Sunday, 2 November 2008

Objective and subjective knowledge (the ontological distinction)

"Some entities that exist in the real world have a subjective mode of existence" (Searle). For Searle, pains and tickles and itches, and all our thoughts and feelings have an ontological subjectivity, unlike mountains, molecules and tectonic plates that have ontological objectivity. This distinction seems less than clear cut. All our knowledge and experience of mountains, etc. is subjective, i.e. it exists within our minds. We can't know reality in any other way. We may chose to distinguish within our minds between certain kinds of thoughts — ones that we classify as referring to the external world our our internal world — but this does not overcome the fact that all those thoughts are, by definition, mental and therefore subjective, which is not to deny they are just as real as molecules.

How do I distinguish between the mountain and thoughts or feelings about the mountain?