Everything is Subjective, Especially Art
According to theorists like Eisenstein, montage is "not an idea composed of successive shots stuck together but an idea that derives from the collision between two shots that are independent of one another" and with this we can associate two separate images that are abstract on their own to be one whole idea when put together. He provides examples of combining the image of an eye and the image of water and the audience can naturally deduce that this means "crying". Similarly, the independent image of a mouth combined with the independent image of a dog can be deduced as "barking". However, philosophically, this assumes that montage is an objective idea that can be universally understood when in reality, it is subjective and theorists like Locke would argue that two independent images are abstract and together they are also abstract because deductions such as these are subjective. To the average person, we may agree that seeing water and an eye insinuates crying, but we could also insinuate various other outcomes. For example:
As Hugo Munsterberg mentions in Why We Go To The Movies, "the order of the pictures on screen is no longer the order of events in nature, but rather that of our own mental play". In this way, connecting two images in order to create an idea can be argued to be an objective act of human nature. Mentally connecting the dots is an objectively innate human behavior and can be proven scientifically and philosophically. As Locke points out, “The gradual succession continues in a process of comparing each new image with its common designation and unleashes a process that in terms of its form, is identical to a process of logical deduction”
"Locke asserts that we can, through science, come to know what primary characteristics the object has in itself. Science teaches us, he says, that sound as we perceive it is not in the object itself whereas spatial dimensions, mass, duration, motion, etc. are in the object itself.”
Essentially, there are matters that are objective such as an image of an eye and separately an image of water is objective and those are its primary characteristics. Primarily, they are an eye and water.
It is also primary to assume a connection between the two objects and therefore Eisenstein wasn't completely wrong.
The process itself is objective. We can logically deduce. However what we deduce is subjective and to assume otherwise goes against Locke’s philosophy of primary and secondary qualities.
The secondary quality, or the subjective part, being what we deduce. However, the assumption that all audiences will infer the same connections is arguably incorrect philosophically which introduces a flaw to Eisenstein's theory.
Take a look at this elephant for example. According to Eisenstein, if we connect just two portions we can logically deduce that it is an elephant. Let's take its leg (it's a tree) and its trunk (it's a snake). We should be able to deduce an elephant from these two concepts but we can also deduce various other combinations such as a tree branch or another animal such as a lizard on a tree.
Locke would argue that objectively, there is an elephant and there are people examining something and that is all that we can logically deduce. The matter of what it is these people are examining is subjective because they each see something different.
All this being said, there does seem to be a film theorist who would agree more with Locke's philosophy than a theory such as Eisenstein. Munstergberg argues that "even the most realistic art always gives us something different from reality",
meaning that no matter how close to objectivity you try to get, there is always an element that will remain subjective because art itself is always subjective.
Our associations between various images are not always objective and this video "How to Fix the World” with psychologist A.R. Luria’s conversations with Central Asian farmers proves just that.
We can see that what we would assume to be the obvious outcast in the group of four objects is not obvious at all to others from a different culture or background.
Eisenstein and Locke's views are inherently different and although Locke's philosophical theories are much older, they still hold very strong and true in comparison to the newer film theories of Eisenstein.