Perspectives, Perspectivism and Relativism
The idea of a perspective originally comes from visual experience, but we use it much more widely, both in philosophy and in common speech. But can it be so easily extended and if so, what precise meaning, if any, does it continue to have (after its extension)? We will begin with its most famous deployment in philosophy by Nietzsche and critically examine his “perspectivism.” After that, we’ll look at some other ideas about perspective and perspectivism. This will lead us to re-consider relativism, where relativism is not simply the view that anything goes, but the view that knowledge always issues from and is relative to various frameworks or positions or perspectives. We will move on to recent philosophy and the development of what has been dubbed New Relativism (maybe reading a recent book by Carol Rovane). The exact plan will take students’ preferences into consideration.
By the end of the course, students should i) have a better grasp of Nietzsche and of relativism’s meaning, strengths and weaknesses; ii) have the tools for better assessing the arguments at issue and; iii) have increased at reading and assessing both older and newer texts.
For all students, regular attendance, punctual reading and participation in discussion is required. All students will be required to make one 15-20 minute presentation. For those students taking the course for a grade, a 4000-word paper is required. The grade is largely based on the paper (with a shift of a third of a grade possible based on discussion performance). ‘B+’ requires a clear structure and clear writing, a good thesis and good supporting arguments sensitive to the strengths of the opposing thesis. ‘A-‘ shows all of the above as well as hard and independent thinking. ‘A’ does the aforementioned and results in truly original and important insights.