Subject and object of knowledge, their relationship

The process of cognition of various forms of being is the process of their creative reflection in the human mind. Knowledge by its nature is a subjective image of the objective world. Therefore, cognition involves the splitting of the world into an object and a subject of cognition (sometimes a third component is distinguished – the content of cognition). Cognition is the process of interaction between the subject and the object of cognition.

The object of cognition is that fragment of being, to which the cognitive activity of the subject is directly directed. These are concrete things, phenomena, processes of objective reality (nature and society, as well as the person himself), sign systems that have entered the sphere of the cognitive activity of the subject. Cognition can be directed not only to objective reality, but also to idealized objects (a number, a point, an area, an ideal gas, an absolutely black body…), i.e. on mental ideal cognitive constructions. Consciousness can be the object of knowledge. The subject of knowledge, i.e. the one who cognizes the object of cognition, in the final analysis, can be the whole society (for example, the Russian cosmist N.F. Fedorov wrote that everything should be in the subject, and everything in the object. And N.A. Berdyaev wrote that the truth is revealed only to the conciliar mind, i.e. the church mind). The subject of cognition can be a social group (including the community of scientists), an individual (including a scientist) performing cognitive activity. The object of knowledge is not identical to the concept of “objective reality” in general, the entire objective reality as a whole. It is inexhaustible in its forms of being, it cannot be completely embraced by the activity of the cognizing subject at once, I. Kant argued about this.

It is important to note that both the subject and the object of cognition, and the process of cognition in general, are of a concrete historical nature . The subject of cognition is not just and not only an epistemological subject. This is a living developing person (or personalities) with her (their) passions, character, goals, interests, value system, needs, abilities, level of spiritual culture in general, which are formed specifically – historically. The subject of cognition is a person who in a certain way is included in a historically specific system of various social relations and masters the achievements of the material and spiritual culture of previous generations, incl. and their learning experiences. The cognitive abilities of a person are formed socio-historically, just as the ways and methods of his cognitive activity, and indeed of all human activity in general, are formed socio-historically. As we already know, the process of cognition is of a concrete historical nature. The degree and possibility of assimilation by an individual of all the diverse previous cultural experience depends, first of all, on the socio-cultural characteristics of the society of which the subject is a member, as well as on his own material living conditions, on his social position, on his level of spiritual culture and other factors. Mankind, – wrote K. Marx, – always sets itself only such tasks that it can solve, since upon closer examination it always turns out that the task arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already available, or at least are in the process of becoming. The same can be said about man as a cognizing subject. That is, the choice of the object of knowledge, as a rule, is not spontaneous . The subject must, as a rule, be prepared to see his object in a given fragment of being. What is prepared? Yes, all the same factors that affect the process of cognition. V.M. Ragozin rightly notes that representatives of each new generation, who have the ability to know, create the necessary means for knowing and open such cuts in the nature and society that have appeared before them, such “layers” that it was not possible to open before. It is these slices that act as objects. And since they are discovered by people with abilities and special inclinations for cognition, we can say that the object, corresponding to the essence of the subject, reflects this essence [Ragozin V.M. Philosophy: Lecture Notes with Modular Education for Students of Economics. – M. : PGTU, 2000. – 135 p., S. 83]. The forms of scientific knowledge are the products of a number of objective conditions and subjective premises. Knowledge by its emergence reflects the conditions and prerequisites that determined it [Ibid.]. So, the subject and object of cognition are interconnected, presuppose each other in the process of cognition, and outside of this connection, they do not exist in this process . Although the object of cognition is not chosen spontaneously by the subject (and in a certain sense, the object also “chooses” the subject), he, nevertheless, as a fragment of being exists objectively, and must be known as such; and the subject is relatively independent of the object.

Society acts as the subject of cognition indirectly, through the cognitive activity of individuals, who, however, are formed as subjects of cognition only in their joint activities, entering into certain social relations, forms of communication determined by the level of development of the mode of production of a given society, the level of development of spiritual culture and the cognitive culture itself. activities including.

The process of cognition in the history of philosophy could be considered in different ways. So, it could be considered as a mechanical effect of objects of nature on the sense organs of the subject, passively perceiving them. For example, Democritus thought so. Plato, on the other hand, considered cognition as a process of remembering objectively existing ideas by the soul of the subject, and this is where the activity of the subject of cognition manifests itself. Hegel identified the subject and object of cognition: the absolute idea cognizes itself. And many centuries before that, the Eleatic Parmenides identified the thing (ie the object) and the subject’s thought about it. I. Kant in the 18th century for the first time raised the question of the activity of a person as a cognizing subject, having accomplished, as he himself put it, a “Copernican revolution” (by analogy with the achievements of N. Copernicus) in philosophy, considering knowledge as an activity that proceeds according to its own laws (N. Copernicus suggested the opposite in comparison with the geocentrism that prevailed before it, i.e. heliocentrism). For the first time, not the nature and structure of a cognizable object, but the cognitive activity of the subject were considered as the main factor of cognition. In other words, in the teachings of I. Kant, the starting point in the analysis of the processes of cognition is the cognitive activity of the subject, and not the object. Before I. Kant, F. Bacon, R. Descartes and others considered the subjective principle as an obstacle to cognition, and cognition itself as a fixation of signals (impressions) coming from outside, for example, from material things. Thus, Francis Bacon (XVI-XVII centuries) argued that there are significant obstacles in knowledge – prejudices that lead to the fact that the world is reflected in the human mind inadequately. These are “ghosts”, go “idols”. There are 4 types of idols: 1) congenital idols of the race, having a basis in human nature itself, proceeding from the natural imperfection of the human mind (the mind can allow more order in things than it actually is, the mind has a certain inertia, because of which it is reluctant to retreats before new facts that contradict previous views, the mind can be carried away by strong effects, present the changeable as unchanged and vice versa, etc.); 2) idols of the family (also innate, although this can be argued): they are associated with the individual characteristics of people, their upbringing, habits, psychology; so it turns out that everyone looks at the world as if from his own cave; 3) idols of the market (square), acquired: people negotiate in the market with the help of words, with the help of words and communicate, including scientists; incorrect choice of words and their use (when the meanings of words are established not on the basis of knowledge of the essence, but on the basis of impressions, by chance), the use of obsolete concepts leads to the fact that, along with ordinary language, we assimilate the prejudices of past generations; 4) the acquired idols of the theater, the source of which is the belief in authorities that hinder the exploration of nature without prejudice. All previous philosophical systems seemed to F. Bacon like theatrical games, i.e. artificial constructions that have nothing to do with reality. And R. Descartes believed that scientific knowledge should become organized, free from accidents. R. Descartes argued that although the activity of our sense organs is important for cognition, the reliability of feelings is small, and the mind can also make mistakes if, for example, it is based on absolute trust in authorities. God is the guarantor of the truth of knowledge, all clear and distinct ideas (and, therefore, reliable) come from God, this is their objectivity, and vague ideas are false and are the results of human activity, manifestations of human subjectivity.

In the course of cognition, the object is de-objectified, i.e. comprehended by feelings and reason and acquires a different form of existence – the form of the ideal (ideas, images, etc.). A cognitive image is a subjective image that belongs to the consciousness of the subject, but it is objective in content, as it arises as a result of the reflection of objective reality, as well as the cognitive experience of previous generations objectively existing for the subject, as a result of the development and improvement of forms and methods of activity.

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