Objective vs Subjective

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Now we are starting to get into contentious territory. Sartre wants to claim that what we see is objective. Usually the product of experience is considered subjective. For example when I see a quilt I might describe it as a blue quilt, but someone else might say it is aqua, or if they were colour blind that it was grey. So colour is usually considered subjective. What Sartre is saying is that what I see is objective, that the quilt seen with my eyes, under a certain light, at a certain angle is blue, and that what I see is an accurate representation of the world as it is at that moment, under specific conditions. I am not so sure. I don’t think that he is wrong, actually I think he is spot on, I think what I am objecting to is the use of the word objective. For some reason when I think of the word objective I think of replicable results. A measurement of something might be objective. While we may all look at the quilt from the same angle, under the same light and still disagree about the  colour, if we all measure the quilt with the same tape measure we should all come up with the same dimensions. The difference I think is that for me my eyes are part of me as subject, where as under Sartre’s view my eyes are a part of the world.

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One response »

  1. I question this too, particularly with respect to something like the visualisation of colours. One might, for instance, measure the wavelength of the light being reflected by the quilt, and presumably anyone who did this at the same time, in the same way, would get the same answer. However they might still ‘see’ different colours when they look at the quilt. While we have a vague understanding of how sight is transmitted to the brain, we definitely don’t understand how it is understood or interpreted by the brain. Colour might be a particularly acute example of this because it can be affected by people’s visual acuity, and by the way their brains are trained to recognise colour, and even by their language (there’s a particular confusion in many languages between the colours blue and green for instance). What you see in that particular instance is a perfectly accurate representation of what you see, but it will only ever be what you see, and that to me is the exact definition of subjective.

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