Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 P - Perspectivism


Perspectivism: The notion that every system of human beliefs is some personal or social perspective.

Since every human belief is some belief of some person(s) at some time and place with some relevant information and some relevant ignorance, the notion of perspectivism has some validity and truth, but it is easy to abuse or confuse these in a relativistic or politically correct way, in which any human tenet ends up as "personal point of view", with various qualifications to the effect that you are "entitled" to it (so the speaker says) and it is "equivalent" to any person's point of view (idem).

This is a confusion, since it is evident that different points of view and different perspectives, are more or less well-founded on evidence, more or less well thought out, more or less informed, and that these mores and lesses are not - when fairly established, which is usually possible - a matter of mere personal perspectivual difference, and give often good rational evidence for preferring this or that system of assumptions.

Another confusion to note and avoid is that the notion that every system of human beliefs is - "merely" - some personal or social perspective establishes some relativity and articulates some human shortcoming as to being able to get at the real truth.

First, all are similarly afflicted in this respect in the same way that all have two eyes that enable stereoscopic vision, but not similarly afflicted in their degrees of knowledge, relevant information, or intelligence, just as some have better eyes than others, and some better tools to use their eyes well than others.

Second, the relativity that may be involved does not matter for many purposes, and the biases or limitations or prejudices it may introduce may be avoided or minimized by good methodology and experimental design.

Third, the fact that all belief is personal, together with the fact that all human minds are limited, finite, and spatially and temporally local, together with the human gift of language, in fact makes it possible to use all these different perspectives to find out, systematically, by reasoning and experiment, how things really are - and, human beings being as they are, this may take many human generations and much discussions and disagreements, to get more or less resolved.

Fourth, the usual eventual resolution (apart from religious or political faiths, and fanatics and flat-earthers of all kinds) is that human science finds some way to translate a system of assumptions and established empirical evidence for it into some working technology, that works regardless of one's beliefs and knowledge, and constitutes a real addition to nature in the shape of human artefacts based on human knowledge.

Consequently, the notion of perspectivism if carefully used may shed some useful lights, especally as regards prejudice, evidence, bias, and human personal limitations, and if not carefully used often ends in relativistic, post-modern, polically correct pretenses, normally to the effect that "all" systems of beliefs are somehow "equivalent" - which is a falsehood, even it is a pleasing falsehood for those who believe in some system of nonsense, and dislike to be refuted or found out.


See also: Agreement, Cooperation, Map, Methodology, Other minds, Personalism, Perspective, Perspectives - PersonalPlay, Political Correctness, Public, Qualia, Relativism, Realism, Representing, Truth, Wishful thinking

Literature: Berne, Clifford, Gregory, Goffman, Hazlitt, Huizinga, Laing et al., Lefèvre, Polanyi, Sartre, Shakespeare, Stoppard

 Original: Sep 10, 2007                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top