Adler On

Objective and Subjective

These two words are used in the everyday speech of almost everyone, but not with the philosophical significance they should have.

When, speaking or writing philosophically, we declare that something is objective, we are saying that it is the same for all individuals.

That being so, it is public, not private. It can be a common object about which two or more individuals may engage in conversation, agree or disagree, and dispute with each other.

But when we declare that something is subjective, we are saying that it is different for you, for me and for many other individuals. It belongs in the realm of the private. It is not a public matter that can be discussed with the aim of arriving at a shared understanding of it.

In the twentieth century, the statement that all value judgments are subjective means, in effect, that value judgments -- about what is good or bad, right or wrong -- are matter of personal prejudice or private opinion. They are not objectively true or false, and so moral philosophy is dismissed as being noncognitive. Our judgments of matter of fact are genuine knowledge, but not our value judgments

Milder Forms of Skepticism
Six Great Ideas (1981,1984), Chapter 6

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 17 December 2000