I think it’s an objective, empirical fact that humans have desires, emotions, values, and can think about non-existent entities (like dragons, or Santa Claus).

But there is no objective existence of those things, for if you take away humans, then so do those things disappear from existence.

For example where is objective goodness or beauty? Can you point to it anywhere in empirical reality?

But then how can you say at the same time that goodness and beauty exist objectively within and between human minds, and they are not mind independent and objective, merely intersubjective. As in, the concept for goodness is not objective but people clearly can experience goodness and describe it as such.

Furthermore I think there is intersubjective core to language. For example goodness has a similar or identical core for each individual, otherwise they wouldn’t be using the correct word. Then there are individual senses which make that word uniquely theirs, like specific good deeds or situations that they consider are good.

Then we can make objective statements such as there is a black 1969 ford mustang over there. But what about it is fast/has a high velocity. Surely velocity is thought to empirically exist even if velocity itself isn’t mind independent. On and on.

Sorry if this isn’t clear/correct. I’m having a hard time with this.

Ref: IEP entry on objectivity

Edit: don’t know if this helps and it’s probably wrong in some way but anyway.

The concept for something can be said to exist intersubjectively. But the referent of that concept can’t be said to exist unless it’s been empirically verified. Like love. Which has an intersubjective definition which people agree upon. That concept (devotion and care for another) exists intersubjectively, where as love as an abstraction has no independent existence. Therefore love is neither objective nor subjective only intersubjective. We can observe instances of love play out. In that sense it exists again only intersubjectively.

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    Justin Clark Doane has work/a recent book showing how different combinations of mind independence/dependence (realism/anti) and objectivity/non (one true/pluralism) make sense for different parts of reality. Having different combinations is quite accommodating for one thing. For example, “beauty” may be real/independent, but not objective because there is no one true version of beauty. Independence and objectivity have multifaceted relations to each other. Working out which combination is appropriate is a continual work.
    – J Kusin
    Commented May 21 at 5:34
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    @Matthew +1 for your observation "for if you take away humans, then so do those things disappear from existence".
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented May 21 at 5:55
  • By your logic, there is no objective existence of humans, for if you take away humans then they disappear from existence (in virtue of taking them away). That is not what "objective existence" means. It means that something is not an artifact of somebody's perception and framing. And human states and behaviors, which are described in terms of desires, emotions and values, are no such artifacts, hence objectively exist.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 21 at 7:16
  • @Conifold no I believe the concept of human would cease to exist. Same with the concept of an orange, which is mind dependent. An actual orange, not the concept of it, would continue to exist even without humans. Furthermore if I say that orange you’re holding is orange, that’s an objective statement even though the words orange, objective, etc. aren’t mind independent. We can communicate this because we agree that words have a core of meaning that is intersubjective. But I’m not sure on this.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 21 at 9:38
  • But more so is beauty objective? We can think of an intersubjective definition but that’s not the same as beauty in itself, something like the platonic ideal
    – Matthew
    Commented May 21 at 9:55

2 Answers 2


Remember there are two core Aristotelian categories in philosophy: physika (essentially, experience) and meta ta physika (essentially, reason).

Only what is physical/empirical (what we experience with our senses) can be objective (science MUST be physical).

What is metaphysical/rational is necessarily subjective.

Yes, ...

  • ... there is no goodness and beauty as a physical fact: they are metaphysical.
  • ... there is no goodness and beauty in nature: in final terms, nature is just atoms (or fields, whatever)
  • ... when we'll die, goodness and beauty will also perish.
  • ... what it's most shocking, goodness and beauty will perish when YOU, and only YOU die: you can't know if we, the rest, are just an illusion of yours, and that your belief that goodness and beauty exist also in our mind is just an invention of yours (check George Berkeley's Solipsism).

The last point is intended to show that the line between objectivity and subjectivity is very thin. For many philosophers, objectivity is just shared subjectivity. The moon exists because we all believe that we feel it subjectively (consider that such belief is subjective).


You are incorrect in your distinguishment between the objectivity of the physical world and ideas. That “ there is a black 1969 ford mustang over there” is ALSO only intersubjectively agreed upon.

And the existence of math, relationships between objects, and the relative perfection or not of a drawn circle are facts which will not disappear if humans all die. Abstract objects have mind independent reality.

Object realism can be inferred despite such an inference not being certain or “objective”.

The philosopher you need to read is Karl Popper.

  • Thanks. Wouldn’t that mean we cannot say anything objective about reality then, because the best we can do is intersubjective. Could I still say “it is an objective fact such that…” intersubjectively. Meaning that the fact is objective between individuals. Also how can anything exist mind independently if there were no minds to apprehend it (maybe mathematical facts etc. because I believe these have objective existence - the question doesn’t make sense - but value laden abstractions and other types?) Yes I’ll read some popper, all I’m familiar with is his book on societies and falsification
    – Matthew
    Commented May 21 at 12:07
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    @Matthew. Poppers book on objective knowledge is the most directly about your question. However he wrote that before Quine showed falsifications is falsified. Conjectures and Refutations might therefore be better. Yes you can approximate “widely agreed thru careful intersubjective consideration” and “objective”. But there is a difference, the first references pragmatic truth, and the second references absolute truth. So the substitution is often misleading.
    – Dcleve
    Commented May 21 at 13:28

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