What are all the different ways that we can define these two ideas. Do there actually exist things that we can say with certainty are Objective and things which exist that are absolutely subjective or are these both in the middle.

  • Everyday experience is full of "things" that are subjective i.e. depending on subject's personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:15
  • Regarding objectivity is science, see yesterday's post. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:16
  • And everyday life if full of "things" taht are objective, i.e. true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:18
  • It's pretty difficult to say anything with certainty in philosophy. It could help to expand on what you mean by things. For instance the number 7 certainly has an air of objectivity about it, but is also abstract and questions about its existence tend to generate pretty complex answers..
    – Matt-T
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:17
  • Well exactly that one would feel that a integer should be objective but it is still abstract and perhaps has a subjective sense so wouldn't it be fair to say that there isn't anything that exists that is say objective that doesn't somehow have a subjective lens to it. For example a car crash bystanders can say that the crash happened but there view of it is different from one another. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 19:29

4 Answers 4


Taking the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on "Emergent Properties" as a starting point, and asserting that all subjective properties are identical to emergent properties, then we can take all the systems and substances which are not called "emergent" to be whatever's objective.

The article asserts that there may be no objects at all, other than "simple physical structures," that do not have an emergent component.* Under my assertion, this means that pretty much everything has subjective parts and objective parts.

Talk of ["composite systems lacking emergent features"] is a convenient fiction suited to human perceptual and linguistic proclivities." (bracketed expression inserted by me)


Under my assertion that subjectivity implies emergence and vice-versa, this means that anything that's not an atom has subjective qualities in addition to its objective qualities. This seems easily true, on the thought that not all things are the sums of their parts.

So I think that objective may be defined quite apart from subjective and not on a sliding scale. But it appears that there just aren't any things (other than simple ones like atoms) which are not compositions of their objective and subjective nature and properties.

* Composite objects having ontologically emergent features appear to be truer unities than those lacking such features.

  • 1
    For what reason(s) are you asserting that subjective properties are identical to emergent ones?
    – Matt-T
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:59
  • I guess it's just my hypothesis, and we'll see if its consequences bear it out. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:00
  • I know that I'm a little confused, but I see a trend: objective vs. subjective, non-emergent vs. emergent, ontological vs. epistemological. Lots of words to express ideas in parallel! Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:09
  • Looks like someone has already posited my hypothesis ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence#Objective_or_subjective_quality ), and that Dr. Peter Corning has argued against it. ( onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/cplx.10043 ) Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:10
  • Corning writes, "Must the synergies be perceived/observed in order to qualify as emergent effects, as some theorists claim? Most emphatically not. The synergies associated with emergence are real and measurable, even if nobody is there to observe them." But this is trivial: pressure is 1 atm with or without a gauge. Duh! But without a person looking for "pressure", it's just molecules bouncing. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 23:13

Here is one concept of objectivity, taken from SEP.

Let's take objective properties to be qualities of an object that exist independently of a perception of that object; for example, the primality of the number 7, or the atomic mass of hydrogen. The intuition being that these facts would remain even if there was no one around to perceive them.

In The View from Nowhere Thomas Nagel identifies three steps to identifying such objective properties.

First we must recognise that our perceptions are caused by causal processes (light reflecting off objects into our eyes and sounds hitting our eardrums etc.) and the effects those processes have on our sense organs and brains.

Second we must consider that these causal processes also act on other things (than ourselves) and sometimes never act on anything at all. Think of a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear, it intuitively seems that something must happen in that situation and that something must be detachable from a human perspective.

Finally we must form a conception of an entity's nature that is detached from our perspective, hence the title of the book, The View From Nowhere. Only by abstracting out our perspectival experience of the object are we able to gain a sense of objectivity.

  • Good answer, but you have taken objectivity of properties as an answer to objectivity of things. Is this sufficient? Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 21:44
  • I take your point, but its hard to expand further without a better idea of what is meant by 'thing'. Like an entity that persists in space and time? Or something more general?
    – Matt-T
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 21:59
  • I'm thinking of a distinction that was drawn in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy regarding "Emergent Properties" (plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties-emergent/#EmeSub ) as opposed to the putative notion of "'Emergent Substance'". Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:20
  • Take out the part about emergence, and you're left with a nice set of criteria for "properties" vs "things". (the things that are themselves properties notwithstanding) Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:24
  • I see... To clarify, I wasn't claiming that objectivity of things emerges out of bundles of objective properties or anything like that. Just giving an example of a 'thing' that could be considered to be known objectively, in this case a property.
    – Matt-T
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 22:24

My childhood tutor in philosophy suggested that objectivity and subjectivity are a single spectrum. An attribute of the attributes that we assign objects. Its value on this spectrum might be estimated by how much we expect the attribute to vary from perspective to perspective. Unfortunately, the assignment of objectivity/subjectivity of an attribute is subjective itself. As a side note, the acknowledgment of any form of objectivity is always in question, as we have yet to define truly objective proofs even for things as seemingly concrete as mathematics.

Hope this helps, interesting question.

  • Nice answer. I'm with your tutor.
    – user20253
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 14:11

Dr. David R. Hawkins approaches this subject in his book, 'I: Reality and Subjectivity'; what he says is that reality is always subjective, whether a thing is proven true or not in a scientific way, because it was made from a point of view and it inherently involves viewer's perspective.

Also, 'Observer effect' theory from quantum mechanics states that simply observing a situation or a phenomenon changes their structure as well as every conscious subject can affect reality in the same manner.

That being said, I tend to believe that the idea of objectiveness is only a narrowing of human perception, thus a limitation of consciousness regarding that an observation or a statement is made with an intention and it lacks objectivity.

Some of Mr. Hawkins' most appropriate statements related to this topic would be: "Truth is only that which is verifiable by the realization of subjective experiential reality", and, "There is no inherent authority of 'truth' to any concept except for the subjective value ascribed to it."

  • I agree. If you have references for the observer effect in quantum physics or perhaps a quote or two from Hawkins focusing the reader on the most important part of the book that would strengthen your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to this SE! Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 12:24

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