Subjectivity and objectivity: a matter of life and death?

Gertrudis Van De Vijver, Joris Van Poucke
2008 The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy   unpublished
in this paper, it is argued that the question "What is life?" time and again emerges-and within the confines of an objectivistic/subjectivistic frame of thought has to emerge-as a symptom, a non-deciphered, cryptic message that insists on being interpreted. our hypothesis is that the failure to measure up the living to the standards of objectification has been taken too frequently from an objectivistic angle, leading to a simple postponement of an objective treatment of the living, and
more » ... confining it to the domain of the subjective, the relative and the metaphorical. as a consequence, the truly important question of the co-constitutive relation between objectivity and subjectivity is thereby evaded. a critical, transcendental account can be relevant in this regard, not only because of the fact that objectivity and subjectivity are seen as co-constitutive, but also because it addresses the question of the embeddedness of objectivity and subjectivity from within the living dynamics. this hypothesis will be articulated on the basis of erwin Schrödinger's famous little book on "What is life?", in dialogue with robert rosen's critical reading of it. it appears that Schrödinger considered the living as a genuine challenge for classical objectification procedures. however, it is doubtful whether this brought him to a critical reading of objectivity or to the acknowledgment of a constitutive role of subjectivity in relation to objectivity. We argue that his viewpoint has the merit of expressing the difficulty of the living within the field of the physical sciences, but does not really transcend the objectivism/subjectivism opposition. at this point, rosen's relational account takes up the challenge more radically by acknowledging the need for a new epistemology and a new metaphysics in relation to living systems, and by attributing a place to classical objectivity from within this "new science". in conclusion, we return to Kant's epistemological proposal, and show its potential relevance in this debate.