Subjectivism

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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.

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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.

Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. This extreme position is claimed to be irrefutable, as the solipsist believes himself to be the only true authority, all others being creations of their own mind.

Empiricism theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience

In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.

George Berkeley Anglo-Irish philosopher

George Berkeley – known as Bishop Berkeley – was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism". This theory denies the existence of material substance and instead contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers and, as a result, cannot exist without being perceived. Berkeley is also known for his critique of abstraction, an important premise in his argument for immaterialism.

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]

Karl Barth Swiss Protestant theologian

Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian who is most well known for his landmark The Epistle to the Romans, involvement in the Confessing Church, authorship of the Barmen Declaration, and especially his five volume theological summa the Church Dogmatics. Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on April 20, 1962 and Pope Pius XII said Barth was “the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas.”

Anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Anthropocentrism interprets or regards the world in terms of human values and experiences. The term can be used interchangeably with humanocentrism, and some refer to the concept as human supremacy or human exceptionalism. Anthropocentrism is considered to be profoundly embedded in many modern human cultures and conscious acts. It is a major concept in the field of environmental ethics and environmental philosophy, where it is often considered to be the root cause of problems created by human action within the ecosphere.

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.

Consciousness state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself

Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something "that it is like" to "have" or "be" it, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives."

Subjective idealism

Subjective idealism, or empirical idealism, is the monistic metaphysical doctrine that only minds and mental contents exist. It entails and is generally identified or associated with immaterialism, the doctrine that material things do not exist. Subjective idealism rejects dualism, neutral monism, and materialism; indeed, it is the contrary of eliminative materialism, the doctrine that all or some classes of mental phenomena do not exist, but are sheer illusions.

In metaphysics, realism about a given object is the view that this object exists in reality independently of our conceptual scheme. In philosophical terms, these objects are ontologically independent of someone's conceptual scheme, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.

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.

Søren Kierkegaard Danish philosopher and theologian, precursor of Existentialism

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".

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.

Egocentric presentism is a form of solipsism introduced by Caspar Hare in which other persons can be conscious, but their experiences are simply not present.

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

Related Research Articles

Bayesian probability is an interpretation of the concept of probability, in which, instead of frequency or propensity of some phenomenon, probability is interpreted as reasonable expectation representing a state of knowledge or as quantification of a personal belief.

In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, Idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to Materialism, Idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

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.

Objectivism (Ayn Rand) philosophy created by Ayn Rand

Objectivism is a philosophical system developed by Russian-American writer Ayn Rand. Rand first expressed Objectivism in her fiction, most notably The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), and later in non-fiction essays and books. Leonard Peikoff, a professional philosopher and Rand's designated intellectual heir, later gave it a more formal structure. Rand described Objectivism as "the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute". Peikoff characterizes Objectivism as a "closed system" that is not subject to change.

Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

Moral realism is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world, 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 with an ontological orientation, standing in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism and moral skepticism, including ethical subjectivism, error theory ; and non-cognitivism. Within moral realism, the two main subdivisions are ethical naturalism and ethical non-naturalism.

Moral universalism is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor are they necessarily value monist; many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist, and some forms, such as that of Isaiah Berlin, may be value pluralist.

Simulated reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated—for example by quantum computer simulation—to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from "true" reality. There has been much debate over this topic, ranging from philosophical discourse to practical applications in computing.

Cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be true or false, which noncognitivists deny. Cognitivism is so broad a thesis that it encompasses moral realism, ethical subjectivism, and error theory.

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

  1. Ethical sentences express propositions.
  2. Some such propositions are true.
  3. The truth or falsity of such propositions is ineliminably dependent on the attitudes of people.

In gambling, a Dutch book or lock is a set of odds and bets which guarantees a profit, regardless of the outcome of the gamble. It is associated with probabilities implied by the odds not being coherent.

Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is morally right or wrong.

Aesthetic relativism is the idea that views of beauty are relative to differences in perception and consideration, and intrinsically, have no absolute truth or validity.

Projectivism in philosophy involves attributing ('projecting') qualities to an object as if those qualities actually belong to it. It is a theory for how people interact with the world, and has been applied in both ethics and general philosophy. There are several forms of projectivism.

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".

Bayes linear statistics is a subjectivist statistical methodology and framework. Traditional subjective Bayesian analysis is based upon fully specified probability distributions, which are very difficult to specify at the necessary level of detail. Bayes linear analysis attempts to solve this problem by developing theory and practise for using partially specified probability models. Bayes linear in its current form has been primarily developed by Michael Goldstein. Mathematically and philosophically it extends Bruno de Finetti's Operational Subjective approach to probability and statistics.

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.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 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. 1 2 de Finetti, B. 1974. Theory of Probability (2 vols.), J. Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York). ISBN   978-0471201427