Subject-object split

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The expression subject-object split was coined by Karl Jaspers and refers to a basic epistemological structure that, according to Jaspers, is given by the fact that human consciousness relates to objects. According to Jaspers - at least as far as the understanding is concerned - there is an irreducible difference between the object of knowledge ( object ) and the knower ( subject ). This also applies in the event that the ego reflects itself , i.e. for objective self-confidence .

Subject-object split according to Karl Jaspers

Jaspers describes the facts he meant as follows:

“All […] views have one thing in common: they grasp being as something that confronts me as an object, to which I am directed as an object confronting me, meaning it. This primordial phenomenon of our conscious existence is so natural to us that we hardly feel its riddle because we do not even question it. What we think, of which we speak, is always different from us, is what we, the subjects, are directed to as something opposite, the objects. When we make ourselves the object of our thinking, we ourselves become, as it were, the other and are always at the same time there again as a thinking I who carries out this thinking of itself, but which cannot be adequately thought of as an object ourselves, because it is always the A prerequisite for becoming an object is. We call this basic finding of our thinking existence the subject-object split. We are in it all the time when we are awake and conscious. "

This difference is considered by Jaspers to be indelible, at least for the mind.

Attempts to overcome

Philosophical approaches to undermining or overcoming such a subject-object split can include a. use epistemological , ontological and religious-philosophical preconditions. For example, a direct intellectual outlook , a “supra-rational intuition” as one might call it. a. about Plotinus can attribute considers the rational differential structure behind you (eg. as the question of different sources of knowledge). A modern-classical ontological attempt at overcoming can be made e.g. B. N. Hartmann's assumption, "that neither the subject is exhausted in knowing, nor the object in being known, but that they are members of a context of being ... that goes beyond what is given in experience or in self-consciousness." A similar intention has been ascribed to representatives of the philosophy of life . One could also think of Whitehead's process philosophy , such as B. to the speculative systems of Schelling and Hegel.

Karl Jaspers has formulated that the subject-object split remains, but can be transcended, which at least can still be indicated linguistically in “ciphers”, and that especially “the mystical” encompasses the “spheres of the subject-object split” ; "Where there is no longer any object facing each other, that is, where there is no content, which is why it is unspeakable and yet is experienced, we speak of the mystical in the broadest sense."

Towards the middle of the 20th century, approaches from the philosophy of religion took up the elimination of a rational subject-object split. They at least include the promise of their abolition in religious experience or its extreme forms. Ernst Bloch takes up Jasper's concept of mysticism, which is directed against the subject-object split. Another example: Liselotte Richter formulated in an encyclopedia article on the subject of “devotion” with reference to Hegel: “The consciousness of the subject-object division is abolished in the execution of the A [thought]” and puts the subject-object division and “world unity” in an article on the subject of “salvation, philosophical of religion”. Heinz-Horst Schrey stated in an article on the subject of “Theology”: “The matter of theology is neither about an objective statics of the otherness of God nor about the assumption of an equally static, subjective human language ability, but about something beyond the subject-object split taking place, personal-historical happening of the encounter. "

Martin Heidegger pointed out in a comment on Jaspers: “The basic meaning of the relationship between subject and object ... is division. This only when the Unsplit is scheduled sense as a basic reality. "In general, one has Heidegger's intent described as his critique of metaphysics is directed against a metaphysics which one" of the subject-object split a fictional worldless subject "lay underlying ontological fixation.

Philosophy-historical classification

Several other philosophers have been ascribed to have worked out exactly or approximately the facts described by Jaspers and held the most diverse objective factors or theoretical assumptions as responsible for its existence. Typically, one ascribes “ rationalistic ” tendencies to base every philosophical topic on the intended differential structure, and sees them more fundamentally justified in transcendental philosophical approaches.

Sometimes you have - in the sense of z. B. Heideggers - large parts or the whole of “metaphysics” understood as committed to the subject-object split. The structure of the primitive proposition of the kind a something a comes to a property F was identified as the reason or cause of this split. This has now and then been traced back to linguistic structures such as those given in particular with Indo-European languages. Such requests to speak can be found in particular among theorists influenced by Heidegger, especially in late modern French philosophy.

The subject-object split occurs in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant et al. a. expressed in the concept of things in themselves . What is meant is that objects only appear phenomenal to us as they are mediated by our subjective cognitive structure - but this is not somehow "calculable" so that we have cognitive access to the essence of things as it is in itself .

The philosophy of identity developed by Schelling and the contemporary debate with other thinkers, as well as Hegel's speculative approach, can be understood as attempts to overcome the subject-object split established by Kant.

In developmental psychology , the subject-object split was described as a prerequisite for the development of consciousness: The subject-object split emerges from an unconscious preliminary stage, the so-called participation mystique , the psychological oneness ( connectedness ) of subject and object (mother and child). (This Participation mystique is the Freudian the term primary narcissism to compare.) Also in the psychosomatic playing subject object cleavage a role.

In another form, the differentiation of subject and object found in the theory of social systems of Niklas Luhmann the distinction between system and environment on psychological systems, for example in the application of the basic operation. Luhmann does not understand systemic differentiations as the subject of ontological descriptions.


Individual evidence

  1. Introduction to Philosophy. Munich 1953, p. 24f.
  2. Psychology of world views . P. 426: "the ultimate essence of the mind".
  3. a b Röd, lc, 535
  4. G. Pflug: Philosophy of Life . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 5, 139
  5. ^ Ingrid Schoberth, Wolfgang Schoberth: Environment . In: Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon , Vol. 4/11, 1012
  6. Psychology of Weltanschauungen , 19
  7. H.-U. Lessing: mysticism, mystical . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 6, p. 277
  8. ^ Religion in the past and present (RGG). 3. Edition. Volume 1, p. 361
  9. ^ Religion in the past and present (RGG). 3. Edition. Volume 2, 594 ff.
  10. ^ Religion in the past and present (RGG). 3. Edition. Volume 6, p. 774, emphasis deleted
  11. Martin Heidegger: Notes on Jaspers , p. 21 ( Google Books ), in: Wegmarken , Klostermann: Frankfurt am Main 2004.
  12. ^ Thomas Rentsch : Metaphysics Criticism , 3. [19. and 20th century]. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 5, 1288
  13. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl : Les fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures . 1re édition. Les Presses universitaires de France, Paris 1910. 9th edition, 1951, 474 pages.
  14. Heinz Kohut : Narcissism, A theory of the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders . Suhrkamp stw 157, Frankfurt / Main 1973, ISBN 3-518-27757-X , pp. 57 f., 129 ff., Cf. the self-object role of the mother described there , an original transference relationship that can be seen as a fusion of subject and object and thus as the abolition of the subject-object split.
  15. ^ Thure von Uexküll : Basic questions of psychosomatic medicine. Rowohlt Taschenbuch, Reinbek near Hamburg 1963; to Stw. “Unity of subject and object”, p. 102 ff .; on Stw. “Splitting of the subject-object relationship”: pp. 154–157, 229 f.