An Essay Featured In (Re)constructing “A is A” by O.G. Rose

Learning From How Flowers Bend Out of Shadows

A Work Inspired by Javier Rivera on Softening the Object(ive)/Subject(ive) Divide

Photo by Amol Tyagi

Javier Rivera is full of insight, wondrous philosophical curiosity, and is a joy to engage with in conversation. Currently, Rivera has been pondering the “subject/object divide” in light of the possibility of “pure experience” (as discussed by Nishida Kitarō, Keiji Nishitani, and the Kyoto School in general), and his insights inspired me to write this reflection. If you find anything insightful within it, please attribute those insights to him.

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Audio Summary

“Pure experience” is basically the experience before Lacan’s “mirror stage” when a child doesn’t recognize his or her self in a mirror; during this time (which we all went through), there is no “hard line” between objects and subjects. This doesn’t mean objects and subjects don’t exist or that (tentative) distinctions can’t be drawn, but it does mean that objects are not entirely “other” from subjects, as subjects are not entirely “other” from objects. And yet I think it’s fair to say that most of Western metaphysics and ontology are erected upon hard distinctions between objects and subjects (a thought Quentin Meillassoux seems to at least somewhat share in his attack on “correlationism”; also, the strong “subject/object divide” ends up breeding the fideism which Meillassoux disdains, but what is meant by this is expanded on in “Fideism” by O.G. Rose). Facing these distinctions, Javier Rivera wants us to peek over the fence. After all, as babies, we all lived through a time when the fence was not there — it’s only rational to look and examine from where we came.

Music for Reading

In a recent conversation, Rivera noted how the way a flower bends out of a shadow toward the light can say something about how we best live. This image stuck, and I began to think how sad it would be to live a life where I didn’t think nature had something to teach me. For those who believe in God, the fact God made nature x way and not y way says something about God’s wants and what God believes is good. Since sunsets end days in an explosion of color, perhaps this says something about how God thinks we should pass on into the next life? Perhaps not, but belief in God in this way can help “weaken” the hard divide between objects and subjects, the world in our heads and the world outside of us. For if God lives in us but God also made the world, then through God, we are part of the world (the same logic applies if God made everything, for that connects us and the rest of the cosmos, even if God grants humanity some kind of special status). Perhaps how exactly isn’t always easy to tell, but there’s at least a connection to be found that it’s up to us to find.

Even if we don’t believe in God though, the fact we were born into a state of “pure experience” means “there is reason to think” the hard “subject/object divide” should be weakened. The beauty of this insight from the Kyoto School is that it provides us with a justified ground on which to reestablish a participatory connection between us and the world, as opposed to the world just be something we “capture” and “live over.” No, few people think we should only “capture” the world when asked directly, but I think it’s practically how people live in the West (perhaps because they are “captured” by Capitalism and modernity, as warned by Deleuze and expanded on in “How Do We Escape?” by O.G. Rose). The Kyoto School helps us focus on a state of our lives that we really lived — it is not asking us to appeal to some thought experiment or Rawlsian “social contract’ — in order for us to construct a new “way of thinking” that entails ontological consequences. Theological and religious thinking also entail ontological consequences that can transform humanity’s “place in the cosmos,” but for those who cannot follow theology into its conclusions, the Kyoto School has provided us with a secular alternative that can prove just as useful, “harmonious,” and consequential.

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Photo by Andrew Johnson

As argued in “On Beauty” by O.G. Rose, beauty is conditional more so than relative. In order to experience the wonder of Tolstoy, for example, we have to meet the condition of being literate. Similarly, in order to see lessons in nature that could apply to our own lives, we have to meet the condition of not upholding a rigid “subject/object divide” (which, again, we can find justified reason to do based on the reality that we once lived before “the mirror stage” without the divide). Yes, we can still believe there are distinctions, but if we believe that objects have nothing to do with us ontologically (versus just physically, in space and time), all lessons we learn from objects will basically be “coincidental” and “accidental”: the “metaphors” we gain from objects will be “decorative” and shallow versus “ontological” and deep. Subjects and objects won’t participate in one another, just share (shallow) proximity, and though that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to learn anything from nature, the stakes will be much lower. If we happen to learn things about ourselves from the world, great, but if not, no harm done: we have all the resources we need within. Alluding to the concerns of Heidegger about technology, nature can still be a “tool” if we ascribe to a hard line between subjects and objects, but nature can’t be something we’re fully in.

On the other hand, if we ascribe to a much lighter divide between subjects and objects, then we don’t hold all the resources inside ourselves to understand ourselves: we must look to objects, to the world outside ourselves, if we are to learn who we fully are.¹ We must pay attention not just to our mind but to what is outside of it, and yet we also can’t just forget about our minds, because as we participate in the external world, the external world participates right back in us. There is a dialectical relationship between the mind and what is external to us, and if one subdues the other, the fullness of both will be lost.

We must learn to live in harmony with the external world, to not let our subjective “take” on the world overly-dominate our thinking; we need to strike a balance between being “open” to the world and “closed” in order to process the world (between thinking and perceiving). But this requires work: in the same way that “beauty being conditional” means we need to do work to “rise ourselves up to beauty” (and so become more beautiful in the process, “reflecting” it), so too we need to “do work” in order to live according to a weaker “subject/object divide.” What exactly is that work? Whatever it is, succeeding at it might be for us to hit the dialectical “sweet spot” between “meaningful memories” and “pure experiences” (as discussed elsewhere by O.G. Rose) — but what is meant by this will have to be explored at another time.

If we rose up to the condition of weakening the “subject/object divide” (which perhaps beauty can help with, suggesting its not by chance that beauty is also conditional), would we have a better chance of “knowing things in themselves?” Could we at least glimpse across Kant’s noumenon? Well, if “Bridging the Kants” by O.G. Rose is correct, “practical life” can be a foundation for “tracing out” the noumenon, thus providing us a way to guess “the outline” of what lies beyond it; similarly, perhaps thinking that is more infused with perception through a dialectical tension is more likely to “trace out” the noumenon then thinking drunk on the myth of “autonomous rationality” (as discussed in “Deconstructing Common Life” by O.G. Rose). Arguably, this is exactly what occurs when “practical reason” is “translated” into meaningful terms (in other words, this is precisely an act of “infusing thinking with perceiving”). So, yes, I think it’s fair to say that learning to meet the condition of “weakening the subject/object divide” helps us know “things in themselves,” which in turn can help us know our “true selves,” seeing as the weakening of that divide simultaneously suggest we are somehow participating in those very things.²

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Photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa

Edmund Husserl thought about phenomenology as a kind of “return to the things themselves,” which for me has always lead to me linking Kant’s “practical reason” and “phenomenology.” This in mind, the point I want to raise is that where there is a strong “subject/object divide,” there is going to be little hope we can meaningfully “overcome” the noumenon, which in turn means phenomenology will be deemphasized as a method of inquiry. Personally, I think phenomenology can help us avoid formalism (as discussed elsewhere by O.G. Rose) and is extremely useful for approaching hard questions like “What is beauty?” (to offer an example). But if we don’t believe we can somehow participate in the objects around us, then any phenomenological analysis of those objects will lack any clear or direct relevance to how we live our lives. If we think objects are “entirely other,” we don’t share enough of a “form” with them to say things like “Because x is true about objects, x might be true about us.” Sure, we can still examine objects phenomenologically, but it will be like drawing conclusions about an entirely alien world. Sure, the conclusions could be interesting, but what’s ultimately only interesting struggles to be much more than entertainment to pass the time.

Where there is a strong “subject/object divide,” there is no need to ask why a fire burns, only to explore how it burns. Where objects and subjects are entirely unrelated, the question of “why” and “how” are identical. But where subjects and objects are linked, then objects around us can entail “why questions” which are meaningfully distinct from “how questions,” for we can ask “Why does fire burn in my subjectivity?” “What does the fact that fire burns say about me as a subject? “Am I something that can burn?” Additionally, we can ask further questions like “What does fire mean to me?” “Why am I afraid of fire?” — and so on. And these questions will not be meaningless or “less important,” for we participate in the world outside of us: to say objects are more important than people would be to say something we are “in” is more important than us, which hardly makes sense.

Unfortunately, at least in the West, where there is a strong “subject/object divide,” there tends to be hierarchy which favors “objectivity overs subjectivity,” which is strange, seeing as subjects are what make possible an experience of objects. Yes, I understand that “objects” and “objectivity” are not exactly similes, but they are deeply related, in that “objectivity” is an effort to reduce “subjectivity” as much as possible in order to gain “impartiality,” making us like “unmoving stones” or objects. No, when asked directly, nobody thinks that we can ever escape “being a subject” entirely, but the emphasis is on treating subjectivity like a problem to “knowing the world (object-ively),” as opposed to subjectivity somehow participating in the objects we experience. As a result, we don’t view subjectivity as an opportunity but as an obstacle.

If the very subjectivity that experiences objects is devalued, then we can’t really trust our experiences of objects: the strong “subject/object divide” tends to place the outside world out of our reach. And it does this while leaving us in a subjectivity that we can’t even reliably use to understand ourselves. We are denied the ability to derive from the world metaphors and “mental models” to help us understand ourselves, and yet at the same time we are denied the thought that we can rely on our subjectivity. Basically, we are locked in a prison and told that we must let ourselves out while the key dangles on a wall outside the bars. No matter how far we reach, our hand only grasps air.

In schools of thought where a large “gap” opens between us and our world, the solution has often been to deemphasize the knower and his or her subjectivity. This supposedly closed the “gap” by erasing it, but even if true, I don’t think this is a real solution, and, as Gregg Henriques discusses, this could be a contributing factor to the mental health crisis today. Dr. Henriques has worked hard to generate “a unified theory of knowledge” that doesn’t leave behind “the knower” in favor of objectivity, and I think his work greatly contributes to the effort to overcome dualism, work which I consider on the side of Aristotle (as defined from Plato in “On Typography” by O.G. Rose). Plato left us with “gaps” that Derrida finished off (for good reason), but that left us with a world which overemphasized “the known” over “the knower.” Had we realized Aristotelian metaphysics was based on “the act of reading,” perhaps we could have avoided this mistake, but that is a story which will have to be told elsewhere.

Where subjectivity is deemphasized, it tends to be thanks to an emphasis on “objectivity” and “objects” outside the self, which tends to breed an epistemology that blurs “how” and “why” questions together (which, if the “subject/object divide” is strong, makes sense). This “positivistic epistemology” tends to lead us to identifying things as “what they are made out of,” which can leave us with feeling like everything but “parts of wholes” are illusions (which is problematic, because parts can be broken down into further parts, on and on, as will be explained). In other words, if “everything that is” is “what everything is made of,” then we are mostly illusions, which suggests our feelings and thoughts are fake — and it’s not hard to see how we end up with a mental health crisis. But even if it was true that all “wholes” were somehow “illusions,” we still have to answer “What am I to do with this illusion that is the self? “What am I do with this illusionary first-person perspective?” — and so on. The disregard of psychology in favor of “hard science” doesn’t even logically follow, but it seems to me that this is what has occurred. Made today to feel like “wholes” are illusions or “less real” somehow than parts, we’re made to feel like we shouldn’t even ask questions about ourselves. And so our “selves” are forgotten, and our mental health soon follows.

In the West today, we seem to focus on questions of “composition” and “how,” but weakening the “subject/object divide” will bring back into focus questions of “likeness” and “why.” This is because when we say, “X is ‘like’ y,” we can then ask, “Why is x like y?” and in this way, phenomenology logically leads from “like” to “why” questions, for it makes sense to wonder why x is the way it is “to us” and not some other way (and to wonder how the object may be “like” to “unfold” as such: the fact x “unfolds” y way and not z way could give us “reason to think” x is more like b than c, a “tracing” based on Kant’s “practical reason”). Phenomenology is concerned about subjects, and “why” questions are a dimension of subjective experience. Where the “subject/object divide” is strong though, we tend to ask questions about “what a thing is,” either scientifically or philosophically, which is an effort to get around subjectivity (for it is generally believed subjectivity “gets in the way” of truth, or at least makes it so that we can’t trust any truths at which we arrive). Any question that involves/invites subjectivity into our consideration is therefore a problem, and so “why questions” are inherently problematic. Trying to escape subjectivity, we stick to questions of composition as if “how questions” are “why questions,” when though similar and involved in one another, are not identical. As a result, we are stuck in “ ‘is’ questions,” but questions about “what a thing is” just lead to more questions about “is-ness,” which leads to more — an eternal regression. For example, we can ask “What is a cat?” which leads to explaining what the cat is made of, which leads to us explaining what the parts are made of, which leads to us explaining what the parts of the parts are made of — on and on, with no hope of ever arriving at an answer for why I should care or why my cat is a friend (or at least not an answer I can trust). (This is especially ironic since “is” questions cannot be separated from questions of “meaning,” but that must be elaborated elsewhere in the paper “Is-ness/Meaning” by O.G. Rose).

Even if my cat is more so the atoms that make up the cat than the cat (which I don’t grant), I still have to decide “How am I to treat this illusionary cat?” “Why do I feel affection toward this illusionary feline?” Suggesting subjective reality is “less real” than object-ive reality doesn’t help me at all determine how I am to live as a subject, and if I am alive, I must live as a subject. All this suggests to me why phenomenology is a good method for philosophical investigation. Western epistemology generally heads us in the direction of asking “what things are,” and though there is a place for this, I think we really need to ask, “What are things like,” for that helps us fight reductionism and also helps us figure out what things “mean to us” based on our experiences of them. Failing to use phenomenology, we’ve found ourselves left with a Western epistemology that lacks aesthetic fullness. Yes, as will be explained, we’ve killed Plato’s “metaphysics of the book,” but we’re still left able to read.

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If we step outside our house, what do we see? Things apart from us or things somehow “like” us? No, nothing is an exact replication of us (in fact, nothing is technically identical, even twins), but perhaps “through a glass darkly,” we can learn somehow about what’s best for us based on what we observe is best for the things outside of us. And perhaps we can be more “objective” about these things than about ourselves, because the insights can feel less direct and less personal (even though we participate in what we assess). Additionally, we can be more “objective” or “object-like” in our judgments if we don’t believe that the world outside of ourselves has nothing to do with us (by weakening the “object/subject divide”): if we feel ourselves as part of the world, then we are to some degree an object in the world (we’re just an object which can perceive and think), and so we are “object-like” (in ourselves, in our judgments, our thinking, etc.) In our “object-ness,” we are part of and participate in the “world itself,” and so there is reason to think that our judgments and thinking about the world “have something to do” with the actual world to itself. In Kant’s schema, subjects seem treated as if “entirely other” from objects: though the noumenon is not supposed to designate the existence of two different worlds, practically speaking, that seems to be what ends up happening. Yes, subjects cannot be reduced to objects, but it’s also erroneous to speak as if subjects don’t “participate” in object-ness at all. After all, people are in bodies; minds are in objects.

Where the “subject/object divide” is strong, it seems almost inevitable that our relationship to the world becomes one of power and dominance. Even if we don’t physically try to “subdue the land,” the world becomes something that has to be understood “on our terms,” because we can think while the world cannot. We must think and make “the world meet us where we are” (as opposed to us “go meet the world” on its terms), because the world is meaningless: we will learn nothing from venturing out into it. Where the “subject/object divide” is rigid, especially in the West, it practically always favors thinking over perceiving, meaning over experience, and so the world becomes “a thing to be translated” more than “a thing to be lived with.” This is a relationship of subordination instead of harmony.

Now, it doesn’t follow that all subordination is necessarily bad — perhaps the idea to construct a dam ends up saving a field and all the wildlife within it; perhaps an idea ends a blight that would have killed countless pine trees — and I stress again that we need a balance between thinking and perceiving, meaning and experience, which means a degree of subordination must always be involved. That said, thinking which seeks harmony is far less domineering than thinking that has nothing to do with perceiving (and that perhaps believes everything in the world must be fully understood). In fact, when we think to achieve harmony, it’s almost as if thinking is trying to “dominate itself” more than the world, for thinking than becomes its own problem.

Thinking is what keeps itself from having harmony with the world, and though meaning must always play a role, such thinking realizes that meaning alone isn’t enough and that it must “overcome itself.” Yes, thinking still involves a kind of subduing, but “thinking concerned about thinking” tries to subdue itself so that it “opens itself up” to the world. It’s as if this kind of thinking tries to “push itself aside,” though not entirely so that the world that “enters us” can do so meaningfully. A balance must be struck, but this is not a balance that can be achieved once and from then onward the problem is solved. No, this a balance that requires continual wrestling: thinking must always be in the business of trying to subdue itself. With time, perhaps this can become a habit and the work become more natural, but, at first at least, the work will be great. On the flipside, we can’t “solve our condition” by not thinking at all, for a “thoughtless” life is a meaningless life susceptible to manipulation (as discussed in “Belonging Again” by O.G. Rose).

Thinking that seeks harmony does not make itself its own goal, but (“reaching”) the world the objective, while thinking that seeks only to understand the world make the world a problem and answers over the world the goal. The first leaves us embodied; the second, disembodied. Furthermore, there is reason to think that if we don’t weaken the “subject/object divide” so that we participate more in the world, we will never achieve full knowledge of ourselves. Why? Because we are partially objects in our bodies, and if we treat objects as “totally other,” so we will treat part of ourselves as if it’s not there. As a result, our “self-knowledge” will prove incomplete.

Fine, but is there reason to think our thinking has anything to do with “object-ness?” How can we be so sure that subjectivity isn’t “entirely other?” Well, as already said, people with their minds are in bodies and bodies are objects, and so there is reason to think that minds are shaped somehow by object-ness and thus that thinking can somehow reflect what objects are like to themselves. Often, it is demanded that the case be made by subjects that their thinking has something to do with the external world, but we could just as easily demand a case providing “reason to think” that thinking doesn’t “match up with” things unto themselves. If minds are situated within objects, why wouldn’t subjectivity be an expression of “object-ness?” No, this doesn’t mean our “idea of a tree” is necessarily exactly the same as “a tree to itself,” but why should we think the idea and the thing are entirely distinct? Sure, perhaps there’s a window I have to unlock and carefully crawl through, but that’s different from an unbreakable wall.

The very fact the brain is an object and that the perceiving mind “arises from” an object gives us “reason to think” that thinking participates in object-ness. Or to be diplomatic, there is at least just as much reason to think an object would arise to a subjectivity about objects that was “like objects” (in its formation, conclusions, laws, etc.) as there is reason to think subjectivity and objectivity are radically distinct. In the West especially, we tend to assume the latter, when we just as easily could assume the first (which arguably seems more likely anyway).

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Photo by Chris Lakoduk

In conclusion, generally, the “thoughtful” West is about individual fulfillment, while the “perceptive” East is about individual harmony. Neither thinking nor perceiving alone will do, but together, they try consuming each other. To avoid this, we need to learn to be dialectical, but we will not do that (meaningfully) unless we weaken “the subject/object divide.” If subjects and objects have nothing to do with one another, not only do we have little if anything to learn from objects about ourselves (for we don’t participate in them), but our relationship to objects practically becomes one of dominance and a consideration of how we can be “fulfilled by them.” Alternatively, if perception plays a more vital role in our thinking, our focus becomes on how we can “live in harmony with the world,” and as a result our relationship to objects becomes one more of coexistence and mutual participation.³ This is not to say subjects and objects don’t have distinctions or are entirely identical; rather, my goal is to deconstruct the idea that they have no ontological relationship at all. Two people in a marriage aren’t identical, but they are a single couple.

As discussed, by weakening the “subject/object divide,” I believe we will also see a return of phenomenology as a philosophical method, for there will be reason to think that just examining what things are “like” will help us reach true conclusions, not just if we can determine what things “are.” This is because what things are “like” is the space where subjects and objects meet, and if subjects and objects participate in one another for real, this is a space where we can discover real conclusions about us and the world. Today, we mostly turn to science to learn about “the world unto the world” and perhaps we turn to psychology to learn “about us to us,” but we seem to have little time to explore the space where we and the world collide. Psychoanalysis seems better at this, but I think phenomenology would also be a helpful addition. Yes, for “how” questions, we need science, neuroscience, psychology, and the like, but a strong “subject/object divide” has contributed to “why” questions seeming less important or worthy of rigorous study.

Strengthening the “subject/object divide” has proven self-consuming, even though the act was perhaps supposed to elevate the self. This is because we end up locked in a subjectivity that can err, which means that while subjectivity plays a “dominating” role over the world, we simultaneously cannot trust it.⁴ It’s as if we’re stuck with a ruler we cannot trust, and that ruler is ourselves and yet not, for we live in a world of objects, while our subjectivity lives in an isolated domain of the mind. Even though today we tend to laugh at Cartesianism, we practically end up Cartesian and perhaps even schizophrenic, though we seem to stop ourselves from falling into schizophrenia by claiming “the external world” isn’t real or that we can’t know anything with certainty (existential nihilism). But this feels like denial, and so the schizophrenia is held back with “bad faith” — hardly a solution.

Also problematic, a strong “subject/object divide” has made everything outside of us feel like a problem to solve versus a situation to live with, a situation that to live with well, we have to manage the problem of ourselves and our thinking. In the West, we tend to be “captured” by our technologies into thinking of everything as “problems and solutions” (think Deleuze and Heidegger), which though a useful framework sometimes, ultimately proves incomplete if used exclusively. This is because life isn’t a thing to be solved but a thing to be lived, and if we could “solve it,” life would just vanish like a completed problem. We need more “mental models,” to think not just in “problems and solutions” but also in terms of “management and harmony,” but a strong “subject/object divide” leads us to possessing impoverished mental resources.⁵ Where “problem/solution thinking” dominates and the “subject/object divide” strong, we will not prove very dialectical, and this entails significant problems for modern life if “living dialectically” is key for overcoming the problems laid out in “Belonging Again.” Why exactly though will have to wait until ‘Beauty Saves” by O.G. Rose.

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a situation to be lived. It is not to be subdued, but to be experienced harmoniously, as can be realized by dialectically balancing thinking and perceiving, subjects and objects.⁶ The world cannot be solved into order, but something that can be ordered through our relationship to it, insomuch as we order ourselves too it as well. Relationships are things we are always in and need to regularly cultivate, while math problems only appear when we sit down at a table with a worksheet: relationships aren’t only to be considered “on our time.” For me, “dialectics” better describes this situation, in the same way a symphony orchestra seems like a better metaphor: in life, there are multiple parts and multiple instruments, and all parts must be played at the right time in the right proportion. Dialectics are symphonic, but for too long the West has viewed the world like a math theorem that could be unlocked if we found the right numbers, but really much of the world is more like a dance set to music. Yeats once asked, ‘How can we know the dancer from the dance?’ suggesting we could not.⁷ If we are to know anything, it’s only to be found in joining the dance ourselves.

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Notes

¹With “On A is A” by O.G. Rose in mind, this means we weaken the rigid “A is A” to be more “toward” the “B” with which we are “without.” Additionally, we should view the “without B” as something that we are part of (participating in) in terms of our identity. If we are A, the world could be B, and though we are “without B” (in thought, mind you, for perception helps restore a unity we can live dialectically with and hence meaningfully), that B we are “without” is a “lack” which “meaningfully” shapes our identity (remember, “lacks are not nothing”). To leave off “without B” is to leave off part of ourselves, for we are “essentially incomplete.” Perception helps us experience unity, but not “meaningfully” — hence the inescapability of dialectics.

²Perhaps when we see “things in themselves” we see things “pointing away” from themselves: perhaps things in their essence are “arrows” (relative to “without B”).

³Where the “subject/object divide” is weak, the arts like poetry will be more important, for a role of the artist is to really see the world. Isn’t the scientist the same? They’re similar, but while poetry tries to see the world in order to draw our connection to it, the scientist tries to see the world on the world’s own terms. This doesn’t mean science has no use, but it does mean that science focuses on “objects to objects.” If this is all that is ever done, then this is similar to the philosophical mistake of only focusing on “subjects to subjects”: even though on the side of “the world to the world,” science still upholds a hard “subject/object divide.” The poet, on the other hand, tries to find a “middle ground” in examining the space of “objects to us and us to objects”: the poet lives in a world where the “subject/object divide” is weak. Perhaps painters, novelists, and musicians do something similar, but that would take another work to sketch out in detail. Here, I only wish to suggest that art becomes more important where the “subject/object divide” is weak.

⁴As we ask about objects, “How can we get to the things themselves?” perhaps objects ask about us, “How can we get to the people themselves?” Certainly, robots might inquire such.

⁵For example, many of the metaphors we create to understand the world tend to be “constructive,” reflecting our tendency to think of the world as something “subdued” and “domesticated,” per se. Personally, I think ontological considerations (for example) have been greatly hurt by not using more artistic metaphors like music. As discussed in The End of Education by Neil Postman, I.A. Richards argues convincingly that metaphors shape thought, not just decorate it, so a lack of artistic metaphors has led the West toward “architectural” and “technological” metaphors that have made ontology more “constructed” than “sung.” If we need to find “harmony” with the world, not just construct it, this metaphoric mistake will orientate us in the wrong direction: it will contribute to a blindness our metaphors don’t let us see.

⁶Erasing or deemphasizing one side or the other (of the dialectic) is no solution (say as science or idealism might), not only because this locks us into a “stagnant state,” but also because we frankly do live in world comprised of both objects and subjects (even if the world were all an illusion): treating one side “as if” nonexistent would be to face the world as something it was not (“bad faith”). The value of phenomenology is that it asks questions about what the external world is “like” to us, in a sense assuming the external world, or if not that, phenomenology at least treats our experiences of the (perhaps illusionary) world as real enough (in other words, phenomenology makes the ontological status of the world inconsequential, for we have the experiences we have regardless if the world is physical, a simulation, a divine creation, etc.). Phenomenology is not exclusively focused on how “subjectivity experiences subjectivity” (which could perhaps be called “subjectivism” or maybe just “idealism”), but instead phenomenology also focuses on the “space” where subjects and objects meet in hopes of “tracing out” conclusions about both.

⁷Allusion to Among School Children by William Butler Yeats.

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