Past Meetup

Subjective and objective validity

This Meetup is past

15 people went

Location image of event venue


Part of this meetup's purpose will be to feel out our concepts of "subjective" and "objective" status, as applied to such usual suspects as meanings and truths. It seems that, at least in casual English, we take something to be "subjective" when it pertains primarily, or entirely, to a thinking subject rather than to the world with which that subject might be related. "Objective", by contrast, pertains primarily or entirely to the world - but the world apart from the subject? The world as encountered by the subject? Just how separable can mind and world be anyway?

There are various slippery slopes here. The one most commonly taken - judging mainly by anecdotal evidence - leads to the idea that the best kind of knowledge, the real deal, concerns things as they are (or would be) entirely apart from the subject's cognition. On that model, how things appear to me is exactly the barrier that stands between me and the truth. Taken to an extreme, this makes objective knowledge flatly impossible, as it would require me to see from something other than a possible perspective. Pulling back from that precipice, we run the constant risk of falling over its opposite precipice, the all-devouring solipsism that makes "objects" nothing more than the distal ends of perceptions and other cognitive acts.

Another part of our plan tonight will be a consideration of Kant's definitions and deployments of these concepts, as crystallizing some of the more dedicated effort ever spent on the topic. Kant links several themes in working out his influential (if admittedly often confusing) language-game of subjective and objective validity. These include the contrast between regular and irregular aspects of experience, the contrast between what I take to be available only to one person and what I take to be available to more than one, and the non-equivalence of objective knowledge with absolute or unconditional knowledge.