Perspectivism (was: Re: a small trick, and some God-talk)

Damien Broderick (
Sat, 01 Feb 1997 22:51:45 +1000

At 06:14 PM 1/31/97 -0800, Eric wrote in response to Omega:

> I mostly got this stuff from wondering what Nietzsche
>was going on about with his lauded method of "perspectivism". [...]
>Unfortunately, this leaves traditional logic, with its valuable
>refusal to tolerate contradiction, out in the cold. [...] Once
>you start tossing in a bunch of different value-centered Fourier
>spaces (necessary for dealing with persons productively) things
>get messy fast. They get especially messy-looking to the people
>who have grown up within and never learned how to leave the
>value-neutral physical science model.

Intriguing, captain. I discussed some of these issues in the introduction

"In an effort to break free of both self-validating and self-defeating
mechanisms of discourse, I have drawn inspiration from a fertile speculation
advanced by the philosopher Elizabeth Grosz, who lists the likely outcomes
of the confrontation between traditional phallocognitive philosophy and
feminist critique and construction of an alternative procedure.
Confrontations of this kind are by no means purely iconoclastic. As
Genevieve Lloyd observes: `Such criticisms of ideals of Reason can in fact
be seen as continuous with a very old strand in the western philosophical
tradition; it has been centrally concerned with bringing to reflective
awareness the deeper structures of inherited ideals of Reason.'

"While Grosz writes specifically of a new feminist philosophy, I take her
observations to have a certain general validity. The new critical
philosophy diverges in several important ways from previously canonised
approaches. Hardly monolithic, or orchestrated around a `transcendental
signified', it is neither relativist or pluralist but perspectivist:
`acknowledg[ing] other points of view but den[ying] them equal value'.

"That is, it asserts commitment without falling into coercive univocity or
undecidable agnosticism. This approach, born under the sign of
poststructuralism but hardly identical with it, deviates from the Western
tradition in a crucial break: `[I]t can openly accept its own status (and
that of all discourses) as context-specific.' Perspectivism can openly avow
its own political position: `all texts speak from or represent particular
positions within power relations... Instead of aspiring to the status of
truth,' such a philosophy `prefers to see itself as a form of strategy.'
But these strategies are not abstractions. `Instead of dividing theory from
practice [among many other dichotomous impositions...] philosophy may regard
theory as a form of practice....' Far from either valorising or condemning
traditional ways of arguing logically from hegemonically-ordained premises,
it `expands the concept of reason' .
"There are serious difficulties in abandoning boring old forms of logic.
What's more, I am by no means convinced that the program of an expanded
literary, philosophical or scientific discourse can or ought take the step
into the abyss which Grosz proposes (a step which is implicit, admittedly,
in many texts by such poststructuralists as Lacan, Foucault, Derrida and
Baudrillard). The newly-dimensioned space required to replenish writing and
thinking, Grosz speculates, `may be capable of sustaining several types of
discourse, many perspectives and interests (even contradictory ones). No
one form dominates the others'.

"These are large claims, but their intent is generous, more insistent on a
declaration of a speaker's position, and those of a speaker's opponents,
than to any certified truth; open to a measure of passion and rhetoric
usually regarded within the academy as indecorous at best.

"The analytic technique I'm trying to employ in this book is grounded also
in the view that to a much larger extent than is usually understood the
reader constructs her own argument as well as her own text. This is why I
frequently urge my case by means of collage, sometimes scathingly rather
than coolly framed, displaying exemplary citations alongside each other in a
rhetorically heightened context which presses to a conclusion without
feigning to `prove' it."

It strikes me that email list discussions automagically take just this
rhetorical-cum-logical form. :)

Damien Broderick