Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The term subject has a long and convoluted history that takes in both philosophical and political meanings. Indeed the two are extremely difficult to untangle, which is why any contemporary understanding of the term must pay at least some attention to its conceptual history. In most current political uses the term subject is opposed to the term sovereign. For example, in Britain, it is still common practice in law to refer to “Her Majesty's Subjects.” However, in its earliest usage in philosophy, the subject was that which “lay under,” and was that to which predicates could be applied (the logical subject) or to which accidents could happen (the physical subject). This understanding of the term is operative as far back as the philosophy of Aristotle. Many philosophers and political theorists have played on the myriad meanings of the word, opposing the term at various times to object or predicate , ...