It's language, stupid!

Subjectivity

Strangely however, the subjective itself is very hard to objectify

James B. Glattfelder

As soon as we use the word ‘subjectivity’ we objectivise an experience. If we have a word for it then we can pluralise it: ‘subjectivities’. We can count them, ‘one subjectivity’, ‘two subjectivities’ and so on. I can say that you have your ‘subjectivity’ and I have mine. By having a word for something, we immediately objectify it and suggest it is something of the physical world. And hence the rush to try and find where it is and what is its composition.

But subjectivity is not something we can objectify as I have previously argued. Subjectivity is the first-person perspective. It is not a thing. It is a viewpoint, a very special viewpoint because it is the one that I am privileged to inhabit. You too have your subjectivity but this does not mean that there are two subjectivities in the world. This is the paradox.

The Abrahamic Jews refused to give their God a name. When they eventually did, only the High Priest could utter the name in the temple. There was something taboo about giving their God, the creator of their world and everything in it, a label just as everyone and everything else had.

Perhaps we too make this same mistake, but it is difficult not to label something. How can we talk about our world and our lives without naming the experience? This is the linguistic paradox that I have written about.

THE LINGUISTIC PARADOX

To experience life is to be in a language: to speak, write and utter words as I am doing now, and to receive in return. But there are two aspects to this life in language. What the language represents – what it denotates – and the subjective, the being-in-use of it. In other words, when I use the word ‘subjectivity’ we have a duality of experiences.

There are two aspects to life: what the language represents and the being-in-use of it.


Featured image: Israel 2008 by ohhenry415 / CC BY-SA 2.0

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