Subjectivity as infinite

To clarify the infinitude of the subject, start with considering the finitude (or limitation) of the act of seeing.

Claim: The angle of binocular vision is about 120 degrees, of total peripheral vision is close to 180, and the range of focus is much smaller, around 5 degrees or so.

The claim is true and false:

True: Experiments establishing this and things like this are pretty easy to do, and they tend to show that the angle of vision is narrower than it would seem (peripheral vision is good at detecting motion, but not distance, color, etc. It usually just triggers us to turn our heads.)

False: To speak of an angle of vision at all is to visualize it as contained in a larger field, but our actual experience of seeing is not contained in a larger field. Speaking of any “the angle of vision” requires us to visualize what is outside that angle, but  it is a manifest contradiction to speak of visualizing what is outside of what one sees. Briefly, when we speak of an angle of vision we turn the field of vision into an object seen, but the visual field is not an object seen. We can visualize the angle of vision an object only by tacitly assuming a third, disembodied eye that can looks down on our angle of vision from above and places a protractor on it.

Considered in this sense, subjectivity is not the action of some homunculus sitting behind the eye, or a ghost making neurons fire in the brain, but a field of experience so far as it makes objects given without being one of the objects. And this is the best view of the  different ways that the field (i.e. the subject) and its objects are finite: the object is finite by being given as contained in a larger, homogeneous field, though there would be a contradiction in the subject field being given in this way. Moreover, there is no meaning to the finititude of the subject except by transposing it to the field of objects. The subject as such is non-finite and without anything bordering it.

1 Comment

  1. pseudonoma said,

    June 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    “Moreover, there is no meaning to the finititude of the subject except by transposing it to the field of objects. The subject as such is non-finite and without anything bordering it.”

    But…and here is the stronger meaning of the finitude of the subject as, for example, Kant would employ it…the very sam subject characterized above is finite insofar as givenness is a necessary and inextricable condition of its objective knowledge. Taking over and modifying a scholastic distinction, Kant’s intuitus originalis and intuitus derivativus serves as the basis for his insistence on the finitue of human knowing qua receptive. So it is just this field of possible experience (in which you see a mark of infinitude) that Kant sees as the essental trait of finite knowing.


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