Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 4, No 1-2 (2008)

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Subjectivity and Objectivity: A Matter of Life and Death?

Gertrudis Van de Vijver, Joris Van Poucke


In this paper, it is argued that the question ldquo;What is life?rdquo; time and again emergesmdash;and within the confines of an objectivistic/subjectivistic frame of thought has to emergemdash;as a symptom, a non-deciphered, cryptic message that insists on being interpreted. br /Our hypothesis is that the failure to measure up the living to the standards of objectification has been taken too frequently from an objectivistic angle, leading to a simple postponement of an objective treatment of the living, and meanwhile confining it to the domain of the subjective, the relative and the metaphorical. As a consequence, the truly important question of the co-constitutive relation between objectivity and subjectivity is thereby evaded. A critical, transcendental account can be relevant in this regard, not only because of the fact that objectivity and subjectivity are seen as co-constitutive, but also because it addresses the question of the embeddedness of objectivity and subjectivity from within the living /This hypothesis will be articulated on the basis of Erwin Schrouml;dingerrsquo;s famous little book on ldquo;What is life?rdquo;, in dialogue with Robert Rosenrsquo;s critical reading of it. It appears that Schrouml;dinger considered the living as a genuine challenge for classical objectification procedures. However, it is doubtful whether this brought him to a critical reading of objectivity or to the acknowledgment of a constitutive role of subjectivity in relation to objectivity. We argue that his viewpoint has the merit ofnbsp; expressing the difficulty of the living within the field of the physical sciences, but does not really transcend the objectivism/subjectivism opposition. At this point, Rosenrsquo;s relational account takes up the challenge more radically by acknowledging the need for a new epistemology and a new metaphysics in relation to living systems, and by attributing a place to classical objectivity from within this ldquo;new sciencerdquo;. In conclusion, we return to Kantrsquo;s epistemological proposal, and show its potential relevance in this debate.

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