Philosophy Department

Center for Phenomenological Research

The Value of Subjectivity

Creph Research Project 2022-23

Visiting Scholars: Uriah Kriegel, Charles Siewert (Rice University, Houston)


What is the value of subjectivity? The purpose of this project is to explore various ways of understanding and answering this question. Although there is no agreement in the philosophical literature about what it means to be a subject of experience, recurrent features typically include (i) having a situated perspective on the world and (ii) being able to produce introspective reports on one's own experiences. Interestingly, these features are usually considered at odds with scientific objectivity. We have been encouraged to replace subjective perspectives with 'more objective' ones and to regard introspective reports as naïve, superficial, or even illusory. This last, most radical option may be called the illusionist hypothesis. The project aims to challenge these attitudes by reexamining the role of subjectivity in various aspects of human life, ranging from self-knowledge to moral conduct, aesthetic experience and the pursuit of happiness. A particularly strong hypothesis is that our capacity to live in a world endowed with epistemic, moral or aesthetic value is grounded in our capacity to have subjective experiences. Call this the grounding hypothesis. The purpose of this project is to critically discuss these two hypotheses — the illusionist hypothesis and the grounding hypothesis — and to explore intermediate options that lie between these two ends of the spectrum.

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Université de Liège Rice University

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