Nietzsche’s Perspectivism by Steven D. Hales and Rex Welshon

Nietzsche is generally credited with (or accused of) inventing or popularizing a philosophical view known as “perspectivism”. Philosophers, of course, disagree about what perspectivism is, but, roughly speaking, perspectivism is the idea that all knowledge and belief involves interpretation and all interpretation is carried out from a particular perspective. The fact that all of our ideas are bound up with some perspective or other is then taken to show that our ideas are somehow limited or unreliable. There is no perspective-free knowledge, science or morality. Another way of putting this claim is that we have no access to a “God’s-eye” view of the world.

Perspectivism seems to be one step away from relativism, which might be characterized as the view that no perspective is better than any other. Nietzsche believed that some perspectives are definitely better than others, which is why he was not a relativist.

Hales and Welshon discuss Nietzsche’s views on several different kinds of perspectivism, including perspectivism about truth, knowledge and morality. They also try to explain Nietzsche’s views about the fundamental nature of reality. Although Nietzsche severely criticized those metaphysicians who tried to characterize the world as it is “in itself”, he apparently believed that the world is composed of “quanta of power” and that every quantum of power is associated with a perspective. Hales and Welshon argue that this does not make Nietzsche a metaphysician. Maybe a better explanation is that these ideas came to Nietzsche late in life and are somewhat peripheral to his philosophy.  (3/11/12)

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