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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

many eyes

source: wikimedia commons

At this point I'm at least vaguely familiar with Nietzsche's perspectivism (GM 3.12 below, HAH, I, 618 or "argonauts of the ideal" GS 382) but I wonder about Nz's view in comparison to, say, a Keirkegaardian or Dostoevskian perspectivism. In Kierkegaard's case we have the pseudononymous authorship which must reflect some similar commitment though I don't know the extent of it. In Dostoevsky's case, the Brothers Karamazov stands as a monument to perspectivism (especially "The Grand Inquisitor") about certain views. I get the feeling Dostoevsky thoroughly understood each perspective he presents personally. Where Nietzsche articulates a perspectivism in pursuit of knowledge, I see Dostoevsky as articulating a perspectivism as an extension of a troubled psychology in the service of art. The idea being that a more troubled psyche may have the capacity for deeper commitment to alternate perspectives (think Tyler Durden). He embodies one and then the other; this is not at all healthy but it is at the core of what it means to be human.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this subject.
But precisely because we seek knowledge, let us not be ungrateful to such resolute reversals of accustomed perspectives and valuations with which the spirit has, with apparent mischievousness and futility, raged against itself for so long: to see differently in this way for once, to want to see differently, is no small discipline and preparation for its future "objectivity" -- the latter understood not as "contemplation without interest" (which is a nonsensical absurdity), but as the ability to control one's Pro and Con and to dispose of them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge.

Henceforth, my dear philosophers, let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a "pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject"; let us guard against the snares of such contradictory concepts as "pure reason," absolute spirituality," "knowledge in itself": these always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing"; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity," be. But to eliminate the will altogether, to suspend each and every affect, supposing we were capable of this -- what would that mean but to castrate the intellect?

Nietzsche GM 3.12


Mike said...

Or maybe Dostoevsky is just more susceptible to "great feelings".

"Great feelings take with them their own universe, splendid or abject. They light up with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate. There is a universe of jealousy, of ambition, of selfishness, or of generosity. A universe--in other words, a metaphysic and an attitude of mind." -Camus

Mike said...

And Keirkegaard, he may be committed to Christianity but certainly not as "a single attitude of mind".

Mike said...

Interesting comments in the follow up on Strange Doctrines.

Charlie H said...

Here's a boring sort of comment, having less to do with Dost. and Kk. than with WV Quine. Quine's famous for having peddled the view that we are always stuck within one theory or other, and we can convert to new theories, but as we do so we need to begin with the theory we are in and amend it gradually until we have built the new theory around us. (Quine tirelessly repeats an analogy given by Neurath, to the effect that we're like sailors stuck in a boat who need to rebuild our boat but stay afloat at the same time.)

It's not that the movement from one theory to another is exactly demanded by our experience, nor that it is entirely capricious. Rather, the theory we're in starts to pinch us in the wrong way -- it seems clumsy, recherche, recalcitrant, disgenuine, whatever -- and we are moved to modify it accordingly and we soon find ourselves in a new theory. We can at any moment compare the relevant theories and make informed choices about which seems to fit better -- though the facts never determine which one is better. Our interests do most of the deciding.

Quine had science in mind, but I think Nz (and perhaps Dost and Kk? I dunno) put forward the same view with regard to an individual's worldview.

Charlie H said...

PS - that eye thing is creepy and cool.

Mike said...

Where is that in Quine? I have "From a Logical Point of View" but I've only read "Two dogmas of Empiricism".

Mike said...

I think it's Wittgenstein that characterizes it as a riverbed.

Mike said...

Is the view we lend our assent to the same as the one we operate from?

Mike said...

From your paper I gather the analogy is from Quine's "Word and Object".