Subjectivism

Subjectivism is the doctrine that "our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience",[1] instead of shared or communal, and that there is no external or objective truth.

The success of this position is historically attributed to Descartes and his methodic doubt.[1] Subjectivism accords primacy to subjective experience as fundamental of all measure and law.[2] In extreme forms like Solipsism, it may hold that the nature and existence of every object depends solely on someone's subjective awareness of it. One may consider the qualified empiricism of George Berkeley in this context, given his reliance on God as the prime mover of human perception. Thus, subjectivism.

Metaphysical subjectivism

Subjectivism is a label used to denote the philosophical tenet that "our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience."[1] The success of this position is historically attributed to Descartes and his methodic doubt.[1] Subjectivism has historically been condemned by Christian theologians, which oppose to it the objective authority of the church, the Christian dogma, and the revealed truth of the Bible.[1][3] Christian theologians, and Karl Barth in particular, have also condemned anthropocentrism as a form of subjectivism.[1][4]

Metaphysical subjectivism is the theory that reality is what we perceive to be real, and that there is no underlying true reality that exists independently of perception. One can also hold that it is consciousness rather than perception that is reality (subjective idealism). This is in contrast to metaphysical objectivism and philosophical realism, which assert that there is an underlying 'objective' reality which is perceived in different ways.

This viewpoint should not be confused with the stance that "all is illusion" or that "there is no such thing as reality." Metaphysical subjectivists hold that reality is real enough. They conceive, however, that the nature of reality as related to a given consciousness is dependent on that consciousness. This has its philosophical basis in the writings of Descartes (see cogito ergo sum), and forms a cornerstone of Søren Kierkegaard's philosophy.

Modern versions

Recently, more modest versions of metaphysical subjectivism have been explored. For example, I might hold that it is a fact that chocolate is tasty, even though I recognize that it is not tasty to everyone. This would imply that there are facts that are subjective. (Analogously, one might hold that it is a fact that it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, even though this is not always the case, implying that some facts are temporary.) Giovanni Merlo has developed a specific version of metaphysical subjectivism, under which subjective facts always concern mental properties.[5] Caspar Hare's theory of egocentric presentism is another, closely related example.

Subjectivism and panpsychism

One possible extension of subjectivist thought is that conscious experience is available to all objectively perceivable substrates. Upon viewing images produced by a camera on the rocking side of an erupting volcano, one might suppose that their relative motion followed from a subjective conscious within the volcano. These properties might also be attributed to the camera or its various components as well.

In this way, though, subjectivism morphs into a related doctrine, panpsychism, the belief that every objective entity (or event) has an inward or subjective aspect.

Ethical subjectivism

Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical belief that ethical sentences reduce to factual statements about the attitudes and/or conventions of individual people, or that any ethical sentence implies an attitude held by someone. As such, it is a form of moral relativism in which the truth of moral claims is relative to the attitudes of individuals[6] (as opposed to, for instance, communities). Consider the case this way — to a person imagining what it's like to be a cat, catching and eating mice is perfectly natural and morally sound. To a person imagining they are a mouse, being hunted by cats is morally abhorrent. Though this is a loose metaphor, it serves to illustrate the view that each individual subject has their own understanding of right and wrong.

An ethical subjectivist might propose, for example, that what it means for something to be morally right is just for it to be approved of. (This can lead to the belief that different things are right according to each idiosyncratic moral outlook.) One implication of these beliefs is that, unlike the moral skeptic or the non-cognitivist, the subjectivist thinks that ethical sentences, while subjective, are nonetheless the kind of thing that can be true or false depending on situation.

In probability

Broadly speaking, there are two views on Bayesian probability that interpret the probability concept in different ways. In probability, a subjectivist stand is the belief that probabilities are simply degrees-of-belief by rational agents in a certain proposition, and which have no objective reality in and of themselves. According to the subjectivist view, probability measures a "personal belief".[7] For this kind of subjectivist, a phrase having to do with probability simply asserts the degree to which the subjective actor believes their assertion is true or false. As a consequence, a subjectivist has no problem with differing people giving different probabilities to an uncertain proposition, and all being correct.

Many modern machine learning methods are based on objectivist Bayesian principles.[8] According to the objectivist view, the rules of Bayesian statistics can be justified by requirements of rationality and consistency and interpreted as an extension of logic.[9][10] In attempting to justify subjective probability, Bruno de Finetti created the notion of philosophical coherence. According to his theory, a probability assertion is akin to a bet, and a bet is coherent only if it does not expose the wagerer to loss if their opponent chooses wisely. To explain his meaning, de Finetti created a thought-experiment to illustrate the need for principles of coherency in making a probabilistic statement. In his scenario, when someone states their degree-of-belief in something, one places a small bet for or against that belief and specifies the odds, with the understanding that the other party to the bet may then decide which side of the bet to take. Thus, if Bob specifies 3-to-1 odds against a proposition A, his opponent Joe may then choose whether to require Bob to risk $1 in order to win $3 if proposition A is found to be true, or to require Bob to risk $3 in order to win $1 if the proposition A is not true. In this case, it is possible for Joe to win over Bob. According to de Finetti, then, this case is incoherent.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Richardson, Alan and Bowden, John (1983) A new dictionary of Christian theology pp.552-3
  2. ^ William Hay (2011) Blog entry on subjectivism
  3. ^ Dallmayr, Fred Reinhard (1989) Margins of political discourse p.188
  4. ^ Michael Kunzler (2001) Church's Liturgy p.3
  5. ^ Merlo, Giovanni (2016). "Subjectivism and the Mental". Dialectica. 70 (3): 311–342. doi:10.1111/1746-8361.12153.
  6. ^ "moral subjectivism is that species of moral relativism that relativizes moral value to the individual subject".Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  7. ^ Cox, R. T. 2001. Algebra of Probable Inference, The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801869822
  8. ^ Bishop, C.M. 2007. Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning. Springer. ISBN 978-0387310732
  9. ^ Jaynes, E.T. 1976. "Bayesian Methods: General Background", Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods in Applied Statistics, by J. H. Justice (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511569678.003
  10. ^ a b de Finetti, B. 1974. Theory of Probability (2 vols.), J. Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York). ISBN 978-0471201427
Cognitivism (ethics)

Cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be true or false (they are truth-apt), which noncognitivists deny. Cognitivism is so broad a thesis that it encompasses (among other views) moral realism (which claims that ethical sentences express propositions about mind-independent facts of the world), ethical subjectivism (which claims that ethical sentences express propositions about peoples' attitudes or opinions), and error theory (which claims that ethical sentences express propositions, but that they are all false, whatever their nature).

Epistemological idealism

Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.

Ethical non-naturalism

Ethical non-naturalism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

Ethical sentences express propositions.

Some such propositions are true.

Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion.

These moral features of the world are not reducible to any set of non-moral features.This makes ethical non-naturalism a non-definist form of moral realism, which is in turn a form of cognitivism. Ethical non-naturalism stands in opposition to ethical naturalism, which claims that moral terms and properties are reducible to non-moral terms and properties, as well as to all forms of moral anti-realism, including ethical subjectivism (which denies that moral propositions refer to objective facts), error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true), and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all).

Ethical subjectivism

Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

Ethical sentences express propositions.

Some such propositions are true.

The truth or falsity of such propositions is ineliminably dependent on the (actual or hypothetical) attitudes of people.This makes ethical subjectivism a form of cognitivism. Ethical subjectivism stands in opposition to moral realism, which claims that moral propositions refer to objective facts, independent of human opinion; to error theory, which denies that any moral propositions are true in any sense; and to non-cognitivism, which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all.The most common forms of ethical subjectivism are also forms of moral relativism, with moral standards held to be relative to each culture or society (c.f. cultural relativism), or even to every individual. The latter view, as put forward by Protagoras, holds that there are as many distinct scales of good and evil as there are subjects in the world. However, there are also universalist forms of subjectivism such as ideal observer theory (which claims that moral propositions are about what attitudes a hypothetical ideal observer would hold). Although divine command theory is considered by some to be a form of ethical subjectivism, defenders of the perspective that divine command theory is not a form of ethical subjectivism say this is based on a misunderstanding: that divine command proponents claim that moral propositions are about what attitudes God holds, but this understanding is deemed incorrect by some, such as Robert Adams who claims that divine command theory is concerned with whether a moral command is or isn't "contrary to the commands of (a loving) God".

Expressivism

In meta-ethics, expressivism is a theory about the meaning of moral language. According to expressivism, sentences that employ moral terms – for example, "It is wrong to torture an innocent human being" – are not descriptive or fact-stating; moral terms such as "wrong", "good", or "just" do not refer to real, in-the-world properties. The primary function of moral sentences, according to expressivism, is not to assert any matter of fact, but rather to express an evaluative attitude toward an object of evaluation. Because the function of moral language is non-descriptive, moral sentences do not have any truth conditions. Hence, expressivists either do not allow that moral sentences have truth value, or rely on a notion of truth that does not appeal to any descriptive truth conditions being met for moral sentences.

Fallibilism

Broadly speaking, fallibilism (from Medieval Latin: fallibilis, "liable to err") is the philosophical claim that no belief can have justification which guarantees the truth of the belief. However, not all fallibilists believe that fallibilism extends to all domains of knowledge.

Ideal observer theory

Ideal observer theory is the meta-ethical view which claims that ethical sentences express truth-apt propositions about the attitudes of a hypothetical ideal observer. In other words, ideal observer theory states that ethical judgments should be interpreted as statements about the judgments that a neutral and fully informed observer would make; "x is good" means "an ideal observer would approve of x".

This makes ideal observer theory a subjectivist yet universalist form of cognitivism. Ideal observer theory stands in opposition to other forms of ethical subjectivism (e.g.moral relativism, and individualist ethical subjectivism), as well as to moral realism (which claims that moral propositions refer to objective facts, independent of anyone's attitudes or opinions), error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true in any sense), and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all).

While Adam Smith and David Hume are recognized to have espoused early versions of the ideal observer theory, Roderick Firth is responsible for starting a more sophisticated modern version. According to Firth, an ideal observer has the following specific characteristics: omniscience with respect to nonmoral facts, omnipercipience, disinterestedness, dispassionateness, consistency, and normalcy in all other respects. Notice that, by defining an Ideal Observer as omniscient with respect to nonmoral facts, Firth avoids circular logic that would arise from defining an ideal observer as omniscient in both nonmoral and moral facts. A complete knowledge of morality is not born of itself but is an emergent property of Firth's minimal requirements. There are also sensible restrictions to the trait of omniscience with respect to nonmoral facts. For instance, a geological event in another solar system is hardly something necessary to know to make a moral judgment about a case of theft or murder on Earth.

Those proposing the ideal observer theory do not necessarily assert that any real ideal observers actually exist.

Johannes Rehmke

Johannes Rehmke (1 February 1848 – 23 December 1930) was a German philosopher and since 1885 professor at Universität Greifswald, later also provost of this university. He offered sharp criticisms of Kant's approach to epistemology. In his article The Conquest of Subjectivism, Paul Linke pointed out that it was Rehmke who first banned the words, 'subjective,' 'objective,' 'immanent,' and 'transcendent,' from his philosophical vocabulary. He made a courageous break from subjectivism, which was the pervasive philosophical paradigm of the times, and also criticized phenomenalism.

Kevin Carson

Kevin Carson is an American social theorist and mutualist known for his left-libertarianism. He is a Senior Fellow and Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory at the Center for a Stateless Society. Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy aims to revive interest in mutualism, synthesizing Austrian economics with the labor theory of value by incorporating both subjectivism and time preference. His work has been addressed by anarcho-capitalist economist Walter Block and his Center for a Stateless Society colleague, the philosopher Roderick T. Long.

Meta-ethics

Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics and applied ethics.

While normative ethics addresses such questions as "What should I do?", evaluating specific practices and principles of action, meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What is goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations.

Some theorists argue that a metaphysical account of morality is necessary for the proper evaluation of actual moral theories and for making practical moral decisions; others reason from opposite premises and suggest that studying moral judgments about proper actions can guide us to a true account of the nature of morality.

Moral realism

Moral realism (also ethical realism or moral Platonism) is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world (that is, features independent of subjective opinion), some of which may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately. This makes moral realism a non-nihilist form of ethical cognitivism (which accepts that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be evaluated as true or false) with an ontological orientation, standing in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism and moral skepticism, including ethical subjectivism (which denies that moral propositions refer to objective facts), error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true); and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all). Within moral realism, the two main subdivisions are ethical naturalism and ethical non-naturalism.

Many philosophers claim that moral realism may be dated back at least to Plato as a philosophical doctrine,

and that it is a fully defensible form of moral doctrine. A survey from 2009 involving 3,226 respondents found that 56% of philosophers accept or lean towards moral realism (28%: anti-realism; 16%: other). Some notable examples of robust moral realists include David Brink, John McDowell, Peter Railton, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Michael Smith, Terence Cuneo, Russ Shafer-Landau, G. E. Moore, John Finnis, Richard Boyd, Nicholas Sturgeon, Thomas Nagel and Derek Parfit. Norman Geras has argued that Karl Marx was a moral realist. Moral realism has been studied in the various philosophical and practical applications.

Objectivity (philosophy)

Objectivity is a philosophical concept of being true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination. A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject. Scientific objectivity refers to the ability to judge without partiality or external influence, sometimes used synonymously with neutrality.

Quasi-realism

Quasi-realism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

Ethical sentences do not express propositions.

Instead, ethical sentences project emotional attitudes as though they were real properties.This makes quasi-realism a form of non-cognitivism or expressivism. Quasi-realism stands in opposition to other forms of non-cognitivism (such as emotivism and universal prescriptivism), as well as to all forms of cognitivism (including both moral realism and ethical subjectivism).

Subject (philosophy)

A subject is a being who has a unique consciousness and/or unique personal experiences, or an entity that has a relationship with another entity that exists outside itself (called an "object").

A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed. This concept is especially important in Continental philosophy, where 'the subject' is a central term in debates over the nature of the self. The nature of the subject is also central in debates over the nature of subjective experience within the Anglo-American tradition of analytical philosophy.

The sharp distinction between subject and object corresponds to the distinction, in the philosophy of René Descartes, between thought and extension. Descartes believed that thought (subjectivity) was the essence of the mind, and that extension (the occupation of space) was the essence of matter.

Subjective

Subjective may refer to:

Subjectivity, a subject's personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view

Subjective experience, the subjective quality of conscious experience

Subjectivism, a philosophical tenet that accords primacy to subjective experience as fundamental of all measure and law

Subjective case, grammatical case for a noun

Subject (philosophy), who has subjective experiences or a relationship with another entity

Subjective theory of value, an economic theory of value

A school of bayesian probability stating that the state of knowledge corresponds to personal belief

Subjective theory of value

The subjective theory of value is a theory of value which advances the idea that the value of a good is not determined by any inherent property of the good, nor by the amount of labor necessary to produce the good, but instead value is determined by the importance an acting individual places on a good for the achievement of his desired ends. The modern version of this theory was created independently and nearly simultaneously by William Stanley Jevons, Léon Walras, and Carl Menger in the late 19th century.

The Abolition of Man

The Abolition of Man is a 1943 book by C. S. Lewis. Subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," it uses that as a starting point for a defense of objective value and natural law as well as a warning of the consequences of doing away with or "debunking" those things. It defends science as something worth pursuing but criticizes using it to debunk values, the value of science itself being among them, or defining it to exclude such values. The book was first delivered as a series of three evening lectures at King's College, Newcastle, part of the University of Durham, as the Riddell Memorial Lectures on February 24 to 26, 1943.

Universal prescriptivism

Universal prescriptivism (often simply called prescriptivism) is the meta-ethical view which claims that, rather than expressing propositions, ethical sentences function similarly to imperatives which are universalizable—whoever makes a moral judgment is committed to the same judgment in any situation where the same relevant facts obtain.

This makes prescriptivism a universalist form of non-cognitivism. Prescriptivism stands in opposition to other forms of non-cognitivism (such as emotivism and quasi-realism), as well as to all forms of cognitivism (including both moral realism and ethical subjectivism).Since prescriptivism was introduced by philosopher R. M. Hare in his 1952 book The Language of Morals, it has been compared to emotivism and to the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant. Unlike Kant, however, Hare does not invoke universalizability as a test of moral permissibility. Instead, he sees it as a consistency requirement that is built into the logic of moral language and helps to make moral thinking a rational enterprise.

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