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We say subjective to indicate that something is based on feelings and opinions, and objective to indicate the opposite.

Why are these the same words as objective and subjective referring, in grammar, to nouns and pronouns in a sentence? Is this a coincidence?

I'm looking around for the roots of the words… they seem like they've gone through a lot since medieval Latin—their current meanings in English are only vaguely related to their meanings in Latin:

from medieval Latin objectum ‘thing presented to the mind,’ neuter past participle (used as a noun) of Latin obicere, from ob- ‘in the way of’ + jacere ‘to throw’

and

from Latin subjectus ‘brought under,’ past participle of subicere, from sub- ‘under’ + jacere ‘throw.’

–NOAD

I cannot find an association between their two sets of meanings, either logically or in their etymology. Perhaps I'm missing something obvious here? I sure hope not, because in that case I would look silly.

  • related A subject close to my heart – Mari-Lou A Aug 22 '14 at 6:21
  • Mmm, Lawler's answer to that helps. Though I do see routinely in the New Oxford American Dictionary subjective and objective being used precisely as grammatical terms. – user85526 Aug 22 '14 at 15:06
  • There is an insight but I have no complete understanding of it. – Little Alien Dec 27 '16 at 19:16
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We say subjective to indicate that something is based on feelings and opinions, and objective to indicate the opposite.

Why are these the same words as objective and subjective referring, in grammar, to nouns and pronouns in a sentence? Is this a coincidence?

I'm looking around for the roots of the words…

The answer is not in the roots, but in philosophy and its historical development

'subjectum' does not mean 'brought under' (sort of: 'subjugated'). '-um' is neuter and means 'what...', 'jacere' means '[to] lie/lay', therefore: 'what lies underneath, what is hidden'

'subject'comes from latin 'subiectum': in ancient philosophy it was a translation of the greek 'ὑποκείμενον' (= what is under), which was used by Aristotle to indicate both the 'substance' and the 'matter' on which the 'form' is impressed. This Aristotelian distinction and terminology had currency for many centuries, down to Descartes, then Latin was superseded as a universal language. It corresponds roughly to Kant's concept of 'noumenon' 'the thing in itself/ per se': the intrinsic substantial reality as opposed to the 'object': what appears to the senses, its representation in the mind.

But Kant reversed the terms and considered 'the thing in itself' as the object and now the subject is the human mind that categorizes the 'noumena': the subject perceives and describes the object:

Kant's "categories of understanding" are descriptions of the sum of human reasoning that can be brought to bear in attempting to understand the world in which we exist (that is, to understand, or attempt to understand, "things in themselves").

This is still one of the current meanings of 'subject' in spite of its etymology.

subject: the mind, ego, or agent of whatever sort that sustains or assumes the form of thought or consciousness That is the historical reason why what

The terms of grammar are based on this distinction. Linguistics followed philosophy.

'subjective' refers then both to 'the subject' of a verb/sentence and to a 'personal' interpretation of reality

  • Spell it like philosophy – Kris Aug 22 '14 at 12:38
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    I like this; let's give it a little more time though. – user85526 Aug 22 '14 at 15:07
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It appears that the meaning of subjective meaning ' based on personal feelings' and objective as its opposite, have different origins and coincidentally opposite meaning:

Objective:

  • 1610s, originally in the philosophical sense of "considered in relation to its object" (opposite of subjective), formed on pattern of Medieval Latin objectivus, from objectum "object" (see object (n.)) + -ive. Meaning "impersonal, unbiased" is first found 1855, influenced by German objektiv.

Subjective:

  • c.1500, "characteristic of one who is submissive or obedient," from Late Latin subiectivus "of the subject, subjective," from subiectus "lying under, below, near bordering on," figuratively "subjected, subdued"(see subject (n.)). In early Modern English as "existing, real;" more restricted meaning "existing in the mind" (the mind as "the thinking subject") is from 1707, popularized by Kant and his contemporaries; thus, in art and literature, "personal, idiosyncratic" (1767).

Source:http://www.etymonline.com

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Layman's def.:

Objective: A comment, decision, conclusion or evaluation based on what is observable and confirmed that cannot be disputed within reason.

Subjective: A comment, decision, conclusion or evaluation based on data or information previously gathered or present that parties may interpret differently. More simply: individual interpretation of what is seen or is accepted data.

Example: Two people are observing a painting in a gallery. One describes the painting (objective) including content, colors, size, facts that cannot be disputed, and the other describes how the painting affects him (subjective) and may even try to interpret the painter's meaning.

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