How to Talk About Subjectivity

(Don’t Say “Consciousness”)
May 20 2017
9:35 am-10:10 am
Ash Auditorium

How to Talk About Subjectivity

Our discussions about subjectivity are ambiguous, because we use nouns to refer to what is essentially activity or process and we try to use public language to talk about what is essentially private.

This talk will propose a better terminology. It will give an operational definition of the term “subjectivity,” and then recommend usages of the terms “experience,” “conscious” and “aware”. The approach will be both from a first-person point of view, as that is the essence of subjectivity, and from a third person point of view, as the use of language is inherently public, involving both speakers and hearers.

After proposing definitions of salient terms, the talk will give suggestions for reframing confusing language, chief of which is to avoid the term “consciousness” altogether in favor of the phrase “being conscious.”


Bill Meacham, Ph.D., is an independent scholar in philosophy and the author of the books How To Be An Excellent Human and How to Exert Free Will, both available on his website, After earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy he spent many years in computers and data processing. He brings the precision required for good software development to the analysis of philosophical concepts and to the deep questions posed by philosophy: What’s real? How do we know what’s real? And what shall we do about what’s real?