Point of View

January 27, 2009

As my first guest blog I thought it appropriate to start off with some remarks on the issue of “point of view” since whatever else blogs may be, they inescapably present the author’s point of view. To be sure, the notion of “points of view”, otherwise known under the more technically philosophical term “perspectivalism,” has been taken by the more strident post-modernists as implying a relativization of all positions. However, I’m not going in that direction by bringing up the subject here. Indeed, I think that extreme post-modern perspectivalism is ultimately self-refuting.

The most thought provoking book I’ve come across that addresses the issue of “points of view” is A. W. Moore’s book of that title published in 1997 by Oxford University Press. It is a difficult book, probably took me a year to get through it all, but in my opinion (i.e., “point of view”) well worth the effort.

What I do want to say about “point of view” here can be condensed into a couple of remarks. First, although one must inescapably begin from one’s own “point of view,” for example, in a blog, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is where one must end. I think it a simplistic misunderstanding to believe that one can’t really get any further than where you start from.
If such were indeed the case, we would all be encapsulated into some sort of Leibnizian monad-like hermetic circle of our own making, an ultimately solipsistic world view which only the truly mad could seriously entertain (go ahead if you want to). Of course, we have to start somewhere and that somewhere is for all of us, our own, unique point of view.

But the last sentence leads to my second observation about “point of view.” Our own unique point of view isn’t really our own and it’s not really that unique. This reminds me of one of the great mordant posters found at http://www.despair.com, the one entitled “Individuality”: ” Always remember that you are unique, just like everybody else.” And I’m enough of a Wittgensteinian to recognize that the understandings underlying our respective points of view are not private interior monologues but only take on meaning through their emergence in a public space, and so do “points of view.” Indeed, even solipsism is publicly defined in relation to a shared community—otherwise no one could even know what the word “solipsism” actually means.

I want to end with one more explicit statement of my own point of view by again quoting another despair.com poster, one I think particularly appropriate given the current economic condition we find ourselves in: “Hope”: “Hope may not be warranted at this time.” Hope by itself is not going to get us out of this mess. At least, that is my point of view.

Jeffrey Goldstein

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