Of the many dualisms that bedevil philosophy, none are so fundamental and pervasive as that of subject and object.
The history of philosophy is a conversation on how the self and its objects are partitioned.
An object that is conceived as a presentation in consciousness is penetrated by subjectivity, indeed it is part os a fully cognised world. But is objects are presentations or images, how does it come about that they are felt to exist in a world outside and independent of the observer? A world that is an extension of the self does not feel like a self creation. Indeed, the self feels very much like a creation of the world in which it matures. So, if the world is a mental image or an elaboration of the self, what explains the illusion of externality? The force of this illusion is precisely what process theory has to explain, and overcome.
A perception of space without action in that space does not give a functional world. Time awareness is also a subjective experience. Time arises in the now as a relation of past to present that hinges on the revival of past events. A duration lacks felt extension without the availability of remembered objects.
We percieve space as an emptiness between things, each thing in space having its own separate history. External space is the home we build to live in, experiential time is the change and stability that give life to that home. The spatio-temporal world of experience has to be ‘re-built’ in every perceptual act. The process is effortless. The activity of mind in generating the world is unfelt, invisible. We only feel that the world is self-generated on such occasions as vertigo, dream or hallucination when the attachment or thread of mind that connects the self to its objects becomes noticeable.
The spatial and temporal fields are conceived in science as quantifiable, measurable, and infinitely divisible.
(only to the planks scale which is not an infinite quanta)
However, subjectivity does not require mind or consciousness, except that mind as intuition is required to conceive the subjectivity of its own experience.
The separation of subject and object creates an inner and outer pole, actually, in the human mid/brain, a centre and a circumference, with an arising at the inner pole and a perishing at the outer one, and a qualitative difference between the initial arising and the final perishing phases.
… in non-cognitive nature there is no inner and outer, only categorical parts embraced by ever enlarging wholes.
The appearance of subject announces a world, but the appearance of the owrld is necessary to individuate the subject.
The initial separation into subject and object is the ground of further oppositions, yet the whole is found, not in their later synthesis, which is a coming-together of parts, but in uncovering the oppositions to disclose a more profound unity.
Freedom obtains in the opposition to objects, thus the attempt to control them, but only a self that feels itself in the object is genuinely free. Agency is first in thought, before it is in the world.
Agency does not determine the object, rather, the object development determines the feeling of agency.
The feeling of will going toward an object is the inner experience of self-realisation. As the self needs an object for the feeling of agency, so too the quality of intentional feeling depends on the degree of object realisation.
The creative spirit moves freely form one pole to another, from a lonely solitude at the oeaks of conscious individuality to an absorption at the inward recesses of the unconscious where inspiration has its home. A settling-in at the inner or outer pole points to an habitual recurrence. A focus at either phase is a sign of unhealthy completeness. A tension, a longing for the unrealised polarity, is a sign of creative imbalance. We are neither oceans nor islands. An excess of autonomy is the sickness of our times. It isolates the feeling of being from that of becoming, separates the public self from its own internal processes, as well as from that of others, while an excess at the inward pole threatens oblivion and loss of contact.
Reflection differs from perception as a voluntary action differs form one that is automatic. To reflect is to step back from the act of perceiving. … The shift from perception to reflection is a shift from reproductive to productive thinking, the productivity relating to the potential for conceptual branching prior to a fixation in objects.
Forgetting the self is having the self as process rather than as memory, with individuality not lost but nested in the whole. The birth of the self is attended by conflict and apartness, but only a self can love, reflect, enjoy, endure. What is left of personhood without a self?
The identity which is blocked by an analytic attitude of the intellect, of reason, reflection or self-consciousness, is the holistic unity of man and nature in an all-embracing divinity. We have all had such moments when, in the compresence of self, subject and subjectivity, the self, infused with feeling, dissolves from the cares of life and an interest in discrete objects to a conscious awareness of the All in All, the momentary and the universal, the where and when of self in nature, a oneness in which the self is neither lost nor known but fells by intuition that it is the living centre of all creation.
The self is essential to knowing the goal and acquiring the means to its satisfaction, but it is also an obstruction, like a skill that has outlived its usefulness but cannot be forgotten.
The self that stops with the interior and takes its own ideas as the limits of its activity lacks an awareness that it is an engine for the totality of the world.
The aim for the entity is the completion of what it is, the full realisation of the becoming that constitutes the process of its creation. This process deposits in the being of a momentary existence. Being is the aim of becoming, the becoming of what one is. A non-cognitive entity in nature, or an act of cognition.
(Page 85 has so much good stuff I want to quote it all, however, I respect the limits of this exercise…)
Subjectivity, as the becoming of substance, does not arise form substance but is replaced by another wave of becoming.
… the possibility of creating a world somewhere between sheer imagination and full objectivity reminds us of possibilities in self-realisation that are ordinarily concealed beneath the dead surface of its representations.
The result of perceiving the world as an extension of self, instead of a populated vastness with which the self makes contact, is that the self acts for the other as it would for its own needs. … Self-realisation is a criterion of value in the world, for its own sake or for the sake of conscious beings (Chakravati, 1966). The world has the nature of a self, an idea that is realised in human thought and action. Without insight, the urge to self-realisation achieves a token insularity in its drive to autonomy. True self expression is the realisation through the individual of the will of nature as it moves outwards in the actualisation of human ideals.
…realism has [the] obligation to explain how subjectivity appears in the physical universe.
The retreat over time from a perception to a dream is really an uncovering of the original process in which buried primary process cognition is shaped to reality, as unconscious memories become conscious perceptions. … there is experimental evidence that primary process thought is not bypassed in the growth of rational thinking, but it is entrained (early) in every act of cognition (Deglin and Kinsbourne, 1996).
Whatever is thought, perceived, felt, apprehended, whether vague or clear, its conscious appearance and unconscious antecedents are identical with brain process, though is has to be conceded that some phenomena, such as the span of the present, may be non-reducible.
There is no escape from some form of idealism or monism. The self cannot go beyond the world it elaborates to a ‘real’ world outside its perceptions, nor delve beneath them to the incipient phases in the unconscious. However, there is an asymmetry of the self and its objects in relation to their physical or noumenal precursors.
…we presume that an object points outward to a real entity in the material world, while the self points inward, to an origin in physiology, archetypes or the absolute. The depth of self-origination leads to the intuition of a world in which all selves are potentialities. In sum, an object has subjective and objective phases. The objective phase points to an external entity that is conceived as synchronic with its appearance. The self, lacking an outer reference, has only a subjective phase and points diachronically to the limits of unconscious mind.
We can give no account of ‘real’ nature beyond human experience, for the mind is engaged in every observation or measurement, direct or mediated. If we seek to understand nature beyond its realisation in mind, or brain process, it is not the perception but its ancestry that is the locus of scientific interest. Perhaps for this reason Novalis wrote that “nature is living antiquity” an epigram that captures and endorses the impossibility of personal access to, much less intersubjective agreement upon, the thing-in-itself, though from a theoretical standpoint we scarcely do this with the objects of ordinary science.
The claim that events in perception refer to non-cognitive entities, i.e. that the object in perception is, or is an exact replica of, the thing-in-itself, has the consequence of a reduction from an object to the entity it refers to.
What, then, is the basis of the dichotomy of mind and brain (nature) if the brain is conceived as a complex node in a nature that is ultimately unknowable? This is a comparison of immediate data in consciousness with in hypothesis about the real entities the data point to, namely a comparison of the purely phenomenal with the non-experiential,
It is inarguable that any attempt to reduce the mind to physical nature must begin with the brain events that underly behaviour, and only secondarily with the entities in nature to which those events refer.. For mind to truly ‘know’ nature, it would first have to know the brain, which is the most immediate instance of physical nature to which mind relates.
What begins inside as a conceptual feeling of intense, immediate and felt experience dissipates as it travels outwards to de-conceptualise objects in which feelings and beliefs have to be inferred. What begins with a disposition charged with personal belief and value terminates in a concrete actuality to which values and beliefs seem to be applied.
An account that preserves the subjectivity by deepening yet relaxing its definition, i.e. by not equating subjectivity with consciousness, leads to an idealism that is a species of naturalism (process monism) not merely a solipsistic dream.
Admittedly, this way of thinking rests on a series of inferences. It begins with the argument that subjective experience is the legitimate starting point for metaphysics, while rejecting solipsism on a pragmatic basis. The inference that patterns of breakdown in cognition illustrate patterns in its realisation gives licence to the claim that patterns in mind correspond to those in brain process. This permits an extension of the theory to processual life in lower organisms and, finally, to the ultimate basis of all processes in the becoming-to-being that generates existence and feeling in physical matter.
A subjective naturalism must seek to explain the transmutation of will into intention and desire. Thought and reason seem to transcend natural process to establish aims by which action is guided. This is the decisive issue.