The Hypokeimenon Story

Modernism also gave new meaning to what it means to be a subject, and the primary source of this innovation was the ego cogito of Descartes’ Meditations. The pre-Cartesian meaning of subject (Gk. hypokeimenon; Lat. subiectum) can still be seen in the "subjects" one takes in school or the "subject" of a sentence. In this ancient sense all things are subjects, things with "underlying [essential] kernels," as the Greek literally says and as Greek metaphysics proposed. (As opposed to substance metaphysics, the process view of this pansubjectivism makes all individuals subjects of some sort of experience.) After Cartesian doubt, however, there is only one subject of experience of which we are certain--viz., the human thinking subject. All other things in the world, including persons and other sentient beings, have now become objects of thought, not subjects in their own right. Cartesian subjectivism, therefore, gave birth simultaneously to modern objectivism as well. With the influence of the new mechanical cosmology, the stage was set for uniquely modern forms of otherness and alienation.