This is a request for a reference on (within) philosophy.stackexchange.com. It follows from discussions around this question. I am asking after having tried my luck at websearch.

What I am searching for runs something like

Objectivity is the mark of reality

The usual materialistic/physicalist justifications

Subjectivity is the only absolute truth

Berkeley? Desartes? Postmodern? Freud? etc justifications


  1. This is not a request for answering the question "Is reality subjective/objective?" but a reference request for prior discussion on this site around that topic
  2. Said discussion exists. I had seen it. Just not finding it
  3. Whether it was directly this question or a side discussion from some other I don't know


  • @Markandrews for indicating unclarity in earlier version
  • @curiousdanii for first cleanup
  • @nat for the excellent answer that started this
  • 2
    It is difficult to tell what you are getting at. Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 19:44
  • Does this edit clarify @markandrews?
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 21:15
  • Much better. Thanks. Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 2:33
  • I think what I was looking for is this one. Many valuables there, particulars @virmaior 1-liner that subjective-objective have flipped meanings going medieval to modern. Can someone point to more refs on that?
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 4:13

4 Answers 4


Reality objective or subjective

The twin notions of subjective and objective do not relate to reality but to different and indeed polar opposite perspectives on it. Neither of these two terms has any ontological import at all. Instead, they together map the fundamentally dualistic nature of our epistemology.

We know our "subjective world", which is in fact just the part of reality that we know in itself because it is our subjective experience.

We believe there is an objective world, that is, a part of reality that, although we don't know it in itself because we don't experience it subjectively, we are nonetheless certain that it exists.

Yet, reality is neither subjective nor objective. Subjective facts are what we know of reality because they are facts we experience subjectively. I know pain whenever I am in pain. I don't know pain whenever I am not in pain.

Objective facts are what we believe about some of our subjective facts. What we believe, in effect, is that they are objective facts. That is, we believe that they are facts of the material world. I believe there is a tree in my garden whenever I have the impression that I am looking at a tree in my garden.

The objective world is an abstraction. We look at the Moon in the night sky and believe not only that there is something which is the Moon in the night sky, but that, whatever it is, it is exactly as we see it.

However, we can't always be looking at the Moon. Instead, we have to construe the objective world as persisting outside our perception of it. The Moon exists even when we are not looking at it. Yet, this is only possible to the extent that we remember it. The Moon as we know it is only persistent, if at all, in our memory. Lose your memory of the Moon and you will lose your belief that there is a Moon that persists when you are not looking at it.

Presumably, there is something which is the real Moon, something we don't know because we don't have any subjective experience of it but which is what we perceive as the Moon. But we don't know this thing. It is not an objective thing. We believe it exists but we don't know what it is.

Instead, we know the subjective impression we have of our perception of it. Whence comes the objective world. The objective world comes from our subjective world. The Moon becomes objective by virtue of the fact that we agree that there is a Moon.

My pain will remain forever subjective because I am the only one to experience it as I do. All that other people will ever experience of my pain is what I look like, or sound like, to them, when I am in pain, and indeed their own experience of themselves being in pain. So, they understand my pain, but they don't know it. It will remain part of my subjective world, inaccessible to them.

But our subjective Moon can acquire the status of objective reality by virtue of the fact that we are all able to agree that the Moon exists.

Our view of reality will forever remain split between our subjective perspective and our objective perspective. This is an intrinsic property of cognitive systems. A cognitive system maintains a representation of the world. It cannot possibly know the world.

All it knows, if it does, is the representation it has of the world. This representation, if it is to be operationally effective, should be an objective view of the world. That is, the cognitive system should believe the representation to be the world itself, and it should be such that similar systems should be able to agree on what is the objective reality.

The representation itself will be subjective, since only the system itself will have access to it. But the system will believe that the representation is not a representation but the objective world itself.

Thus, our objective perspective on the world can only come from our subjective representation of it. And the main operational function of our subjective representation is that we believe it to be objective, that is, that we believe it to be the real world itself; or rather, that we mistake this cartoonish sketch for an objective world which, in effect, doesn't exist as such.

Fortunately, there would be no use for any realistic representation of reality. What matters is that this representation should be operationally effective.

The fact that I can have right now a nice cup of tea seems to show that this is what it does.

  • I marked your question up and some idiot came along and took the point away. So your answer is appreciated +1.
    – Gordon
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 2:14
  • See the comment I've just added to the main question. The link I was looking for (or closest) is this one : philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/8384/37256 . If you move this answer (or substantially similar) there you will have my +1. This question is just a reference (back pointer) request so IMHO better not here.
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 4:16
  • I'm sure @gordon too will not mind transferring his +1 if you move it there. (Or here philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/26702/37256 )
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 11:36
  • 1
    @Rusi Sorry, I can't do that. The question there is substantially different and my answer here is specific to the question of what we mean by reality. Unless you could find the original question. Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 11:44
  • Since the links I was searching are found, we need not stick to the letter of the question (to find old refs on SE). And as I said your answer is fine. IOW I'd like to reverse my downvote to an upvote. But SE rules won't allow unless you make a change. Will you be so kind as to delete a comma, add an extra full stop... Or whatever?
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 11:02

Not an internal site reference, but imo a potentially important reference for this type of conversation:


As of 2020, about 80% of professional philosophers are 'non-skeptical realists', which I would describe as broadly the idea that reality exists, it REALLY exists, and we interact with reality when we perceive it, when we move our bodies, etc.

  • You might be interested to read this (but note first, 'the mathematical' is meant here in the broadest sense) : "Descartes does not doubt because he is a skeptic; rather, he must become a doubter because he posits the mathematical as the absolute ground and seeks for all knowledge a foundation that will be in accord with it. ... The Being of beings is determined out of the "I am" as the certainty of the positing." Heidegger, Modern Science, Metaphysics and Mathematics, page 278. Commented Mar 1 at 15:48
  • The broad sense of the mathematical is explained earlier, e.g. "To the essence of the mathematical as a projection belongs the axiomatical, the beginning of basic principles upon which everything further is based in insightful order. If mathematics, in the sense of a mathesis universalis, is to ground and form the whole of knowledge, then it requires the formulation of special axioms." Ibid. page 277. Commented Mar 1 at 15:51
  • Also, relevant with regard to the OP's question re. objective or subjective : "Until Descartes every thing at hand for itself was a "subject"; but now the "I" becomes the special subject, that with regard to which all the remaining things first determine themselves as such. Because — mathematically — they first receive their thingness only through the founding relation to the highest principle and its "subject" (I), they are essentially such as stand as something else in relation to the "subject," which lie over against it as objectum. The things themselves become "objects." Ibid. page 280. Commented Mar 1 at 16:05

Just a thought. Reality is objective, when there exists the object. But when the object has disappeared, then can we still talk about objective reality? (When matter has become energy, then doesn't the 'object' disappear? And the tools for objective research become fallible/limited too).

Also according to Heisenberg's 'uncertainty principle', the observer by his very act of observing, changes what he looks at, so to speak. Even so, the subjective while seeming to be more real, must have the quality of impersonality. The subject must possess sound judgement The subjective must be objective, without being reduced to a machine!


Here are links I've found

In due course I'll curate the best contents of these and interpolate them inline.

The key insight for now from @virmaior is that subjective-objective as good as flipped their meanings from middle-ages through Kant

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