Reflection on reflection

When I, as a subject, look into a mirror I see me, as an object.

When I reflect on this experience, I realize that it is still my subjective I who sees: what stands out to me when I look at my objective me-image is quite different from what another person sees.


The relationship between objectivity and subjectivity is best conceived topologically.

Objective understanding is subjectivity turned inside-out. The world I know is my own known world, overlapping all others, yet unique.

Subjective understanding is objectivity turned inside out. By understanding another person and looking out through this understanding, my own world changes. A shared world — a world that is ours — emerges.

Reflection is the topological operation of perspective eversion. It flips perspective inside-out, objectifying subjectivity and subjectifying objectivity.


When I understand a reality made out of unique points of subjectivity, each the object of all others, and some the fellow subjects of other subjects — a spark of God sees infinite fellow sparks of God.

It is not a matter of belief. It is matter of commitment to a way of knowing, a faith, a way to understand.


This is a good way to understand, so this is how I choose to understand. I could understand differently, of course, and understand in a way that undermines this way. That way could be undermined, too. But so what?

But why break something just because it is breakable? Since when does good necessarily mean indestructible? The things I love most in my life inspire me to care for them, protect them, cultivate them, renew them. Why should truth be any different?

If good does not mean indestructible, what does it mean?

Good means that it helps me make sense of what seems most relevant and it guides my actions in an effective way. Good also means that I don’t have to think about thinking. mMy thinking does not get in my way. My thinking functions invisibly, intuitively, naively, shaping my perceptions, focusing my attention, helping me detect meaningful connections and giving me words to communicate it all. But most of all good means it makes life itself seem valuable and worth great effort. Good overcomes nihilism without annihilating it.

The good news about destructibility, though, is if our faith is not good, and produces nihilism, confusion, dissipation, resentment, hopelessness, isolation, alienation, paranoia, anomie, and awkward theoretical contraptions that require distracting meta-thinking to operate and crank out truth assertions and supporting arguments  — we can always just interrogate the beliefs and theories of that faith into oblivion. No truth bears infinite scrutiny, and often a surprisingly slight amount of questioning does the trick. (This is why ideologies almost always prohibit questioning.)

The fragility of faith means we can always scrap  miserable visions of the world and redesign them to produce better lives, better worlds.

2 thoughts on “Reflection on reflection

  1. Subjective understanding is objectivity turned inside out.

    This is also true in a biological way. An organism is a reflection of its environment. More specifically: An organism’s DNA is a reflection of its environment.

    As a consequence of differential replication of alternatives, successful genes accumulate information about what has worked in the past. This information comes from the environment that selects.

    The environment chooses phenotypes and thereby chooses genes that represent its choices and embody information about the environment’s criteria of choice.’

    From Darwin to Derrida

    In other words, the information represented in our genes isn’t just about us, its about the environments in which we evolved.

    Information about the environment is inside (the genes of) subjective organisms.

    1. BTW, I was trying out the use of html markup in WordPress comments. The q tag did not work, so the first sentence in my reply was supposed to have quotes around it. And the last sentence was supposed to read: “Information about the ‘objective’ environment’ is inside (the genes of) ‘subjective’ organisms.”

Leave a Reply