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By Amanda Routtenberg May 13, 2019

What Is A Perspective?

Illustrated by Miranda Clarke

According to the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, there is no absolute truth because knowledge is something that is perspectival. Nietzsche argues that facts and knowledge are constantly being interpreted. He theorizes that truth comes from individual interpretation of a thing, and therefore there cannot be one absolute truth. Since everyone has different perspectives on the world, truth is based off of interpretation.

Nietzsche’s “perspectivism,” as he coined it, is comprised of three aspects: physiological, instinctual and socio-historical. First, Nietzsche theorizes about how one’s physiological perspectives can be both determined and restricted by our human senses. For instance, once a person has stopped growing, they will view the world from the same height for the rest of their life. They will interpret the world differently than someone who is shorter or taller than them, which will affect their perspective. In addition, their physiology can also limit their perspective. If one wears glasses, they will always see the world through this lens. Without wearing their glasses, their perspective of the world is blurry. And their perspective of the world might be different in yet another way if they had naturally clear vision.

Nietzsche’s physiological perspective theory relates to the idea mentioned in the S.P.A.C.E. Perspective(s) theme description that perspective is, in one sense, a vantage point and that “what we perceive [is] because of where we’re standing in relation to the world around us.” In addition, the theme description also mentions how a perspective might be based off of a lens, which can cause limitations to perspective. Nietzsche, in short, theorizes that that we are restricted by our senses due to our physiology.

Secondly, Nietzsche discusses instinctual perspectives and how they are determined by our drives, wants, needs, likes and dislikes. However, he clarifies that we also choose our perspectives in order to facilitate our self-preservation. For instance, if a person plays the role of a daughter, girlfriend and student, they might choose some of their perspectives within the context of these roles. This perspectivism relates to the idea of the construction of a perspective, also discussed in the theme description. Construction of perspectives involve the ways in which a specific perspective on a topic is built and created. Within instinctual perspectives, a person creates their perspectives based off of the role that they are playing, in order to facilitate self-preservation.

Lastly, Nietzsche focuses on socio-historical perspectives, which are determined by one’s personal history along with the general socio-historical circumstances in which one is situated. For instance, some aspects that can affect a person’s perspective include their race, cultural background, religion and generation. This aspect of Nietzsche’s perspectivism can be seen in the theme description when it refers to perspective as a “particular lens, filter or framework that shapes, and even constructs, our perception and understanding of the world.” In other words, a person’s perspective is molded by their own life experiences and external (uncontrolled) situations. For instance, a person who was born to a white middle-class family in the 20th century will tend to have a much different perspective from a person of colour who was born to a low-class family at the time.

Overall, there is a clear link between the idea of perspectives referred to in the S.P.A.C.E theme description and Nietzsche’s theory of perspectives. Perspectives are affected by many aspects, such as a person’s physiology or vantage point, how their perspectives have been constructed, how they are restricted or limited by certain aspects and how they are affected by their socio-historical backgrounds.

Works Cited

S.P.A.C.E. Perscpective(s). 2018. 20 October 2018. 

http://space.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/theme/current

About the author

Amanda Routtenberg is a 2nd year student in Arts and Culture.

About the illustrator

Miranda Clarke is a first year Illustration student at Dawson College.

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