Subjectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to consciousness, agency, personhood, reality, and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Three common definitions include that subjectivity is the quality or condition of:
- Something being a subject, narrowly meaning an individual who possesses conscious experiences, such as perspectives, feelings, beliefs, and desires.
- Something being a subject, broadly meaning an entity that has agency, meaning that it acts upon or wields power over some other entity (an object).
- Some information, idea, situation, or physical thing considered true only from the perspective of a subject or subjects.
These various definitions of subjectivity are sometimes joined together in philosophy. The term is most commonly used as an explanation for that which influences, informs, and biases people's judgments about truth or reality; it is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person. It is often used in contrast to the term objectivity, which is described as a view of truth or reality which is free of any individual's influence.
Subjectivity is an inherently social mode that comes about through innumerable interactions within society. As much as subjectivity is a process of individuation, it is equally a process of socialization, the individual never being isolated in a self-contained environment, but endlessly engaging in interaction with the surrounding world. Culture is a living totality of the subjectivity of any given society constantly undergoing transformation. Subjectivity is both shaped by it and shapes it in turn, but also by other things like the economy, political institutions, communities, as well as the natural world.
Though the boundaries of societies and their cultures are indefinable and arbitrary, the subjectivity inherent in each one is palatable and can be recognized as distinct from others. Subjectivity is in part a particular experience or organization of reality, which includes how one views and interacts with humanity, objects, consciousness, and nature, so the difference between different cultures brings about an alternate experience of existence that forms life in a different manner. A common effect on an individual of this disjunction between subjectivities is culture shock, where the subjectivity of the other culture is considered alien and possibly incomprehensible or even hostile.
Political subjectivity is an emerging concept in social sciences and humanities. Political subjectivity is a reference to the deep embeddedness of subjectivity in the socially intertwined systems of power and meaning. "Politicality," writes Sadeq Rahimi in Meaning, Madness and Political Subjectivity, "is not an added aspect of the subject, but indeed the mode of being of the subject, that is, precisely what the subject is."
Subjectivity presupposes a subject, one that experiences all the phenomena that make up and produce subjectivity. The subject is the form of an existing being while subjectivity is the content, and the process of subjectivation is the alteration of what it means to be that subject. It is a classic philosophical question of whether the self, or the subject, is a transient or permanent aspect of existence. Whatever the answer to the problem, it can be said that subjectivity, which is the way that the subject expresses itself, constantly undergoes change, though still retains constant characteristics, depending on the subject who has the potential to affect their subjectivity. This is true, that subjectivity is constantly undergoing change, because what makes up our psychic experience is a wide range of perceptions, sensations, emotions, thoughts and beliefs, that, through the passage of time, and our relation to space, constantly generate transformation in terms of our subjective relation to the world.
- Phenomenology (philosophy)
- Phenomenology (psychology)
- Political subjectivity
- Q methodology
- Subject (philosophy)
- Truth is Subjectivity, an existential interpretation of subjectivity by Søren Kierkegaard
- Solomon, Robert C. "Subjectivity," in Honderich, Ted. Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2005), p.900.
- Rahimi, Sadeq (2015). Meaning, Madness and Political Subjectivity: A Study of Schizophrenia and Culture in Turkey. Oxford & New York: Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 1138840823.
- Beiser,Frederick C. (2002). German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism, 1781-1801. Harvard University Press.
- Block, Ned; Flanagan, Owen J.; & Gzeldere, Gven (Eds.) The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-52210-6
- Bowie, Andrew (1990). Aesthetics and Subjectivity : From Kant to Nietzsche. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Dallmayr, Winfried Reinhard (1981). Twilight of Subjectivity: Contributions to a Post-Individualist Theory Politics. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.
- Ellis, C. & Flaherty, M. (1992). Investigating Subjectivity: Research on Lived Experience. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. ISBN 978-0-8039-4496-1
- Farrell, Frank B. (1994). Subjectivity, Realism, and Postmodernism: The Recovery of the World in Recent Philosophy. Cambridge - New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Johnson, Daniel. (2003). On Truth As Subjectivity In Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Quodlibet Journal: Volume 5 Number 2-3, July 2003.
- Lauer, Quentin (1958). The Triumph of Subjectivity: An Introduction to Transcendental Phenomenology. Fordham University Press.
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