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What is Subjectivity?

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Where Kant said that? Incidentally this is not my claim. You shouldn’t confuse the concept of subjective emotion, say "fear" with the feeling itself. While one can discuss such a concept in objective terms, one cannot make another person to experience his own given personal feeling. Hence all feelings, unlike percepts, are subjective. One cannot jump outside of his mind and to point out on his own pain.

Kant's "Copernican Revolution" redefines what objectivity is. According to Kant the only world we can know about, the phenomenal world, is constructed by consciousness constrained by the innate categories. Consciousness constructing the world it knows is the primacy of consciousness premise, this is subjectivism. When we can communicate our personal experience with others then that is a proof that there must be an underlying category common between people, and that phenomenal knowledge is validated.

Marxist dialectical history works on an equivalent premise but the categories are no longer innate but socially determined and change over time with social evolution. That is an explicitly social version of subjectivism.

Anyway, the point is one cannot jump out of one's own mind to share a percept either, which leads to the conclusion that feelings are not unlike percepts and percepts are also subjective. The difference between percepts and emotions lies in what causes them, but the experience of them, the memories of other instances, the noting of similarities and differences, conceptualizing them and naming them is the same process for both. With a proper method a subject-relative experience can identified consistently, conceptualized and made objective.

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But we are not disembodied sense organs and consciousnesses perceiving existents, we are whole organisms of integrated mind and body, we are perceiving and knowing subjects. This is no minor matter, and it is the topic of the concluding remarks of David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses.

That was more an attempt to describe how they operate than to suggest disembodiment.

Skills and virtues are not found in sense organs or existents or consciousnesses but in subjects in relation to objects. Subjects are real and the subject-relative (subjective) nature of sensing, perceiving and knowing cannot be finessed away. Subjectivity must be acknowledged before objectivity can be achieved. "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed."

David Kelly's book looks as if it would be another valuable asset to a library.

In ITOE, Miss. Rand does not utilize the concept subjective very often. In fact, these are four of the seven times it appears in the main body of the work.

This does not mean that conceptualization is a subjective process or that the content of concepts depends on an individual's subjective (i.e., arbitrary) choice.

(This amounts, in effect, to the declaration: "Since the intrinsic has failed us, the subjective is our only alternative.")

From primordial mysticism to this, its climax, the attack on man's consciousness and particularly on his conceptual faculty has rested on the unchallenged premise that any knowledge acquired by a process of consciousness is necessarily subjective and cannot correspond to the facts of reality, since it is "processed knowledge."

These do not really touch upon metaphysical as much as the epistemological.

Yet, in the Appendix:

Everything we perceive is the result of our processing, which is not arbitrary or subjective.

Is this the perceptions of sensations?

The primacy of consciousness premise gives rise to subjectivism. Everyone grapples with subjectivity, not everyone is a subjectivist living by the philosophy of subjectivism.

The root of the word Subjectivism is Subjective. Yes, the primacy of consciousness, and arguably, emotionalism, are the building blocks of subjectivism.

The point that everyone is not a subjectivist shines a light on the awareness to sometimes be oversensitive to it at times.

This seems also to be the arena to develop a broader grasp of the terminology and its usage.

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Is this the perceptions of sensations?

Here (and throughout ITOE) Rand uses 'processing' to refer to what consciousness does in order to grasp something, consciousness has identity and so has a specific means for sensing , perceiving, and conceiving. The first appearance of 'processing' is in section 8 of the main text right after her famous description of Kant as claiming we are blind because we have eyes, deaf because we have ears, etc.

All knowledge is processed knowledge—whether on the sensory, perceptual or conceptual level. An "unprocessed" knowledge would be a knowledge acquired without means of cognition. Consciousness (as I said in the first sentence of this work) is not a passive state, but an active process. And more: the satisfaction of every need of a living organism requires an act of processing by that organism, be it the need of air, of food or of knowledge.

The value of the technical philosophical work "The Evidence of the Senses" is that it goes further into this idea of processing and why it was thought to be a problem. The sensationalism theory of perception holds that perception is really an inference, a computation, or in other words an ordinary conclusion. This requires possession of concepts before you can have percepts in order to calculate or reason, which entails innate knowledge and the primacy of consciousness and so this is the same consistent sense of subjective that Rand always uses, not a counterexample to what I've been doing.

(To complete the thought, what goes on between the eye and the percept is processing but it is not consciousness creating its own contents, determining what it will see before it sees it by means of innate knowledge or a priori categories. Processing in perception is not subjective in the sense of subjectivism.)

The root of the word Subjectivism is Subjective. Yes, the primacy of consciousness, and arguably, emotionalism, are the building blocks of subjectivism.

The point that everyone is not a subjectivist shines a light on the awareness to sometimes be oversensitive to it at times.

This seems also to be the arena to develop a broader grasp of the terminology and its usage.

I know it is confusing to have two senses of the word 'subjective', one broad and pointing to a fact and the other a (false) normative theory. I've gone around on this before with others and the impulse has been to try to resolve the confusion by using different words since different concepts seem to be involved. Dr. Peikoff's third lecture in his series on "Unity in Ethics and Epistemology" covers that fact that some concepts require two definitions. For example he covers 'value' which is both "that which one acts to gain and/or keep" and also "that which one acts to gain and/or keep and which objectively furthers one's life". I hope to sort out some confusion when I publish my notes on that lecture. It has certainly helped clear up my own.

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There are a few terms in Objectivism that either have sensitive contextual delimitation, or a use that is not in alignment with the conventional mis-use of the term in the public arena. 'Subjective' has usually been easier to find synonyms for rather than embrace the way it has manifested itself here. Once again, concepts, as well as knowledge, are both hierarchial as well as contextual in developing their integrations.

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"Anyway, the point is one cannot jump out of one's own mind to share a percept either, which leads to the conclusion that feelings are not unlike percepts and percepts are also subjective."

No. That would be an example of treatment of data, obtained by extraspection, percepts, as introspectual data, feelings. While percepts pertain to objective reality, feelings pertain to the subjective realm of human mind. The confusion between these two realms is the source of subjectivism . This is exactly the fallacy of Kant and Marx. Ayn Rand in "Romantic Manifesto" describes how perception of the same object causes different emotions in different people. If feeling were objective, then the same percept would cause the same emotion in every human being. Evidently this is not a case.

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If feeling were objective,

You have read but not yet understood.

Feelings are not epistemologically objective, but one can as objectively distinguish between grief and regret as between blue and cyan.

Colors are not epistemologically subjective, but a color-blind man and a normal man will perceive the same colored entities in different forms.

Vision Simulator: How Things Look to People with Colorblindness or Cataracts

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You have read but not yet understood.

"Feelings are not epistemologically objective, but one can as objectively distinguish between grief and regret as between blue and cyan."

First, often this is not that easy. Second, your analogy is not valid. Colors pertain to the objects of objective reality. Colors transmitted by means of objective medium-light waves, and received by sensory organs which are objective organs of perception. Feelings pertain to subjective realm of mind and observed by subjective means of introspection. Colors are metaphysically objective and feelings are metaphysically subjective. You are counting apples with nails. If you have a difficulty to see the difference between these two existents, watch the movie “Inception".

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This is the point made earlier.

If you look at the vision simulator, the object viewed is subject to the metaphysical make-up of the sense organ. An individual who sees the world in monochrome does not invalidate the objectivity available to his conclusion, but it does make the discrimination of colors unavailable to his consciousness. Just as the emotional responses cannot be shared experiencially to others, the observation of the object cannot be shared experiencially to others either. While the vision simulator allows to to get a sense of how the world appears in monochrome, - if you were color blind, could it give you the sense of 'normal color' sight?

Edited by dream_weaver

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This is the point made earlier.

If you look at the vision simulator, the object viewed is subject to the metaphysical make-up of the sense organ. An individual who sees the world in monochrome does not invalidate the objectivity available to his conclusion, but it does make the discrimination of colors unavailable to his consciousness. Just as the emotional responses cannot be shared experiencially to others, the observation of the object cannot be shared experiencially to others either. While the vision simulator allows to to get a sense of how the world appears in monochrome, - if you were color blind, could it give you the sense of 'normal color' sight?

If you really want a sci-fi conjecture: The pattern of nerve firing that is produced in the retinal nerve by a normal person's excitation of cones could be artificially simulated. It would then be propagated centrally, presumably following the same course that natural, cone-produced retinal responses follow.

Mindy

Mindy

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At that point, would it remain subjective, or acquire objective underpinnings?

My summary of how Kelley handles this case is:

V. Brain in a Vat, Virtual Reality, The Matrix™©, Avatar™©

{ None of these sexed up terms were in existence when the book was written. Kelley merely refers to "the device" and the argument is named "The Causal Argument" It is all the same, for all these arguments trace back to Descartes' evil demon originally. }

The Causal Argument:

Consider perception as a one way causal sequence of: object > receptors > cortex > percept.

The same perceptual experience will result so long as the last intraneural stages occur.

Postulate a device that can create the same proximate neural stimulus as an object, or a world of objects.

1) It cannot be argued that the resulting percept is radically nonperceptual—this is not a hallucination.

2) The things perceived within the device are not real, they are only simulated.

3) Therefore no percept can be trusted as real, all perception is an inner theater.

Refutations:

*Minor refinement — Perception is not one way, it also depends on moving, orienting, focusing, eye saccades , etc. The device must also be connected to motor neurons to simulate interaction so that the subject can explore the simulated world.

True, the subject's experiences would not be similar to what is perceived, the device and its stimuli. But representationalism is still false, percepts are never regarded as objects compared to external objects in terms of similarity and dissimilarity. Even in the normal case percepts are not similar to objects.

Perception is awareness of external objects, but realism makes no assumptions about how that works. If the simulation is as complete as postulated, there would be perception of the simulated world but it would be a perceptually relative form of perceiving the deeper reality of the memory states of the device. It does not follow that the subject's experience would be internal and unreal. What is perceived depends in part on what is there to be perceived and its interaction with our senses.

The above assumes the device stays on for a long enough time to permit exploration. If the device were rapidly switched off and on it would be difficult to predict if the subject would perceive anything at all or only a stream of sensations. The sensory systems have a finite capability to process stimuli, evolved to suit the typical ranges of a past environment.

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First, often this is not that easy. Second, your analogy is not valid. Colors pertain to the objects of objective reality. Colors transmitted by means of objective medium-light waves, and received by sensory organs which are objective organs of perception. Feelings pertain to subjective realm of mind and observed by subjective means of introspection. Colors are metaphysically objective and feelings are metaphysically subjective. You are counting apples with nails. If you have a difficulty to see the difference between these two existents, watch the movie “Inception".

Emotions are not metaphysically subjective for the reason that they are not purely mental phenomena but have corresponding bodily states. The case can be stated more strongly: Emotions are distinguished from other mental phenomena and from each other entirely on the basis of the bodily states they evoke. Bodily states are objective. Heart rate, perspiration, breathing, muscular tension, sexual arousal, all of these things are every bit as materialistic and objective as a brick wall and can be identified with objective certainty.

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"Emotions are not metaphysically subjective for the reason that they are not purely mental phenomena but have corresponding bodily states"

Emotions are primarily automatic value-judgments which depend on implicit values previously internalized by sub consciousness. They are pure subjective phenomena which may not relate to any existent of reality, like love of god for example. Feelings, like pain do pertain to bodily states. However they are not result of objective process of perception, but introspection. Sometimes they do correspond to the physical processes in the body, but some times not, like in case of phantom and psychosomatic pain. In any case the awareness of feeling itself occurs in mind. Dreams don't correspond to any events of reality. There are many other purely subjective mental phenomena, like false memories, emotions invoked by music, etc…The fundamental difference between subjective and objective experience is that in case of objective experience the source of it is objective reality; in case of subjective experience the source is the subject himself

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At that point, would it remain subjective, or acquire objective underpinnings?

It is akin to watching TV. We have many devices that extend or enhance our senses, microscopes and telescopes, infra-red binoculars, etc. This would fall right in the same category as the experience derived from these devices, I would say.

Mindy

Edited by Mindy

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"Emotions are not metaphysically subjective for the reason that they are not purely mental phenomena but have corresponding bodily states"

Emotions are primarily automatic value-judgments which depend on implicit values previously internalized by sub consciousness. They are pure subjective phenomena which may not relate to any existent of reality, like love of god for example. Feelings, like pain do pertain to bodily states. However they are not result of objective process of perception, but introspection. Sometimes they do correspond to the physical processes in the body, but some times not, like in case of phantom and psychosomatic pain. In any case the awareness of feeling itself occurs in mind. Dreams don't correspond to any events of reality. There are many other purely subjective mental phenomena, like false memories, emotions invoked by music, etc…The fundamental difference between subjective and objective experience is that in case of objective experience the source of it is objective reality; in case of subjective experience the source is the subject himself

You're not describing metaphysical subjectivity at all. You're talking about different things.

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"Emotions are not metaphysically subjective for the reason that they are not purely mental phenomena but have corresponding bodily states"

Emotions are primarily automatic value-judgments which depend on implicit values previously internalized by sub consciousness. They are pure subjective phenomena which may not relate to any existent of reality, like love of god for example. Feelings, like pain do pertain to bodily states. However they are not result of objective process of perception, but introspection. Sometimes they do correspond to the physical processes in the body, but some times not, like in case of phantom and psychosomatic pain. In any case the awareness of feeling itself occurs in mind. Dreams don't correspond to any events of reality. There are many other purely subjective mental phenomena, like false memories, emotions invoked by music, etc…The fundamental difference between subjective and objective experience is that in case of objective experience the source of it is objective reality; in case of subjective experience the source is the subject himself

You have a blind spot which is I think caused in part because you have no specific concept for awareness of the body so instead try to classify it with introspection and apply to it what is know about introspection.

The true genus of perception is awareness. Awareness is the relationship between existence and consciousness. Awareness can discriminated into types on the basis of its objects. Perception is awareness of the external world. Introspection is awareness of the contents of the mind. Interoception is the awareness of the body.

The objects of awareness of introspection are not primaries, they are necessarily and chronologically derivative of awareness of the external world. The external world exists first, then perception of it, then memories, and only then is introspection possible. Interoception as a genus includes proprioception (awareness of the positions and movements of the body parts), awareness of the organs in their functions, and awareness of the physical manifestations of emotions in all of the preceding. The cause of an emotion is found by introspection, but awareness of an emotion is direct as it is primarily awareness of the body. Emotions are given directly because their physical component is external to consciousness (although not external to the body). The word that precisely describes this form of awareness is interoception, both introspection and perception are inaccurate.

Your examples of phantom pain and phantom limbs are examples of illusions. The possibility of illusions exist for all three modes of awareness.

One alternative idea contradicting this a theory of experience. A theory of experience means using experience as a genus which includes perceptions, emotions, memory, dreams, imagination and hallucination. But the only similarity that can be found among them is in the state-based interpretation of consciousness. That interpretation claims that what is experienced must be contained in the experiential state, and the state of the perceiver is the state of a subject. Considered as a state of a perceiver, any perceptual experience could occur with just the same content in either the presence or absence of an external object. But there is no basis for this interpretation of mental states, it is an assumption which is compatible with Cartesian Representationalism that holds mind and matter are two separate and independent realms. Cartesian dualism forbids the possibility that it is the presence of an external object which necessarily causes a mental state. Perception is a case of exactly that, causation which reaches the mind. Awareness in pattern is exactly that, and one only becomes aware of an emotion in the mind by means of (because of) an emotional response in the body.

(This post is based on Kelley's distinction of awareness vs. experience in The Evidence of the Senses. He doesn't discuss emotions, I added that.)

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"You're not describing metaphysical subjectivity at all. You're talking about different things."

I'm describing self-awareness which is metaphysically given subjective experience.

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On 8/30/2010 at 10:41 PM, Grames said:

The objects of awareness of introspection are not primaries, they are necessarily and chronologically derivative of awareness of the external world. The external world exists first, then perception of it, then memories, and only then is introspection possible. Interoception as a genus includes proprioception (awareness of the positions and movements of the body parts), awareness of the organs in their functions, and awareness of the physical manifestations of emotions in all of the preceding. The cause of an emotion is found by introspection, but awareness of an emotion is direct as it is primarily awareness of the body. Emotions are given directly because their physical component is external to consciousness (although not external to the body). The word that precisely describes this form of awareness is interoception, both introspection and perception are inaccurate.

Emotions are objective as bodily states. But they are not causeless. They are caused by your (nonmaterial) thoughts/volition, based on an evaluation," for or against me". Simplifying it, it would mean that my thoughts are driving my experience. So wouldn't that be subjective?

If it is not, what could, in fact, be subjective?

Now, any and all thoughts are based on something that came from the outside world at some point. Based on that one could say that everything in consciousness has an objective root cause. That there is no such thing as subjective.

When differentiating objective from subjective, what is the key element to look for? Since you can always find a relationship/connection to the outside world, how do you differentiate?
 

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8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Emotions are objective as bodily states. But they are not causeless. They are caused by your (nonmaterial) thoughts/volition, based on an evaluation," for or against me". Simplifying it, it would mean that my thoughts are driving my experience. So wouldn't that be subjective?

If it is not, what could, in fact, be subjective?

Now, any and all thoughts are based on something that came from the outside world at some point. Based on that one could say that everything in consciousness has an objective root cause. That there is no such thing as subjective.

When differentiating objective from subjective, what is the key element to look for? Since you can always find a relationship/connection to the outside world, how do you differentiate?
 

 

Your thoughts are real in the sense that your brain and body is real, and so in whatever form thoughts exist in your brain and body they are also real and decidedly not non-material.

Definition:  subjective - (genus) pertaining to a subject-object relationship, (differentia) of, or relating to, or constituting the subject. 

By this broadest definition all thoughts are subjective because they are the actions of a thinking subject.   The distinction between objective and subjective is that thoughts can be true or false and must meet the test of the correspondence theory of truth to be objective; then what remains "merely subjective" are thoughts that have no correspondence to a real object.   What makes your emotions objective is that they are bodily states and not mere thoughts; the body simply is and cannot be said to be true or false. The identity of an emotion does not rest upon the cause of the emotion or the appropriateness of that emotion.  (However, since not every fine gradation or mixture of emotions has a corresponding name they can sometimes be conceptually identified and communicated best by identifying their causes and relying upon others' ability to empathize to understand what you may be feeling.)

Correspondence and non-correspondence is an issue that arises with the conceptual faculty and conceptual judgements about some tricky cases of perceiving.  Sensing and perceiving are taken to be automatic and so always corresponding to reality because they are deterministic responses to stimuli.  Integrating concepts and applying concepts are not automatic but rather are volitional acts.  For Objectivism, volition is essentially epistemological and virtue begins with being objective.

Edited by Grames
grammar

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3 hours ago, Grames said:

Definition:  subjective - (genus) pertaining to a subject-object relationship, (differentia) of, or relating to, or constituting the subject. 

1

I'm also interested in the issue if thoughts are material or not, as in abstractions, concepts etc. You say they are in fact material. I thought that mind exists but not material. Anyway, it's not my main issue right now.

My understanding is that Subjectivism in philosophy is referring to a complete fabrication by the subject's mind. First off did I get that right and assuming I did, I can't imagine the possibility. If a mind is Tabula Rasa, then it's blank, anything that it even fabricates should be from the outside world.
 
So the only thing that could be subjective is that which circumvents reason, like faith or a belief born from fear of not believing in it. But even faith in something has elements of reality but with haphazard causal links. So it is not completely fabricated.
 
The difference between subjective vs. objective can be determined using "reason" or hindsight. Reason is not foolproof but hindsight is. In other words, a concept is communicated and it's "realness"/"if it exists" is determined not by immediate means but through an analysis. Meaning I can't immediately tell if something is real until I have reasoned it out. Or if it involves a prediction, I can wait to see if it happened.
 
Now, if someone asks me if I am being objective or subjective it depends if I have done reasoning at all.
 
But if I am asked if a particular fact is objective or subjective, I don't know how to answer that well (based on the definition of Subjectivist). But I can answer it based on "you will get a different answer depending on who you ask" or "it is a vague fact".
 
So at this point, "a vague fact" is what I call subjective. And the opposite is "a clear fact", which sometimes I call objective. Was wondering what a more accurate way would be.
Edited by Easy Truth
Definition I found in fact was not good so I removed it.

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What is subjective and what is subjectivity (the thread title is about subjectivity) are closely related things, and everyone must engage in them and be aware of when to avoid the subjective and subjectivity when possible.  Subjectivism is a normative theory about what ought to be done in epistemology and ethics and so not everyone is a Subjectivist.  

The Ayn Rand Lexicon has an entry for Objectivity which includes the following passage "... no special revelations to privileged observers...".   There exists a perfectly ordinary and natural (as opposed to supernatural) category of observations which are only possible to certain privileged observers:  observing the contents of your own mind, including your emotions and perceptions.   You can yourself attempt to be objective about what you think and what you perceive even when alone, but when alone you don't have the problem of attempting to justify yourself or your conclusions to others; there is only one observer in that case.   

Include within the category of the subjective things that can only ever exist within the privacy of your own mind and ought to be there, and things which ought not be there but are because you are wrong about them existing, either because your reasoning is wrong or you are hallucinating them or are the victim of an illusion.

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The question of, "What is Subjectivity?," has two answers, because the same word, "subjective," refers to two different things.

The first refers to the nature of consciousness itself. Every conscious experience is subjective in the sense that it cannot be known to anyone except the individual having the conscious experience. Whatever one consciously perceives by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling it, or their perception of their own body by interoception, or their consciousness of their own thinking and feelings, are subjective experiences, because they cannot be known or examined or detected by anyone else. Every individual consciousness, in that sense, is totally subjective and private and beyond the ability of anyone else to perceive or know it.

The other meaning of subjective pertains to how one thinks and makes their choices and is based on the difference between objective and subjective.

The objective refers to the reality all conscious individuals perceive, however they perceive it. It is called objective reality because it exists and has the nature it has independently of anyone's consciousness or knowledge of it. It is that objective reality that determines what is true and not true. Objective, in contrast to subjective, means allowing nothing but one's knowledge of objective reality to be one's guide in all one's thinking and choices.

Subjective, in that sense, means allowing one's own subjective experiences, their whims, their feelings, their desires, prejudices or sentiments to influence or determine what they think, believe, and choose, in defiance or ignorance of objective truth.

Randy

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On 10/25/2017 at 8:21 PM, Regi F. said:

Subjective, in that sense, means allowing one's own subjective experiences, their whims, their feelings, their desires, prejudices or sentiments to influence or determine what they think, believe, and choose, in defiance or ignorance of objective truth.

In that context, it seems to mean "the unexamined life".

On 10/25/2017 at 8:21 PM, Regi F. said:

The first refers to the nature of consciousness itself. Every conscious experience is subjective in the sense that it cannot be known to anyone except the individual having the conscious experience. Whatever one consciously perceives by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling it, or their perception of their own body by interoception, or their consciousness of their own thinking and feelings, are subjective experiences, because they cannot be known or examined or detected by anyone else. Every individual consciousness, in that sense, is totally subjective and private and beyond the ability of anyone else to perceive or know it.

So are you saying that there is a context where subjectivity is, in fact, an aspect of anything perceived? That anything felt, sensed, concluded has an element that is subjective? Almost like saying that everything I know has an imprint of myself in it.

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23 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

In that context, it seems to mean "the unexamined life".

So are you saying that there is a context where subjectivity is, in fact, an aspect of anything perceived? That anything felt, sensed, concluded has an element that is subjective? Almost like saying that everything I know has an imprint of myself in it.

With the exception that concepts which are properly formed can be fully objective, this is correct.  Regi made a good post.

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On 10/30/2017 at 9:33 PM, Grames said:

With the exception that concepts which are properly formed can be fully objective, this is correct. 

Okay, then regarding "survival qua man", knowing that each human has a different direction in life, the objective aspect is that they act to exist. Why is it objective as opposed to subjective? Is it because this process (activity to exist) is perceivable to all? (no privileged observations as you said)

It seems to me that the "objective" aspects of a perception are to be extracted based on what one would assume that all can perceive. But how can that be validated in the moment? Non-contradiction? That which is non-contradictory is objective? That would not be enough. An entity, something that has boundaries is identifiable and is itself. That can be subjective (something unique to my perception). How would I know that no one else sees what I see?

In other words, when I look at a situation, when can I be confident that what I see is objective? Is there a standard proof available?

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