As an advocate for objective idealism, convinced that polarity, the realization that "Life is a subject with an inherent tendency to produce an object, wherein and whereby to find itself . . ." (Coleridge, quoted in WCT 67), is the solution to the age-old controversy over dualism, Barfield shows little patience with monolithic advocates for either subjectivity or objectivity.1

If we have imprisoned ourselves in the modern mind-set, we would do well to remember, Barfield observes in "Language and Discovery," that there may be two equally confining cells from which we must free ourselves: "the 'non-objectifying' subjectivity, in which the humanities are immured, and the adjoining cell of subjectless objectivity, where science is locked and bolted; and maybe the first step toward escape for the two prisoners of language is to establish communications with one another" (RM 140).

Ample historical evidence exists that both cells have been constructed by/through the evolution of consciousness. "Subjectivity is not something that was handed us on a plate once and for all by Descartes," he reminds (RM 139), nor was objectivity. If we look at the Greek philosophers we can detect the laying of the foundations. A close reading of Plato (428-348), for example, would seem to indicate that while the great Greek philosopher had discovered the reality of the subjective, he neither knew nor cared about the existence of the objective. Plato, Barfield concludes in History in English Words, "had deduced the sense-world from . . . the inner world, and while he had worked out an elaborate and wise knowledge of this inner world, with its moral impulses and aspirations, his philosophy had remained admittedly bankrupt as far as detailed knowledge of the mechanism of the outer world was concerned." "The philosophic problem of an opposition between 'subjective' and 'objective'," we learn in "On the Intellectual Soul," "was not heard of until the time of the Stoics, and on the other hand it is in this same sect that we first meet with a theory of the divine logos. Men begin to be conscious of an indwelling creative principle, precisely as they begin to feel themselves detached from it" (RCA 127).

But the "objective" existence of the objective (if you will) would wait until the Age of Enlightenment to come into existence. In "Goethe and the Twentieth Century," Barfield ascertains,

It was perhaps in the eighteenth century that men first began to take more serious notice of that queer intruder on the life of the soul, the detached Onlooker present in each one of us, and half instinctively to make provision for him in their ideas and their conventions. It was then that the word psychology was used for the first time in its modern sense. Alongside, and a little apart from, the impulses, passions and thoughts which are the true stuff of the soul, there has come into being this nothingness, this mere awareness, which looks on and says of each: "Yes, I wish it, I feel it--and yet this wisher and this feeler are not quite me. I am here, looking on all the time." (RCA 170)

The objective quickly gained in prominence, however, to the detriment of the subjective.

Nineteenth-century science deduced the inner from the outer; it had mapped and charted the mechanical part of Nature to a tenth of a millimeter, but it was well nigh bankrupt as far as the inner world was concerned. Huxley invented the word agnostic (not-knowing) to express his attitude, and that of many millions since his day, to the nature and origin of all this part of the cosmos. One of the few things about which practically all "men of science," as the phrase now went, beside all those laymen who took the trouble to follow out the various scientific discoveries and to listen to their metaphysical reverberation, were agreed upon was that his sense and his reason had succeeded in placing man in a material environment which appeared to bear no relation whatever to his inner feelings and moral impulses. (HEW 189)

"People used to talk about beautiful and ugly, noble and beast, right and wrong," Barfield writes in "Language, Evolution of Consciousness, and the Recovery of Human Meaning," but in the modern world that has changed, and the change is of a piece with our new understanding of subjective and objective.

that could only go on as long as there was confidence that qualities are objectively real. The current preference for "values" has come about because the term is one that neatly avoid any such ontological commitment. We have spent three or four hundred years learning to perceive the subjective ingredient in all that looks so very objective; the task now, for the sciences as well as the humanities, is to learn to perceive the objective ingredients in all that looks so very objective. (LEC 430)

See in particular "Subjective and Objective" (PD 203-211), "Subject and Object in the History of Meaning" (SM 92-118).
1Though Barfield does criticize excessive subjectivity upon occasion (he is especially critical, for example, of the sometimes solipsistic subjectivity exhibited in modern art), his harshest condemnation is reserved for the prison cell of reductionistic objectivity, which he considers an important but not very impressive achievement. In "Language and Discovery," for example, he observes, caustically, "To put it mildly, any reasonably honest fool can be objective about objects" (RM 139).