Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Object versus Subject

After many skate sessions with Raph Brous, I began to see an interesting difference in our skating styles. Whenever and wherever I skate, I focus on tricks that are easily transferred to most other places that I skate. In contrast, Raph typically takes to a particular obstacle and attempts to assail it as though climbing a mountain. Consequently, his tricks tend to be relatively more specific to the particular places that he skates and less easily carried over to other places.

This divergence in style reminded me of the subject/object dichotomy often discussed in philosophy. The term subject can be seen as referring to a conscious and purposeful being whose being in the world involves a spiritual relationship with the world: a love for his children, ownership of his home, a need for money, and a respect for life. In contrast, an object can be described as an entity lacking consciousness, whose presence in the world is merely an occupancy of time and space.
When a subject uses an object to perform a task, it connects to his spiritual being and becomes an extension of the subject’s purpose. Hence, a hammer (object) used by a person (subject) to build a home becomes a part of the soulful expression of the subject.

In truth, a person is himself composite of both aspects. His body is a distinct object inhabiting space and time, while his consciousness, which relates to, rather than resides within, the physical world, is a subject. The more one identifies with his body, the more he becomes an inflexible object, confined by time and space; while the more he allows his subject to prevail, the more he transcends the constraints of the physical world.

On the other hand, we may view object orientation as superior to subject orientation. In this scheme, the two terms can be related to the better known terms of objectivity and subjectivity. Objectivity implies an ability to transcend self in order to focus on a task at hand or to view an issue without bias, while subjectivity implies strong self-consciousness and pre-occupation with the self. One who is objective asks, 'what is this thing?'; one who is subjective asks, 'what is this thing to me?' One who is subjective is incapable of taking himself out of the picture. One who is objective, however, can lose himself in an activity or when focusing on an object.

Of course there's no contradiction between these two accounts. The two terms can be used in different ways. Hence sometimes subject implies a spiritual being and object implies a physical item, while at other times, subject connotes preoccupation with self, whereas object denotes self transcendence...

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