Subject-object split

From AnthroWiki

Through the subject-object split, man sees himself as an individual self-determined subject with his psychic inner world confronted with the objects of the outer world, which is the basis of today's object consciousness. The expression was coined by Karl Jaspers (1883-1969):

„All ... views have one thing in common: they grasp being as something that faces me as an object, towards which I am directed as an object facing me, meaning it. This primordial phenomenon of our conscious existence is so self-evident to us that we hardly feel its enigma because we do not even question it. That which we think, of which we speak, is always other than us, is that towards which we, the subjects, are directed as towards an opposite, the objects. When we make ourselves the object of our thinking, we ourselves become, as it were, the other and are always there again at the same time as a thinking I that carries out this thinking of itself, but cannot itself be adequately thought of as an object, because it is always the precondition of every becoming an object. We call this basic finding of our thinking existence the subject-object split. We are constantly in it when we are awake and conscious.“ (Lit.: Jaspers)

In the search for truth, according to Rudolf Steiner, in the act of cognition the gap between subject and object, artificially created, as it were, by consciousness - but which does not exist in reality - is to be overcome again. This happens, as Steiner has shown, through thinking. Thinking is not a merely subjective activity, because it is only through thinking that we define ourselves as a subject that sees itself confronted with the objects. Thinking is therefore neither subjective nor objective, but is above the opposition of subject and object that it itself produces:

„Now, however, it must not be overlooked that we can only determine ourselves as subjects and oppose ourselves to the objects with the help of thinking. Therefore, thinking must never be understood as a merely subjective activity. Thinking is beyond subject and object. It forms these two concepts as well as all others. Thus, when we as thinking subject relate the concept to an object, we must not conceive of this relation as something merely subjective. It is not the subject that brings about the relation, but thinking. The subject does not think because it is a subject; rather, it appears to itself as a subject because it is able to think. The activity that man performs as a thinking being is therefore not a merely subjective one, but one that is neither subjective nor objective, one that transcends these two concepts. I must never say that my individual subject thinks; rather, this subject itself lives by the grace of thinking. Thought is thus an element that leads me beyond my self and connects me with the objects. But at the same time it separates me from them by confronting me with them as a subject.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 60)

„The cognitive faculty appears to man as subjective only so long as he does not notice that it is nature itself which speaks through it. Subjective and objective meet when the objective world of ideas comes to life in the subject, and that which is active in nature itself lives in the spirit of man. When this is the case, then all opposition of subjective and objective ceases. This opposition only has a meaning as long as man artificially maintains it, as long as he regards the ideas as his thoughts, through which the essence of nature is represented, but in which it is not itself active. Kant and the Kantians had no idea that in the ideas of reason the essential being of things is directly experienced. For them, everything ideal is merely subjective.“ (Lit.:GA 6, p. 55f)


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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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