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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 17, 2011

Postmodernity as the unmasking of objectivity: Identifying the positive essence of postmodernity as a distinct new era in the history of philosophy

John Deely
From the journal


The aim of this article is to show clearly what the terms “object” and “objectivity” as used over the centuries of modern philosophy — from the time of Descartes down to the time of Wittgenstein and Husserl, i.e., from early modern Rationalism and Empiricism to late modern Phenomenology and Analytic philosophy — have obscured. Objectivity, far from being “the ability to consider or represent facts, information, etc., without being influenced by personal feelings or opinions; impartiality; detachment,” as the OED would have it, is fundamentally the condition of occupying the position of the significate in a triadic relation the foreground element of which is a sign vehicle conveying that significate to or for some third. Simply put, an “object” is a significate, a fact that common usage has come to obscure by sedimenting the influence of modern philosophy's reversal of the meaning of the terms “subjective” and “objective,” where the former has come to signify “private opinion” in contrast to “the way things are.” But this sedimentation to the level of common usage of modern solipsistic epistemology is precisely a usage that semiotic analysis of the linguistic sign overcomes, showing that in the expression “object signified” the qualification “signified” is redundant, for an object is nothing other than something signified! Thus “significate,” a term that modern dictionary makers resist, says clearly what the term “object” says obscurely; and a great deal of mischief in philosophy over the centuries after Descartes has been the result of this distinctively modern obscurantism in philosophy.

Published Online: 2011-03-17
Published in Print: 2011-February

© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

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