Objectivity and Subjectivity: an Argument for Rethinking the Philosophy Syllabus

  • P Giddy


An analysis of the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity at work in standard introductions to philosophy reveals an oversight of self-knowledge and tracing the move from a common-sense culture to a scientific one throws up the idea of self-appropriation as the hidden heart of modern thought. The aftermath of the rise of modern physics has been a picture of reality as alienated from our commonly experienced sense of purposes, aims, and intentions as defining our everyday lives, what we may call our “subjectivity”. The existentialist reaction to this has been stifled by this Cartesian dichotomy but
the non-sceptical neo-Thomist approach of Bernard Lonergan uncovers the element of self-reflective judgment in knowledge and grounds an act of self-affirmation, thematizing responsibility and agency. I present, with critique, influential moments in the genesis of the received notions of objectivity and of subjectivity, and argue for the inadequacy of Nagel’s problematization of these categories of contemporary thought. With the aim of suggesting a rethink of how philosophy questions are framed in our syllabus I argue two recent papers by colleagues exhibit this very oversight of self-knowledge.

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eISSN: 0258-0136