Subject, verb and object: all in the mind

Psyblog states:

It seems likely that this left to right bias has its roots in language (although not everyone agrees, cf. Chatterjee, 2001). Evidence for this comes from people who speak languages written from right to left like Arabic or Urdu who, sure enough, display the same bias, but in the opposite direction.

There is another left to right bias in the basic syntax of language: the vast majority of languages describe events in the order subject, verb, object (with the notable exception of the passive tense).

Together these two facts mean we not only look to the left first, but we also expect the subject to be on the left, and the object to its right. Subjects are by definition active ‘do-ers’ while objects are the passive receivers of the do-ers’ actions.

With the metaphysical notion of time, we have constructed the concepts of causation, subject, action/force, and object. Objectivity (‘what’)  is supposedly represented by the sciences, whereas subjectivity (‘how’) is the domain of personal interpretation and relation. While Hume took an axe to causation, Nietzsche blew up the roots of these distinctions with dynamite, declaring that objectivity itself is but a subjective misinterpretation that we cannot live without. Pragmatists such as John Dewey and William James deflated the whole bloated philosophical tradition of ontology and epistemology, and focused on what mattered most, namely human needs. I follow in their footsteps and maintain that we should use these categories wisely.

We see ourselves (subject) as acting on the world (object) in time. We therefore assume that we are agents with ‘free will’. From a utilitarian viewpoint this is best. However, it may shadow the way in which the world acts on us. We may not recognise how culture can dominate our decisions and actions, and in such moments we are not truly free. We may become slaves to our narrow-minded way of viewing the world.

Philosophy, such as that from Hume and Nietzsche, can set you free, but you have to be ready for the initally uncomfortable journey. Your cherished assumptions will be exposed as dogma, your values will be overhauled, and you will be left in the wilderness for a while. But then you can go back into the world and create your own meanings and values on a solid foundation. In doing so you will experience the joy of a free spirit.


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