The Dialectic of Subject and Object and some Problems of the Methodology of Science
Before you object, let me say that my primary objection is how few people Descartes was the father of what was called the rationalist school has characterized a great deal of Post-Enlightenment philosophy. as the conjective account—subjects stand in a relation to objects as well as other subjects. Marxism and Psychology Subject Reference. philosophy, i.e., the question of the relationship between consciousness and being, .. Today, however, Western writing on the "philosophy of science" gives priority to another school of thought. The terms subject and object have a very complex history (the terms have opposite meanings in classical and modern philosophy). For the.
This relation is defined by the whole to which all are parts. Or not—the subject-object distinction is not destiny. At one time, it was quite novel. Its importance for science is, I would argue, very overrated. I say this without denying that it is nevertheless quite useful. Substance philosophies are pretty straightforward. We want to know the properties of those things; their essence, their form, their causal relationships.
Processes are hard to talk about without some provisional substance placeholder. Most people take it for granted that groups exist.
Of Subjects and Object
Libertarians, as well as economists and social scientists committed to methodological individualism, cry foul here. Only individuals decidethey argue. But wait a minute. What the heck is an individual? And what are cells, but molecules and atoms? And what are atoms, but subatomic particles? The whole exists, and what look like parts are really a series of ongoing processes. Substance philosophy, the subject-object distinction, even the conjective distinction and the very idea of parts of the whole, seem to me valuable on pragmatic grounds.
As humans, we see things as things. We have subjective perceptions. We see other humans. He draws away from the idealism of being wrapped up in ourselves, of objects having a meaning apart from our subjectivity. The very meaning of the object, for Adorno, is tied to our subjectivity. If there is an object without meaning, then the subject has no meaning. The act of naming in and of itself brings up this intertwinement of subject and object: Our very being as humans—how we think, know and are—is inseparable from history.
Our knowing and being elements of a pure subjectivity are inseparable from history objects. They are a product of history: Are we barbarism itself, since we as subjects and objects are a part of history?
History makes it possible to see the barbarism in who we really are as subjects and objects, but what does it really matter? Why would it matter? Why not look at cultural treasures as just treasures? Why not stay blind to history as a mound of wreckage upon wreckage. If the angel of history is telling the truth of history, of being blown away by the wreckage of progress, then why would it matter to look upon it in the first place?
Risky thinking: the relation between philosophy and education
We become the products of the catastrophe. But if the connection of the latter with the acceptance of a certain system of value orientations is generally acknowledged, science-according to this way of studying it -cannot be accepted as it is, without taking into account its place in the wider system of culture Kuhn emphasises close connection of the "paradigm" with the system of social and cultural institutions.
And besides, in itself the scientific theoretical relationship to the world expresses a certain value orientation Feyerabend particularly stresses this point. Finally, if a theoretical construction is not simply an "abridged description" of facts or outline of the transition from some facts to others, if the very description of the empirical data presupposes evaluation and interpretation through the prism of theoretical propositions, the gap between evaluatory statements and statements of facts turns out to be not very great.
At any rate, according to these notions science not only as a social institution but also as a system of means of obtaining knowledge i. As Feyerabend emphasises quoting Marxit is necessary to take into account the essentially human character of science, its involvement in the system of activity. The most rigorous standards of research, he continues, are not imposed on science "from without", but are inseparably linked with the creative essence of the cognitive process.
At the same time it must be noted that as a whole the representatives of this trend in the "philosophy of science" offer not so much acceptable solutions as an uncompromising statement of some of the questions involved in the philosophical-methodological study of science. But the approaches recommended by this school, the dependencies which they consider fundamental historical analysis of knowledge, connection between philosophical and specialised scientific thought, unity of empirical description and theoretical interpretation, etc.
Awareness of the fact that scientific knowledge is involved in the system of social relationships, in the context of the various means by which social man comprehends the world, is one of the fundamental features of the Marxist tradition in the study of knowledge, and within the framework of this tradition substantial scientific results have been obtained. It is not debatable that science cannot exist without man.
And when the logical positivists maintained that the task of the "philosophy of science" amounted to the analysis of the logical language of ready-made theoretical systems, they realised full well, of course, that theoretical systems and their language do not exist outside human activity.
The whole point is how man, the subject, is included in the subject-matter of the methodology of science. In recent years Karl Popper has been propagating the idea of "epistemology without the subject".
The essence of this conception is not so much the elimination of the subject from epistemological, methodological analysis after all, recognition of a "cognitive subject" does not contradict the basis of this point of viewas the treatment of the content of logical and methodological norms as irrelevant to the subject's creative cognitive activity and imposed on him, as it were, from without.
Marxist philosophy, while emphasising the objective character of scientific knowledge, its reflection of an objective reality existing independently of the subject, nevertheless maintains as a necessary condition for the acquisition of genuinely objective scientific knowledge that the place of the subject as a real being in the production of knowledge must be taken into account.
Scientific knowledge is not only genetically conditioned by the practical-object relationship of man to the world, but also functions continuously in the broad system of practical-value orientations. Essential to the Marxist understanding of the categories of materialist dialectics as the methodological apparatus of scientific knowledge is the historical approach to the analysis of knowledge, awareness that the dialectically interpreted history of the subject-object relationship brings about changes not only in knowledge, but also in its logical structure.
The development of science goes hand in hand with the transformation of its logical structure, which is expressed, on the one side, in the changes that take place in the relationship between the theoretical and empirical levels of knowledge, the role of models and mathematical formalisms, and, on the other, in the changes affecting the categorial structure of scientific thought.
Thus, for example, the revolutionary shift currently experienced by science an essential component of the scientific and technological revolution finds specific expression in the promotion of those categories of scientific thought which were "in the shade" during the period of classical natural science object-relationship, system-element, subject-object, and so on.
This shift is also expressed in a change in the logical relationships between the categories functioning in cognition often described as the new "style" of natural scientific thought.
Of great importance in this context is Lenin's idea that the Marxist theory of knowledge and dialectics should be built up from such fields of knowledge as the history of philosophy, the history of knowledge in general, the history of the specialised sciences, the history of the mental development of the child, and of animals, the history of language, the psychology and physiology of the sense organs.
The categories of Marxist dialectics are not just a set of rigid devices that never change.
These categories do change and are enriched as science and social practice develop. So the Marxist methodological analysis of science cannot be reduced to the application of a set of cut-and-dried categories or to the analysis of this or that ossified scientific theory. It presupposes an essentially historical approach both to science and to philosophy. At the same time the full realisation of the broad programme proposed by Lenin for the study of the history of knowledge is a task that has yet to be accomplished by the Marxists of today.
We must now consider yet another aspect of the dialectic of subject and object, an aspect which has particular significance when one is discussing the methodological problems of the sciences concerning man. We have already stated that the production of objective knowledge presupposes not simply the subject's passive assimilation of content that is externally given; it implies purposeful activity on the part of the subject, activity which also includes a certain degree of self-reflection, that is to say, the subject's awareness both of his place in the objective world, and also of the character of his activity in relation to objects.
Now we must emphasise another fundamental element of Marxist philosophy: Only by knowing the objective world and establishing the results of his cognition in an objectified form can the subject arrive at himself, at the world of his consciousness, at the psychological and the ideal.
There is no other way for the subject to know himself.
Thus not only is the object not given immediately for the subject; it has to be reproduced by the activity of the subject more and more accurately in knowledge. Nor is the subject himself given immediately in relation to himself in contrast to the views held by Descartes and Husserl.
At the same time the subject does not stand "beyond" his activity as a kind of mysterious "thing in itself", whose manifestation in the world of phenomena has nothing in common with its essence Kant and Schopenhauer.
The subject removed from his activity in objectivising, transforming and ideally reproducing the objective world is empty, meaningless and simply does not exist as a historical subject. Man's experiencing of himself as "ego" presupposes his learning the forms of human intercourse in relation to any given individual they appear to be an objective force and the possibility, to a certain degree, of regarding himself from the position of "another person", the generalised representative of society, a social class or group.
Man cognises himself by cognising the forms of social life activity created by mankind. Moreover, the process of self-knowledge is endless because his cognition of these forms is accompanied by constant creation of new forms.
Thus the point is not that the subject as a ready-made, definite object in himself is simply infinitely complex in his internal connections and mediacies, but that the subject is not ready-made at all; on the contrary, he emerges as something which is not equal to himself, as a continuous "outlet" beyond his own limits. Moreover, any act of cognition of the object forms created by mankind turns out to be connected with the subject's rethinking of himself, with his setting new tasks and creating new forms of activity.
It is this fact that is reflected in the Marxist conception of practice as the global historical process of the object-transforming activity of the subject in the Marxist understanding of man not as a passive product of externally given objective conditions, but as the creator of his own history in accordance with the objective laws of historical development.
Hence the thesis of the subject's socio-historical nature which is of such importance in Marxism. Also fundamental to Marxism is the thesis that the subject of practice and knowledge is not an "epistemological Robinson", but a vehicle of sociality, "the ensemble of the social relations" Marx.
Since the subject's being socially conditioned implies his membership of a social group, particularly some class or other, this is bound to have an effect on the character of both practice and knowledge. In class society there can be no single "universal human" practice. There is only the practice of different, often opposed social classes and, above all, such classes as the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
This fact has a very substantial effect on the character of cognition by subjects involved in various types of social activity. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider in detail the methodological problems connected with the subject's cognition and such specific forms of his life activity as the consciousness, mentality and the ideal. We can only refer to the fruitful work being done in contemporary psychology on the problem of the ideal as realisation of the Marxist philosophical thesis that the subject should be understood not as a special "purely spiritual" thing standing alongside the world of objective things, but primarily as the socially conditioned subject of practical activity.
We have in mind above all the works of the Soviet psychologists L. In these studies the notion of the ideal is realised not simply as passive contemplation of certain ideal essences distinct from real physical objects, but as a special form of activity, an activity whose operations stem from practical activity in transforming real objects, although it is not directly concerned with them but with objects that represent other real objects language symbols, the drawings and symbols used in knowledge, the canvas and paints in painting, the marble in sculpture.