In this article, the aim is to demonstrate the existence of objective and subjective reality and our profound relation to the latter versus the former. Using atomism as an analytical framework, we shall ground the basis for the theory of Ontological Epistemology. We shall first present Ontology and Epistemology as being separate, before working on three key arguments to indicate their inseparable nature in shaping how the world is perceived and then known.
Firstly, the world as it is perceived and as it is presented must be understood as subjective, even if the data we are presented with can be objective, it remains that a human source must interpret this data to include it in subjective reality, to give it meaning.
Secondly, that in the event we are capable of finding all that we can find about the universe, we will never be capable of having more knowledge than the universe contains.
Thirdly, that based on the above arguments, the only possibility for us to make sense of subjective reality versus objective reality is to merge the principles of Ontology with Epistemology, to create Ontological Epistemology, of which Atomism is the instrument. Grounded within reason, this theory intends to defy the claims of objectivity by challenging the logic behind arguments, so as to exemplify how there is always more to be said about an object.
We shall conclude that in order to gain the best picture of the world, we must work in the delineation of atomism until there is nothing more for us to perceive or to know.
Objective versus Subjective
Kant, in the Critique of Pure Reason, presents the merging of empiricism and rationalism as an ideal manner with which we can gain knowledge of objects and phenomena. The noumenal and the phenomenal thus oppose one another. A thing in itself is different from how I perceive it, because I only see it from the point of view of a human being. I would have to ignore the multi-dimensional facets of perception by restricting myself only to human knowledge and not experience. Sense-perception thus includes the idea that the objective becomes known solely by a priori conditions followed by a posteriori sensations and perceptions.
There must be a rock for me to be able to perceive it and to identify it as a rock. As such, I am a human being gifted with the ability to appreciate the world as it is presented to me. Schopenhauer, in contrast, believes that this conjecture can be demonstrated to be false, as the thing-in-itself cannot be understood except from the point of view of a human being, and that beyond what it gives us in the phenomenal plane, it may have qualities that escape our perception and knowledge. Objective statements are therefore an oxymoron, as we would have to speak on behalf of nature itself to be able to claim an absolute from perception. We require instruments to create a better picture, yet despite that, we remain with the need to project our experience onto knowledge.
Therefore, we are constrained to the subjective plane of existence, for which the universe is the contingency. For us to exist, there is a condition, and that condition must be a plane of existence, which the universe provides. We could not therefore say that our existence is objective, considering that to be objective, we would have to become the universe. An impossibility such as this confirms that the subjective always takes over the objective. That is not to say, however, that subjectivity can have objective qualities. I could not therefore presume that each person’s perception of that rock changes how it appears objectively. Russell advised against such an idea of reality, in the Art of Philosophizing, by saying that a steak always tastes like a steak. Were reality entirely subjective, we would be able to choose at will how steak tastes like.
Certainly, we can disagree on the taste of a steak, but its taste is what is objective, how we taste it is what is subjective. The taste of steak could not suddenly become that of apple or cotton candy, unless reality had been altered somehow. We must therefore subscribe to the idea that there is an objective reality of which we have no control over, that provides to our subjective reality the necessary resources for it to be substantiated. Without an objective reality, we would not exist, but an objective reality can exist without subjective reality.
The World in Itself
But if for instance we had tasted all the steaks in the universe and every reaction to the taste of steak had been recorded and anyone whoso wished could experience all the various reactions to the taste of steak, would that person have enough knowledge to understand the objective nature of the taste of steak? No, that person would be capable of seeing the multitudes of how humans taste steak, but they would not be able to ascertain an objective measure of the taste of steak.
In order for such to happen, one would have to be capable of perceiving all of the world’s perceptions in an instant. Something like that cannot be allowed to introduce itself into the laws of logic or even physics, but if we were to humor this possibility. What would be the conditions necessary for someone to be objectively capable of tasting steak?
That person would have to be the Will to Life, as per Schopenhauer’s notion. We would have to concede that this person can understand the objective nature of the universe. Despite that, the Will to Life does not contain the world in itself, rather the metaphysical will that directs all life, whether inanimate or animate. We cannot become one with the Will to Life, though we may come to understand it, yet we would still not understand the World in Itself, as to do so, we would have to become the world. The notion of interconnectivity between species, although powerful on spiritual grounds, speaks only to our incapacity to view the Universe as anything but Beings within it. Body and Spirit meld into one, for one cannot be separate from the other.
The reason behind this is that based upon the above arguments, the thesis appears to outline an objective statement about subjective reality. Can this truly be possible, if we are to be absolutely rigorous, with regards to the impossibility of objective knowledge? Yes, it can be. It is within subjective reality that we can ground ourselves into a subjective perception of the Universe and thus form, within ourselves, the objective nature of our own knowledge. It is from there alone, that we can approach objectivity, but like a utopia that can be imagined, true objectivity is never attained by beings whose existence is dependent upon an ontological contingency.
Heidegger described philosophy as being “ontology” itself, with Being as its primary theme. If we were to follow Heidegger’s theories, we would have to conclude that any abstraction of reality is ours alone and is not pre-existent within the Universe itself. “What is the mode of being of that being in which the world constitutes itself?” Heidegger asks, pointing to the husserlian problem of how the world constitutes itself in our conscience. The world is thus constituted of the commonly agreed-upon ontology by human beings, which can only be attained via the principles of epistemology. As such, the only way through which we can make sense of the world is through a collectivized effort to understand how the thing-in-itself appears to us as a whole.
Our knowledge is restricted to an ontological epistemology, for which the knowledge we gain further gives solidity to how we perceive the Universe, but not inversely. Worsening the notion that the world can be contained within consciousness, we can see Being and the Knowable as being intrinsically tied to one another, but an ontology presumes awareness and knowledge presumes being. The two can no longer be separate and can only form that which we can know of Being without becoming Being itself.
Conclusion – Atomism as a tool for Ontological Epistemology
Reuniting the prior arguments, we can conclude that via atomism, we may come to a holistic understanding of subjective reality, which is what we must contend with, as children of Being, so that we may accept – with humility – that we may never know what it is to be Ontology but rather the result of Ontology itself. Atomism creates the contingency with which we must observe Being with the Knowable. This contingency must entail: Existence is a condition for Being, but this Existence cannot be without knowing of itself and therefore Being.
Circular and sound, it would appear, this contingency would bring a close to the problem of Being, as it were, considering that Being becomes all that can be known and all that can be known is all that is. Everything else must be left to Objective reality, which is beyond Being and could not be understood lest we become Objective reality, a logical impossibility, given the fact that we can only know what is given to us by the thing-in-itself. Like the peeling of an apple, we can shed layers, but in the case of Objective Reality, we may never perceive its core. Perhaps, by squinting our eyes very hard, we could begin to see its radiation upon ourselves, but to see objective reality would be to insert it within Being, and at that moment, it would cease to be objective.
Any knowledge, in atomism, which would describe the Universe is to be called “ontological epistemology”, and that should be defined as follows:
“Knowledge of the thing-in-itself as it can be known through Being.”