Let's say there's a small rock on Pluto. If humans went to Pluto and determined the rock's size with a precise ruler, then:

  • the existence of the rock would be an objective fact
  • the size of the rock would be an objective fact

Am I correct so far?

Now, instead, let's say no mind has ever seen or imagined this rock. It still exists, and it has the same size. My question is, are the rock's existence and its size:

  • objective
  • subjective
  • neither objective nor subjective

My current thinking is that the rock itself needs to be defined as an object first. Maybe another form of life would not see it as a separate object, or see it as several distinct objects – we don't know that our perception of objects is universal. Maybe there's a dark matter form of life that doesn't interact with normal matter in the same way we do.

In my opinion, an object is not an object without a mind to experience it. Without a mind, it's just a bunch of matter and energy that may or may not be considered as an object, depending on perception. So the existence and the properties of this object can not be objective.

  • "Are objects objective" ? Objects are "things": stone, cats, books.Objective means "being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject". If so, the answer is : YES. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 7:19
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA how about things that haven't been experienced by a mind? Are they not objects? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 7:25
  • “Without a mind, it’s just a bunch of matter and energy that may or may not be considered as an object” This makes me think you’re using ‘object’ in a special way. You speak of a bunch of matter and energy. What’s a bunch? Is it like a mereological sum? If so, there will be at least a bunch there, if not a rock. Also, if it’s a bunch of matter, what about the particles in the matter? Aren’t they ‘objects’ or ‘things’ of some kind? Presumably, they are still there even if ‘bunch’ is just loose talk and there are no mereological sums?
    – MarkOxford
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:19
  • @MarkOxford it seems to me that, the deeper we look into the nature of our universe, the weirder and less "object-like" things become. Sure, we can treat protons, neutrons, quarks as objects. We can also treat the elementary particles as excitations of their respective quantum fields. What they really are, we don't know and we don't even know if this is something knowable. I think that we create abstractions that help us in our life and in our scientific research, but this doesn't mean any of them are objective or true. "A bunch" is also a human notion that may not be shared by other minds. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:47
  • 1
    @DmytroShevchenko - Yes, that's what I was getting at. As Idealism is unfalsifiable it must be true that the objectivity of objects is undemonstrable. Solipsism rules!
    – user20253
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 11:17

3 Answers 3


You are using the term in a slang sense. In philosophy objectivity is a concept that EXPRESSES a proposition that does not alternate or change in truth value and is unbiased . For instance something that is a FACT expresses an objective claim. I do not use Fact in the slang sense where many people in science refer to sense experience or human authority make something an alleged FACT. A fact by definition is something that has already occurred and reflects that the proposition corresponds to the real world as well as the fact cannot have various outcomes. That is a fact can not be wrong. Your statement was wrong. No human authority or sense experience is needed.

Objective claims do not depend on the perception of the observer. For instance archeologist were not present during the time of the dinosaurs but have extracted plenty of information. Truth can be classified differently. What makes claim x objective is that there is no emotive or personal interests or biases involved and no matter who examines claim x the value will be identical unless emotive things are also involved. In this way objective claims are universal everywhere in the domain of discourse. So when I claim all triangles have three sides the truth value remains the same in every continent and every place human beings reside on the planet Earth.

The same way propositions express truth values that are either true or false objective values are similar. There are objective truths that DO NOT change in truth values. They can forever be TRUE or claims can be forever be FALSE. There are also contingent truths. Truths that alternate truth value. That is statement x can be true today and statement x will be false a few hours later. For instance where I live sometimes it is raining and sometimes it is not raining. It is not the case it rains forever.

Objective truths also have relevance to normative ethics --what many call morals. It should not be the case moral claims be subjective. Philosophy would serve no purpose in that topic if morals were subjective. The idea is that normative claims have objectivity and that makes them worth while. Because you don't know the value of a claim is no excuse to express a claim has no truth value. Objectively there either is a God or there isn't. There is no middle ground. You can make an objective claim without emotional attachment. Most people do not do this though.

  • Thank you! I have a request and a question. 1) Would you please reference a source for this definition of objectivity? I believe you are right, I just want to have a reputable reference. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 16:44
  • 2) Our language is imprecise and the words/notions we use to make a claim may not have a universal definition, even within our own species. How do we make objective claims then? Also, is this objectivity universal, or is it "locally" objective for humans, and for other (hypothetical) intelligent species our claims could make no sense / not seem objective because of different ways of perceiving the world? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 16:49
  • I do not have a source for the exact words I used. There is not a single source but many where the information is then joined. I would say the average person who understands the concept realizes this is how it is taught by professors. We don't necessarily get a reference sheet.
    – Logikal
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 17:14
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    The communication rules for any language ought to be meaningful where people will not be vague or ambiguous with terms. In America we have the problem of slang usage with other definitions which get interchanged & misunderstandings are the result. Here many people use words any kind of way they want and there is no warning they are doing so. Luckily these people cherry pick the terms they misuse. Triangle is a term that is still secured in meaning. Morals is not. Fact is not. Objective is not. In this way you must stress context only. Objective implies universal truth value only.
    – Logikal
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 17:20
  • Actually, one last question — I am not sure I completely understand the last paragraph. "It should not be the case moral claims be subjective" — what do you mean by this? I think that morality is mostly subjective, as it is dependent on feelings and tradition. Unless you define moral principles in very general terms (e.g. "what maximizes well-being is good") or absolute terms (e.g. "killing is bad without exception"), how can moral claims be objective? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 21:48

... Am I correct so far?

Nope :).
But your subsequent remark,

... we don't know that our perception of objects is universal.

is indeed correct.

The decomposition of reality into "objects" (more technically, aka "subsystems") is more in your mind than you might naively be tempted to think. Coincidentally, just in the last few days, a pretty deep physical and mathematical analysis was published in https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.01943

Note the first few sentences of the abstract, "Dividing the world into subsystems is an important component of the scientific method. The choice of subsystems, however, is not defined a priori. Typically, it is dictated by our experimental capabilities, and, in general, different agents may have different capabilities."

He (G.Chiribella) goes on (in Section 2) to formally define those "agents", whereby you could interpret yourself (your mind perceiving transformations accomplished by actions of your body and of any equipment you've constructed) as such an "agent". You'll need some math background to follow his development, but (in my opinion) it'll be well worth the effort if you're really interested in this kind of stuff (and I'm pretty sure it has some very significant on-topic insights for this forum).

  • Thanks! I'll try to read the article. Would you say that an unobserved rock's existence and properties are neither objective nor subjective? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:32
  • Not what I'd say, but what Chiribella's saying. So go ahead and try to read it. You'll almost immediately see "...observables and measurements are not part of the framework". His subsystems are independent of observed/unobserved. The formalism doesn't axiomatize any measurement/observation concept. Also, by the way, I'd think "existence" is way too concrete to apply to Chiribella's model. Decomposition into subsystems is agent-dependent. But, again, like you yourself said, if interested, try to read it. It's beyond me to faithfully interpret exactly what he's saying.
    – user19423
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:44

The undiscovered rock on Pluto can be said to exist in the set of "undiscovered things". Obviously the rock specifically (and perhaps other things on Pluto) cannot be known, but the set of "undiscovered things" is a tangible, objective 'thing'. (You can go and discover something from it.)

This topic reminds me of Heidegger's consideration of the necessary, anterior material basis for Being, which cannot be observed but can be reasonably deduced, (as I hazily recall).

  • So how would you answer my question? Are the rock's existence and size: 1) objective; 2) subjective; 3) neither objective nor subjective? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:38
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    The 'rock' or other 'unknown thing' on Pluto can't be referenced directly. You can only avoid saying that that these unknown things do not exist by saying that they exist in the set of unknown/undiscovered things. Obviously you cannot say specifically that there is a rock or an unknown thing that you don't know of. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:19
  • Other than that, everything is subjective by definition. Existence is a copula of object and perceiver, and the hypothesis of no perceiver is not a reality. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:29
  • Wait, this sounds like undiscovered things don't exist. Surely this can't be your meaning? Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:37
  • It is a reasonable deduction that 'undiscovered things' exist, much as Heidegger deduced the existence of the antecedent material 'substrate' (if I recall correctly) for Being. (I believe it was mentioned in Basic Problems of Phenomenology.) Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:50

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