are true for me.com For evaluation only. I turn now to consider a different way of construing the distinction between the objective and the subjective. Does subjectivity as mind-dependence require only the existence of minds or does it instead require being represented by a mind? I return to 2 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. In contrast. but let me spell out further what I take the importance of the above remarks to be. Some philosophers have noted an analogy between this kind of subject relativity and a kind that obtains for indexical expressions. One suggestion is that the subjective/objective distinction marks a distinction in ways of assigning truth values to these representations. however.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www. I turn now to delve a bit deeper into these notions. but instead it is the property of having an atmosphere that is objective.ﻕ . Some philosophers have construed indexicality as an instance of subjectivity and some others have even gone so far as to argue that subjectivity just is indexicality. prototypically subjective judgements concern matters of value and preference such as Mozart is better than Bach and vanilla ice cream with ketchup is disgusting. mind-independence. 3. Objective and subjective judgments One common use of the notions of objectivity and subjectivity is to demarcate kinds of judgement (or thought or belief).) objective and subjective. On this suggestion. The question arises as to what it means in this context to call these respective judgements "objective" and "subjective". On such a usage. Objective judgements are absolutely true. and the questions framed in terms of them.foxitsoftware. Another suggestion is that the subjective/objective distinction marks a distinction in ways of assigning representational content to these representations. I will postpone taking sides on these issues. and "picture" suggestions are those concerning whether they constitute distinct viable alternatives.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host. "indexical". In contrast. it is representations that have propositional or sentential structure that are the first and foremost instances of objective (and subjective) things. subjective properties and objects are mind-dependent. Objective and subjective existence I again call attention to the precedent of calling judgements (and beliefs etc. respectively. I call attention to the precedent of labeling judgements (and beliefs etc. and if so.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. You and I can each utter "vanilla tastes great" but in your mouth this may constitute a truth and in my mouth it may constitute a falsehood. Such sorting will have to wait for another occasion. 2. Such prototypical examples of objective properties are those that do not depend on the existence of minds for their instantiation. I offer these examples not to take sides on whether such judgements actually are objective or subjective. Subjective judgments are subject relative. Some have proposed that the difference hinges on truth. of what it is about these representations that makes them subjective. and indexical. your judgments are true for you.
3 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. namely. I know what it is like to be me. Thus. scientific and objective characterizations are arrived at by abstracting away from any subject’s perceptions or viewpoints. This is because I do not know what it is like to have sonar experiences. Nagel sees the subjectivity of consciousness as posing a special challenge to physicalism.uniroma3. Phenomenal experience cannot be observed from multiple points of view.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www. For example. In contrast. Nagel invites us to ask the question of "what it is like to be a bat" and urges the intuition that no amount of scientific knowledge can supply an answer. In contrast. for Nagel. and thus. According to Nagel. Nagel claims that science stands little chance of providing an adequate third person account of consciousness because there is no objective nature to phenomenal experience. In order for me to know what it is like to have sonar experiences. This is part of what it means for experiences to be subjective. I turn to examine Nagel’s characterizations of objectivity and subjectivity. 4.. permanently recalcitrant to objective scientific understanding. Another way Nagel characterizes the objective/subjective distinction is by saying that only the former admits of a distinction between appearance and reality. This is not to deny that it may require having experience: maybe every one who has knowledge must also have experiences. 173). subjective phenomena and conscious experience have no existence independent of their appearance to some subject. Thus sonar experiences are subjective or perspectival. Facts about phenomenology. as I will discuss further below. Objective phenomena have a reality independent of appearances but su bjective phenomena just are appearances. what it is like for a certain entity to be that entity do not exist independently of a particular subject’s point of view. Nagel wonders what would be left of what it was like to be a bat if one removed the point of view of the bat (1979a. For Nagel. The alleged tension between the subjective knowledge of consciousness and the objective knowledge of science may be further fleshed out as follows.ﻕ . One set of questions that I am especially interested in concern the relation between epistemic and metaphysical objectivity. I must adopt a particular point of view or perspective to know what it is like to have sonar experiences. the experience of seeing red. Having such bits of mathematical and scientific knowledge does not require having any particular kind of experience. subjective facts differ from objective facts by being essentially tied to a point of view. The subjectivity of conscious experience Thomas Nagel (1986) argues that conscious experience is subjective.. one way that theories of epistemic objectivity differ is over the issue of whether epistemically objective representations must be about metaphysically objective things. and this feature can be apprehended by multiple points of view. the way things are in and of themselves. Consider the phenomenon of lightning. Knowing what it is like to see red entails having a particular kind of experience. Before saying more about physicalistic responses to that challenge. The same phenomenon has a particular subjective nature as well.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. conscious experience is the paradigm of subjectivity.foxitsoftware. conscious experience. such questions later. I would have to have sonar experiences. perhaps its appearance to some subject as a bright flash of light. In contrast. which can be characterized by the way it seems as well as the way it really is. objective facts are the concern of science: the observer independent features of things. but I do not know what it is like to be a bat. I close this section with some terminological remarks. But what makes a bit of mathematical and scientific knowledge objective is that it does not require having any particular kind of experience the way that know what iti is like to see red does. p.com For evaluation only. I adopt the convention of calling the sense of the objectivity/subjectivity distinction that hinges on mind-dependence "metaphysical objectivity/subjectivity" and the sense of the distinction that hinges on kinds of representations discussed in the section above "epistemic objectivity/subjectivity". It has the objective feature of being an electrical discharge. consider knowing that the square root of 144 is 12 or knowing that table salt is a compound of sodium and chlorine (Tye 1995).
One external line of criticism concerns the degree to which Lycan’s suggestion is able to answer questions 4 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. Some have suggested that Nagel’s challenge to physicalism depends on trying to make the subjective a special metaphysical category. At other times. The general strategy of this physicalistic response (i) notes that experiences are representational (ii) supplies an account of how representations can be objective and subjective and (iii) indicates how representational properties in general can be incorporated into a physicalistic framework. is the ultimate explication of subjectivity. the very same physical thoughts could be thought of. In Nagel’s discussion of the subjectivity of conscious experience. I form a second-order representation of the first-order representation of the coffee mug. The crucial analogy here is to the use of indexicals in speech.com For evaluation only.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host. Upon having a red experience for the first time. For the purposes of this article. according to Lycan.uniroma3. not my own. Such a knowledgeable person. allegedly. Jackson 1980). When I introspect my experience. namely. Analogously. and only I can refer to my leg by using that utterance. may know all the physical facts about see red without having a red experience. Prior to having the experience. t hus in learning a new fact post red experience.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www. Analogously. you would be representing your leg.ﻕ . just not using the right indexicals. they would learn what it is like to see red.) The gist of the argument is as follows. not mine. physical facts do not exhaust all the facts. One internal line of criticism concerns the viability of accounts that require higher-order thoughts for the subjectivity of consciousness. Lycan’s indexical analysis of the subjectivity of experience is open to criticism both internal and external to issues of consciousness. Lycan's account of subjectivity is as follows. some suggest. since they do not include certain facts about experience. the subject learns a non-physical fact. it often seems that the notion of subjectivity employed is metaphysical in that he discusses objective things in terms of their existing independently of minds. You may use a syntactically similar construction: you may utter the words "my leg hurts". But suppose this knowledgeable individual were to finally have a red experience. but only after you arrive can you correctly think of it as "here". it is the representational aspects of each that contribute to their objectivity/subjectivity. only I can represent my first-order states by the introsp ective application of self-referential indexical concepts. Nagel talks as if he intends the distinction to be epistemic: He writes that "It is beliefs and attitudes that are objective in the primary sense" (1986: 4). What is it about knowing that salt is sodium chloride that makes the knowledge objective? What is it about knowing what it is like to be a bat that makes the knowledge subjective? In both cases. Many find it intuitive to suppose that such a individual would learn something new. you can think of my house without ever visiting it. When I say "my leg hurts" I am referring to my leg. My visual experience of my blue coffee mug is a mental representation of the mug as being blue. one can finally correctly apply the indexical thought "I am experiencing red and is what it is like" to the events in question. One such physicalistic response to Nagel is due to the philosopher William Lycan (1996) (Similar accounts are advocated by Tye (1995) and Rey (1997)). This difference between objective and subjective knowledge is at the heart of the famous ‘knowledge argument’ against physicalism (Nagel 1974. Other people may form syntactically similar second-order representations. The relevance of indexicals to the knowledge argument is supposed to be the following. but that the challenge is met (or dissolved) by treating the subjectivity of experience as epistemic. A person that has never had any experiences as of seeing a red thing may nonetheless have exhaustive knowledge of the physical goings on in the nervous system of an individual seeing red. Anti-physicalistic conclusions are supposed to follow on the supposition that learning what it is like to see red involves learning some new fact. but in doing so. Experiences are representations. but those representations will be about their first-order states. Thus. the key aspect of the knowledge argument is the distinction between objective knowledge and subjective knowledge. I turn now to the question of what this distinction might consist of. Prior to actually having the experience.foxitsoftware. (See Torin Alter's article in this Guide.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. the subject new all the physical facts. And this.
The second. What. Brewer 1996. whereas rats with damaged hippocampi must rely on egocentric representations of the route. perspective independent ability would allow you to get to your destination from any starting location. Varied visual stimuli were positioned around the maze to serve as orientation cues. for example. Given the notion of perspective dependent and independent abilities. During test trials. but only if you started at a particular point and then proceeded to follow a particular path. Cases in which activity in neurons was still maximally responsive to stimuli in that location regardless of what part of the retina the stimulus projected to were regarded as allocentric representations of that spatial location. The first. Campbell 1996. 5. whereas the hippocampal damaged rats required much longer to find the platform. perspective dependent. Milk powder can be added to the water to make it opaque. the performances of the intact and damaged rats diverged widely when they were started from novel locations in the water maze. Objects such as small platforms can be placed in this arena. For one example of egocentric and allocentric representations. and the level of the water can be adjusted so that when a platform is submerged it is not visible to rats swimming in the maze. The experimenters trained intact and hippocampal-system damaged rats to swim to the platform from a given start location. Fiegenbaum and Ross (1991) recorded the electrical activity of individual neurons in the hippocampus of macaque monkeys. Many researchers follow O’Keefe and Nadel (1978) in hypothesizing that the hippocampus serves to create a "cognitive map": an allocentric representation of the spatial layout.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. consider certain kinds of receptive fields uncovered in single cell physiology studies. then you would be unable to arrive at the destination if for some reason you were to deviate from the original course or begin from a different starting location. neural activity maximally responsive to a spatial location defined relative to the site of retinal projection is regarded as an egocentric representation of that location. In their study. if anything. Navigation based allo/egocentricity may be connected with the notions of perspective dependence in the following way. they look for neurons that were maximally responsive the particular spatial location of a visual stimulus. ability would allow you to get to that destination. does the higher-order application of self-referential indexicals in introspection have to do with the subjectivity of the judgement that Mozart is better than Bach? I leave the discussion of consciousness and turn to briefly consider scientific applications of objectivity/subjectivity. In contrast. intact rats were able to navigate to the platform from novel start locations. The Morris water maze is an apparatus filled with water in which rats can swim. The notions of allocentric and egocentric representations also surface in accounts of navigation. During test trials. If your ability were maximally perspective dependent. it projected to a different part of the monkey's retina. O'Keefe 1996). In Eichenbaum et al.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host.com For evaluation only. we can now begin to make sense of the notion of perspective dependent and independent representations or 5 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. raised above concerning the objectivity and subjectivity of judgments.ﻕ . but occluded by the opaque water in the testing trials. Cussins (1990) asks us to imagine two different abilities employed to arrive at some destination in a city. both the intact and damaged rats were able to swim to the platform if they were started from the same location as in the learning trials.foxitsoftware. (1990) a water maze was set up such that rats had to swim to a platform visible during training trials. Evans 1982. However.uniroma3. although the stimulus had not moved. Objectivity and subjectivity in cognitive scientific explanation Cognitive scientific explanations commonly quantify over representations. Several philosophers and psychologists interested in the topic of spatial representation have identified a distinction between egocentric and allocentric representations of space and described this distinction as one between subjective and objective ways of representing space (see. A version of the epistemic objective/subjective distinction appears in explanations of cognition under the guise of a distinction between allocentric and egocentric representations. They then changed the spatial relation of the monkey with respect to the stimulus so that. sometimes never finding it during the test trial.
The question arises of how seriously to take this suggestion in pursuing an analysis of egocentric and allocentric representations as employed in explanations of the function of hippocampal and non-hippocampal neural representations of space. So.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. fears. Note that in the discussion of the notions of egocentric and allocentric representations of space. notions employed in the previous discussions of objectivity and subjectivity reemerge. the way the list of directions and the map represent the location of the party. Above I mentioned that the objective/subjective distinction has two senses: a metaphysical sense and an epistemic sense. Something is metaphysically objective if it may exist or be instantiated without being represented. Does it make sense to think of neurons with egocentric receptive fields as indexical representations of spatial locations? Exploring an answer to this question. might be something akin to a map of the entire city. Theories of Objectivity In the previous sections I have indicated how the notions of objectivty and subjectivty have figured in philosophical discussion. that the representational repertoire of the perspective dependent urban navigator is something akin to the list of directions one might be told for getting to a party. can represent the party from the Moe’s tavern perspective. and news reports)--are epistemically objective or subjective. I briefly gloss some theories of objectivity/subjectivity that have been explored in the literature. In this section.uniroma3.. one might consider my judgment that the moon has no atmosphere an epistemically objective judgment. 6 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. for example. The representation employed by the other navigator. They would be on the order of "starting at Moe’s tavern. for its existence or instantiation. representational abilities. knowledge.foxitsoftware. The difference between the epistemic and metaphysical senses hinges on the different sorts of things that may be said to be either objective or subjective. Let us contrast. What lies at that heart of the epistemic notion of objectivity is difficult to specify without describing a particular theory of epistemic objectivity--a task I postpone until later in this section. Imagine. sentences. especially those pertaining to the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Something is subjective in the metaphysical sense if it requires a mind. such a representation would be quite useless to you if you started anywhere other than at Moe’s tavern. All things. then beauty. then. objects. The perspective dependent representation of the party is a representation from the Moe’s tavern perspective. Only intentional phenomena--things that have aboutness (e. properties. etc. allowing the map user to get to the party from alm ost anywhere in the city. If this were the only representation of the area that you had. At the heart of the metaphysical notion of objectivity is the notion of mind-independent existence (where metaphysical subjectivity just is mind-dependent existence). theories. The map user. This map represents all the relations that the destination bears to all other locations in the city. then.) are either metaphysically objective or subjective. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder and truth is what ever I believe to be the case and nothing is good or bad but thinking make it so. truth.g. mental representations.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www. The role of indexicals in analyzing these notions again suggests itself: in the "Moe’s Tavern" account of perspective dependent representations. be it negative or positive.com For evaluation only. events. For now I indicate the gist of the epistemic sense by way of contrast with the metaphysical sense. my judgment that vanilla is the best ice cream flavor may be regarded as epistemically subjective. The metaphysically objective and subjective are broader categories than the epistemically objective and subjective. and goodness would be metaphysically subjective. being represented by a mind. is a line for further research perhaps not best explored here.. judgments. In contrast. but may also represent the location of the party from many other perspectives as well. beliefs.g. on the other hand. 6. or more specifically. the directions to the party from the Tavern employed indexical terms. in the broadest sense of the word "thing" (e.ﻕ . go about five blocks down Green Street and turn left down the alley that has a blue van parked near its entrance". Key among theses notions are the notions of perspective dependence and independence..Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host. however.
) This comports with the intuitions that the sentence "Jane is a mammal" is epistemically objective while "Jane is beautiful" is epistemically subjective. but I intend the points made to generalize beyond these simple cases. may be metaphysically objective. For discussion of indexical theories see Bell (1992). atomic sentences with binary predicates). As mentioned above. the belief. In that case my belief would be metaphysically subjective. A natural. since on a correspondence theory an objective belief need only purport to describe the way things really are (1995: 160).it/progetti/kant/field/suob. Correspondence theories define as epistemically objective representations that are about metaphysically objective things. (Note that neither Gauker nor Rorty are advocates of the correspondence theory of epistemic objectivity. This seems unintuitive because. (See Rorty (1979) and Gauker (1995) for discussion of the difference between objectivity as consensus and objectivity as correspondence. It may be worth noting that something can be both epistemically subjective and metaphysically objective. But whether I have the belief may not depend on the belief itself being represented.uniroma3. to the theories. Here I will discuss only correspondence theories and use them to develop my own account of epistemic objectivity. Three kinds of theories of epistemic objectivity include consensus theories. and correspondence theories. it is hard to say much about epistemic objectivity without describing some theory or other. the difference between "John Smith is ugly" and "John Smith is a mammal" in virtue of which the former is epistemically subjective and the latter epistemically objective does not consist in the fact that the latter is true. the way they are independent of the way they are represented. On such an account. My belief that vanilla is better than chocolate may be epistemically subjective.) Consensus theories define as objective representations that are agreed to be true. Rorty describes this notion of objectivity as "mirroring" for it is a notion of objectivity that involves the notion of representing things as they really are. that is.ﻕ . Lycan (1996). This is because the correspondence 7 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. Indexical theories define as objective representations devoid of indexical constituents. way of cashing out the correspondence theory is by defining as subjective any thing that depicts a metaphysically subjective state of affairs. the sentence "a is F" is epistemically objective just in case the subject term and the general term both pick out things that are metaphysically objective.com For evaluation only. while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. the original representation. However.) A description of something as being a hunk of titanium would be epistemically objective. But it would be epistemically objective since whether frogs are amphibians isn't a mere matter of idiosyncratic opinion or something.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.foxitsoftware. but I think incorrect. Thus. Thus. the aim of correspondence theories of objectivity is to reconcile (i) the requirement that the objectivity of a belief consists in its corresponding with metaphysically objective things and (ii) the possibility of a belief being both objective and false. indexical theories. according to the correspondence theory. this version of the correspondence theory has the unintuitive consequence that the sentence "Beauty is a subjective property" is epistemically subjective. Gauker notes that since a judgment may be objective while false. I turn. (For simplicity's sake. I consider only atomic sentences with monadic predicates (and later. Suppose that I believe that frogs are amphibians only if someone believes that I believe that frogs are amphibians. The core notion of correspondence theories is that an epistemically objective belief or sentence must be in some sense about something metaphysically objective. then. but it need not be about itself nor need any other representation be about it. In contrast.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host. On a correspondence theory. That is. Likewise. and McGinn (1983). because something can be a hunk of titanium independently of any one's representing it as such. something can be both epistemically objective and metaphysically subjective. the belief may be a representation. To contort a cliché: Being disgusting is in the mouth of the taster. whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder n eed not itself be in the eye of the beholder. my belief that Brussels sprouts are disgusting is epistemically subjective because being disgusting requires being mentally represented as disgusting.
8 of 8 2013/06/27 10:02 ﻅ. Nor does the difference hinge on whether the individual named by the subject term is metaphysically objective. Thus I call the correspondence theory of epistemic objectivity that I advocate the predicational theory of epistemic objectivity.foxitsoftware. theorist wants to allow that the former may be true as well.com For evaluation only. that the proper explication of a correspondence notion of objectivity requires only that the predicate correspond to something metaphysically objective. what makes a singular sentence of the form "a is F" epistemically objective is that the property F named by the predicate term "F" is metaphysically objective. Metaphysically objective objects need not be referred to in singular sentences nor quantified over in quantified sentences in order for the sentences to be epistemically objective. then.] Top of page for further discussion). . I offer.ﻕ . since the cases do not vary in that regard.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.it/progetti/kant/field/suob. Instead.Subjectivity/Objectivity: Entry http://host. (See Mandik 1998 [To be continued in subsequent drafts.uniroma3. . I offer.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.