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The subject–object problem, a longstanding philosophical issue, is concerned with the analysis of human experience, and arises from the premise that the world consists of objects (entities) which are perceived or otherwise presumed to exist as entities, by subjects (observers). This division of experience results in questions regarding how subjects relate to objects. An important sub-topic is the question of how our own mind relates to other minds, and how to treat the “radical difference that holds between our access to our own experience and our access to the experience of all other human beings”, known as the epistemological problem of other minds.
The subject–object problem has two primary aspects. First is the question of “what” is known. The field of ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences. The second standpoint is that of “how” does one know what one knows. The field of epistemology questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and to what extent it is possible for a given entity to be known. It includes both subjects and objects.
Some subjective personal experiences have aspects that fall squarely into the realm of objective fact, and have implications that can be objectively verified.
An example is the experience of pain, an entirely subjective matter, but one that sometimes (but not invariably) can be related to the objectively observable operation of receptors, communication channels and brain activity. The consequence is that the subjective sense of pain is sometimes empirically connected to observable events, but the fundamental experience of pain itself is subjective. Other examples are addiction and psychological disorders. Besides the subjective and objective aspects, one may discuss the mechanisms connecting subjective experiences and objective observables, and the role of programming upon these connections, such as psychiatric treatment, conditioning, and evolutionary limits.