I have two examples in my mind that I'm unsure if they can be considered Objects:

  1. The second usage of things, as in, each thing has usually a defined usage, but sometimes people use things in a second way which is not exactly the intended purpose of the creation of that thing, e.g. bending a piece of paper and using it as a funnel.
  2. The contents of a trash can.

I have doubts about the first one because the definition is not a thing in itself, it doesn't define any specific thing and there is no clear way to test if a certain thing falls within the scope of that definition. The reader would need to make their personal assumptions and judgments in order to decide what it means.

I have doubts about the second one because, again, it doesn't define a specific thing. It rather defines it by the relation it has with another object, being inside it. So in fact anything could fall into that definition since one can put anything inside a trash can if it's large enough, but I feel better about this definition because at each specific point of time, it's very clear what things fall into this definition and what things don't.

Some related quotes from wikipedia:

The pragmatist Charles S. Peirce defines the broad notion of an object as anything that we can think or talk about. In a general sense it is any entity: the pyramids, Alpha Centauri, the number seven, a disbelief in predestination or the fear of cats. In a strict sense it refers to any definite being.

For example, it seems that the only way to describe an apple is by describing its properties and how it is related to other things. Its properties may include its redness, its size, and its composition, while its relations may include "on the table", "in the room" and "being bigger than other apples

Bertrand Russell updated the classical terminology with one more term, the fact; "Everything that there is in the world I call a fact." Facts, objects, are opposed to beliefs, which are "subjective" and may be errors on the part of the subject, the knower who is their source and who is certain of himself and little else. All doubt implies the possibility of error and therefore admits the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. The knower is limited in ability to tell fact from belief, false from true objects and engages in reality testing, an activity that will result in more or less certainty regarding the reality of the object. According to Russell, "we need a description of the fact which would make a given belief true" where "Truth is a property of beliefs." Knowledge is "true beliefs". This framework of presumptions is termed the Theory of the Real.

I'd be happy to read your personal opinions on which of these two are objects in the comments.

  • See Object : "is there a category under which every thing falls? Offering an informative account of such a category is no easy task. […] Nonetheless there are candidates for such a fully general office, including thing, being, entity, item, existent, and —especially— object." Oct 7, 2019 at 6:59
  • Not very clear… We do not define "objects": objects exist (or not). Oct 7, 2019 at 7:02
  • There are at least two different meanings that the word is used for. One is a broad "object of consideration", which can be anything and everything, including contents of a trash can or beauty, and which Peirce's quote is about. The more narrow is of an individual item, physical or not, held together in some sense and standing out from the background and other items, like a brick or mathematical circle. Your hesitation is probably caused by mixing those two. There is no general "definition in philosophy", philosophers specify what they mean when using "object", and it depends on context.
    – Conifold
    Oct 7, 2019 at 7:22
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Which one of these two do you consider as object, is there any common definition of object in which one of the two is considered object and the other is not? Oct 7, 2019 at 9:07
  • 1
    😆 No but teachers can set strange questions and/or behave obtuse toward answers because they are leading you to some point. ie the question can be trick/bogus (And I speak not as a musician but as a teacher 😇)
    – Rushi
    Oct 8, 2019 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


The question is to decide if the following two descriptions refer to objects or not:

  1. The second usage of things, as in, each thing has usually a defined usage, but sometimes people use things in a second way which is not exactly the intended purpose of the creation of that thing, e.g. bending a piece of paper and using it as a funnel.
  2. The contents of a trash can.

Bradley, Rettler and Andrew M. Bailey survey the concept of object considering it from the perspective of contrast ("What, if any, is its contrast or complement?"), extension ("What is its extension?") and nature ("What is its nature?").

The contrast portion provides different ways to view objects to decide if these descriptions are objects or not.

Bradley and Bailey offer three main alternatives.

  1. The Umbrella View: "every thing is an object". In particular:

A consequence of the Umbrella View is that items that appear to have little in common—universals, particulars, gods, books, possibilities, colleges, works of music (if such there are)—are in fact all united under one category: object.

From the umbrella view perspective both of the descriptions refer to objects. The first description is a property ("the second usage of things") and the second is a set of particular objects having the property of being in some trash can.

  1. The Objects vs Properties View: "there are things, and there are ways those things are (we might call the latter ‘properties’)."

From this perspective, the first description presents a property of a thing having a secondary use. That would not be an object by this description. The second description describes the contents of a trash can, not the property of being in a trash can. The second description describes objects.

  1. The Objects vs. Subjects View: "Each object is, roughly, an ‘it’, and each subject is a ‘you’."

From this perspective both descriptions describe objects since neither the property of being a second usage nor the contents of the trash can are normally expressed as a 'subject' or as a 'you'.

What one can see from this is there are various ways to look at the concept 'object' and using that perspective justify if either of the two descriptions fit the concept or not.

Rettler, Bradley and Bailey, Andrew M., "Object", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/object/.

  • Thank you so much for your great answer, but I'm afraid you might have misunderstood my first definition, I didn't mean the property of having a second usage, I meant the second usage of things itself, maybe I should have described the question that the teacher had asked, the question was to go in two squares of the city, consider an object from each square, and talk about it, so choosing the first definition would be to consider the second usage of several items in both squares, e.g. the Cobblestone on the ground and for instance say that in the first square it was used also as a billboard. Oct 8, 2019 at 13:24
  • since there was a lot of advertisement pained on it. but in the second square it was used as a bumper because it made cars go slower. and do the same thing for other items such as benches, trees, etc. As for the second definition, the project would be to investigate the content of trash cans in both squares and interpret it, I thought it could be very interesting because trash can holds the stuff people discard. And that has a lot to do with their culture and the way they think. specially noting that one square was in a poor area and the other was in a rich area of the city. Oct 8, 2019 at 13:27
  • @yukashimahuksay If you can describe it at all it would be an "object" by the umbrella view. It may not be an object under the object vs property or object vs subject distinction. The different uses may have enough subjectivity to make them not objects by the third definition. The object would be the cobblestone. The subjective part the use made of the cobblestone. Oct 8, 2019 at 14:36
  • So if a certain definition is subjective, as in, different people would have different understandings of that definition based on their own personal assumptions and beliefs, that won't be an object? Oct 8, 2019 at 18:41
  • @yukashimahuksay The object vs subject would be more the difference between an 'it' and a 'you'. It is just another way to have more categories than the one umbrella view of object. The subjective component of the first definition may fit this. Oct 9, 2019 at 3:36

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