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Understanding Subjectivism

Feelosofi –  Subjectivism is a view or approach in philosophy and epistemology that emphasizes the important role of the subject, namely the individual, in the process of understanding and knowledge. In this context, subject refers to the individual as the party who experiences, feels, and processes information and their own subjective experiences. This view emphasizes that knowledge and understanding of the world is greatly influenced by the views, values, experiences and interpretations of the individual concerned. Therefore, subjectivism views that reality cannot always be recognized or measured objectively, but is more relative and depends on each individual’s point of view.

In subjectivism, there is an acceptance that each individual has a unique perspective that shapes the way they see the world. This means that what one individual considers right or good may differ from another individual’s view. Subjectivism also stimulates self-reflection and introspection, as individuals are expected to better understand how their personal views and experiences influence their judgments and actions.

Although subjectivism emphasizes the importance of the individual in understanding and knowledge, it also raises a number of challenges. Too much emphasis on subjectivity can lead to extreme relativism , where no objective truth or moral standard can be held to. Therefore, many philosophers and epistemologists strive to find a balance between subjectivism and objectivism in the process of seeking more comprehensive and scientific knowledge.

History Of The Development Of Subjectivism

The history of the development of subjectivism as a philosophical approach that emphasizes the role of the subject or individual in understanding and knowledge has gone through several important phases in the history of philosophy . Originally, subjective elements have existed since ancient times, especially in the thought of Socrates , who emphasized the importance of introspection and self-knowledge. However, a more significant development occurred in the Middle Ages, when thinkers such as René Descartes attempted to separate “I think, therefore I am,” by emphasizing the rational subject as the starting point for legitimate knowledge.

In the Age of Enlightenment, figures such as Immanuel Kant developed subjectivism with his critical theory, which claims that knowledge is the result of interactions between subjective observations and the cognitive structures that exist in the individual’s mind. This takes subjectivism to a higher level in philosophy . Furthermore, these thoughts were influential on post-modern thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre , who viewed individuals as creators of meaning in a world that had no inherent meaning.

In the 20th century, subjectivism received increasing attention in the context of epistemology and social philosophy. Subjectivism in epistemology is the basis for constructivism, a theory that emphasizes that knowledge is constructed by individuals through their personal experiences and interpretations. Meanwhile, social subjectivism highlights the diversity of perspectives and social influences on the way individuals see the world. Although subjectivism has experienced significant developments, the debate about the extent to which subjectivity should be accepted in the pursuit of objective knowledge continues to this day.

Subjectivist Thought

Subjectivist thinking is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the role of the subject or individual in the process of knowledge, experience and interpretation of the world. In subjectivist thinking, individuals are considered as the center of their own reality, who perceive and process information based on their personal views and subjective experiences.

One of the important figures of subjectivist thought is René Descartes , who is famous for the statement “I think, therefore I am” ( cogito, ergo sum ). Descartes emphasized the importance of doubt and critical thinking methods as the basis for achieving valid knowledge. He felt that individuals should doubt all knowledge, even physical reality, and accept only what they can confirm through their own thinking.

Subjectivist thinking is also found in schools such as existentialism, which was embraced by philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism emphasizes the freedom of individuals to create meaning in their own lives, even in situations that have no inherent meaning. This thinking states that individuals have full responsibility for their actions and decisions, and that their existence is influenced by their subjective freedom.

Although subjectivism places emphasis on personal experience and the role of the individual in the construction of knowledge, it also raises questions about the limits of objectivity and whether there are universal truths or values ​​that can be accepted by all individuals. As a complex philosophical approach, subjectivist thinking continues to be the subject of debate and exploration across a variety of scientific disciplines, including philosophy , psychology, and sociology.

Characters Of Subjectivism

Subjectivist figures play an important role in the development of philosophical thought which emphasizes the role of the subject or individual in understanding and knowledge. The following are several influential subjectivist figures in the history of philosophy :

  • René Descartes : Descartes is one of the most famous figures in subjectivism. He is famous for his statement, “I think, therefore I am” ( cogito, ergo sum ), which emphasizes the existence of the individual as a thinking subject who doubts all his knowledge to reach a certain truth. In “Meditations on First Philosophy ,” he emphasizes doubt as an important critical method.
  • Immanuel Kant : Kant played a key role in subjectivist thought with his critical theory. He shows that knowledge is the result of interactions between subjective observations and the cognitive structures that exist in the individual’s mind. His critique of empirical knowledge and rational knowledge helped shape the views of modern subjectivism.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche : Nietzsche was an existentialist figure who emphasized the role of the subjective in creating meaning in life. He describes the world as a place that has no inherent meaning, and individuals must create their own meaning and values. Works such as “ Thus Spoke Zarathustra ” and “ Beyond Good and Evil ” depict his revolutionary subjective thoughts.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre : Sartre was one of the leading existentialist philosophers who developed subjectivism in the context of individual freedom. In his work “ Being and Nothingness ” he states that individuals have absolute freedom to choose their own actions and create meaning in a world that has no inherent meaning.
  • Søren Kierkegaard : Kierkegaard, an early existentialist philosopher , emphasized the subjective aspect of religion and individual existence. He views faith as a subjective act that requires courage to choose faith in uncertainty.

These figures have made important contributions in developing subjectivist thinking in various philosophical, ethical and human understanding contexts. Their thinking has influenced a large number of scientific disciplines and continues to be a source of inspiration in understanding the role of individuals in the creation of knowledge and meaning.

Types Of Subjectivism

Subjectivism is a philosophical view that recognizes the dominant role of the subject or individual in the formation of knowledge, values, and meaning in the world. There are several types of subjectivism that have been known in the history of philosophical thought. The following are several types of subjectivism that reflect various aspects of subjective understanding:

  • Epistemological Subjectivism : Epistemological subjectivism focuses on subjective aspects in the formation of knowledge. This means that an individual’s knowledge and understanding is greatly influenced by their experiences, personal interpretations, and points of view. Figures such as René Descartes and Immanuel Kant are examples of thinkers in the realm of epistemological subjectivism. Descartes emphasized the role of doubt as the first step in achieving certain knowledge, while Kant developed a critical theory that highlighted the subject’s contribution to the interpretation of experience.
  • Moral Subjectivism : Moral subjectivism deals with values ​​and ethics . In moral subjectivism, values ​​are considered relative and can vary from individual to individual. This view emphasizes that morality is subjective and determined by the personal or cultural views of each individual. Existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre represent the moral subjectivist approach by asserting that individuals have absolute freedom to determine what is right and wrong in ethical situations .
  • Aesthetic Subjectivism : Aesthetic subjectivism is concerned with judgments about beauty and art. In this context, the subject or individual is seen as the main determinant of beauty. This means that art appreciation and judgments about works of art are subjective and vary from individual to individual. Aesthetic subjectivism speaks of diversity in artistic tastes and interpretations of works of art.
  • Social Subjectivism : Social subjectivism includes subjective aspects in the analysis of society and culture. This highlights that social views, norms, and values ​​are also greatly influenced by an individual’s experiences and viewpoints within a social context. Philosophers such as Karl Marx and Max Weber developed the idea of ​​social subjectivism by recognizing that individuals have an important role in shaping social and economic dynamics.

Each type of subjectivism emphasizes the role of the subject in the process of understanding, assessing, and constructing meaning in various aspects of life. This understanding of subjectivism is important in philosophical thought and social science because it shows the complexity in the influence of individuals on understanding the world and society.


In conclusion, subjectivism is a philosophical approach that places great emphasis on the role of the individual or subject in the process of understanding, knowledge, values, and judgment. Subjectivism recognizes that individuals’ experiences and views have a central role in shaping their personal reality. This results in a number of types of subjectivism such as epistemological, moral, aesthetic , and social subjectivism , each of which assumes that knowledge, ethics, art, and understanding of society are the result of subjective experience and interpretation.

However, subjectivism also poses a number of challenges. Too much emphasis on subjectivity can lead to extreme relativism , where no objective truth or moral standard can be held to. This can blur the lines between personal views and objective reality. Therefore, there is an ongoing debate about the extent to which subjectivism is acceptable in the search for objective knowledge and moral justice.

It is important to understand that subjectivism has its place in philosophical thought, especially in the context of respect for the diversity of individual perspectives and views. However, a balanced understanding of subjectivism and objectivism is often considered essential for achieving comprehensive knowledge and a deeper understanding of the world and society. Awareness of the individual’s role in the construction of knowledge is an important component in broader philosophical and social science discussions.


What Is Subjectivism?

Subjectivism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the role of the individual or subject in the process of understanding, knowledge, values, and judgment. This means that an individual’s views, experiences, and subjective interpretations have a major influence in shaping their reality.

What Is The Difference Between Subjectivism And Objectivism?

Subjectivism emphasizes that knowledge, values, and reality are subjective, that is, they depend on the individual’s views. Meanwhile, objectivism holds that there is an objective truth or standard that can be accepted by all individuals, independent of personal views.

What Are The Implications Of Subjectivism In Ethics?

In ethics , subjectivism implies that values ​​and morality are subjective and depend on individual or cultural views. This means that what is considered good or bad can vary from individual to individual, and there are no absolute moral standards.

How Does Subjectivism Relate To Art And Aesthetics?

In art and aesthetics , subjectivism means that the appreciation of art and the assessment of beauty are subjective. This means that experiences of art and judgments about works of art can vary significantly between individuals because they are influenced by personal preferences.

Does Subjectivism Lead To Extreme Relativism?

Subjectivism has the potential to lead to extreme relativism if taken too far. This can lead to the belief that no objective truth or moral standards exist. However, many philosophers attempt to find a balance between subjectivism and objectivism to achieve a more balanced understanding of the world.


  • “ The Subjective and the Objective ” by Carl Gustav Hempel (1935)
  • “ Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective ” by Donald Davidson (2001)
  • “ The Varieties of Religious Experience ” by William James (1902)
  • “ The Experience of Freedom ” by Jean-Luc Marion (2016)

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Raymond Kelvin Nando, "Subjectivism," Feelosofi, 1 November 2023,
Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast