In one of my periodic fits of grandiosity (assuming I'm ever doing anything else), last month I popped out a blog post titled, "Subjective and objective: the key to understanding everything!"
However, even non-humble me understood that, duh, between the poles of subjective and objective must lie everything. What else is there in the cosmos that can't be classified as objectively or subjectively real?
Meaning, it either exists within, or as, some form of consciousness, or it is present whether or not some form of consciousness is aware of it.
Back in 2009 I swam in these deep philosophical waters in another post, "Subjectivity is the experience of objectivity." There I talked about Owen Flanagan's book, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World.
Our experiencing is an objective state of affairs, along with coffee cups and laptops. Experience simply is a feeling state, according to Flanagan, which makes a lot of sense to me.
There aren't two worlds, one subjective and one objective. Our experiencing is part of the objective world, albeit a unique part -- one which does not exist apart from the experiencer.
Today I came across a New York Times piece, "The Benefits of 'Binocularity'" that casts more light on the nature of subjectivity and objectivity.
Download The Benefits of 'Binocularity' - NYTimes.com
It isn't very long. Well worth a read. Here's some excerpts.
To see what is right — and wrong — with the notion that neuroscience will transform our idea of just deserts, and, more generally, our idea of what it means to be human, it can help to step back and consider a strange-sounding metaphor that I encountered first in the work of the British philosopher Jonathan Glover. He said that if we want to understand what sorts of beings we are in depth, we need to achieve a sort of intellectual “binocularity.”
With the metaphor of binocularity, Glover was saying that, just as we need two eyes that integrate slightly different information about one scene to achieve visual depth perception, being able see ourselves though two fundamentally different lenses, and integrate those two sources of information, can give us a greater depth of understanding of ourselves.
Through one lens we see that we are “subjects” (we act) who have minds and can have the experience of making free choices. Through the other we see that we are “objects” or bodies (we are acted upon), and that our experiences or movements are determined by an infinitely long chain of natural and social forces.
Consider one mundane example. As I sit at my computer writing these words, I am having an experience of choosing words to express what I am thinking. When they are published, you and I can both judge my choices. Because I am the subject who has made them, I will enjoy your praise or be stung by your derision. Whether it is praise or blame, you and I will agree that it is I who deserve it. This experience I have as a subject with a mind is as real a feature of the world as is the body that is the necessary condition for that experience.
...The more difficult — and, I would argue, better — way to go about trying to understand what sorts of beings we are is to see ourselves as both free subjects and as determined objects, and to accept that we aren’t wired for seeing ourselves in both ways at once. Using either lens alone can lead to pernicious mistakes.
When we use only the subject lens, we are prone to a sort of inhumanity where we ignore the reality of the natural and social forces that bear down on all of us to make our choices. It would be hard to exaggerate, for example, the inhumanity of locking up huge numbers of people who are clearly mentally ill. When we use only the object lens, however, we are prone to a different, but equally noxious sort of inhumanity, where we fail to appreciate the reality of the experience of making choices freely and of knowing that we can deserve punishment — or praise.
Our conceptual lives would be tidier if we could see ourselves only as subjects or only as objects, but our understanding would be shallower. If we want to understand persons in deeper ways than either lens alone can offer, we need to practice a more binocular habit of thinking. Such a way of thinking would accept the necessity of oscillating between seeing ourselves as beings who can — and can’t — deserve punishment. Neuroscience can help us grind one of those lenses, but it can’t obviate the need for the other.