Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Leisurely Afternoon Thoughts on Perspectivism

I remember reading a few chapters of a book a while back called "New Evidence that Demands a Verdict". It was written by a Biblical studies author named Josh McDowell with the intention of creating an encyclopedia of criticisms and responses to postmodernist, atheist, relativist, and non-believing arguments against the faith. One of their interesting lines of argumentation against the sorts of epistemological arguments advanced by Kant and the cognitive critics ever since is that the arguments are "self-defeating". Generally I tend to agree that most argumentation is ultimately self-defeating, yet I'm perfectly fine with this. Where is "the view from nowhere"? Does it really matter? What does concern me is that Biblical authors would then think to juxtapose one self-defeating argument with another and be willing to choose between what must be in their view competing defeatisms.

I would argue that the immanent critique of the Kantian sort is not in fact self-defeating, but very pertinent. Nietzsche takes the argument further to show that truths are perspectival, especially his, which he is proud of. Arguing from an immanent perspective that every pronouncement is ultimately perspectival appears to Christian apologists as simply another perspective. Therefore, they say, why accept something if it is merely perspective? The argument begs the question from a transcendent perspective in order to critique the immanent perspective. It is not clear how the transcendence was achieved. Immanently, the idea that we cannot escape perspectivism is true by the fact that nothing else is possible. Those who argue the view that "all is perspective" is only another perspective are correct, yet this cannot possibly disprove perspectivism. Who can prove that there some perspectives which are in fact non-perspectives? That must be their objective. Yet proof by counter-example would be impossible. Since the apologist's take is to say that "and this one too is a perspective" he is mistaken if he concludes he has made room for something non-perspectival. He is scratching at the walls of perspectivism and demonstrating how inescapable it is for us.

The apologist-atheist debate has generally not interested me since high school. Perspectival thinking has. The analytic apologists, just as the analytic logicists, tend to overlook immanence and perspectivism altogether.

1 comment:

Muser said...

Spinoza's argument seems to be that there can be only one non-perspectivist perspective, which would be that of the only true whole substance, God (although I think Josh MacDowell, et al. would be disappointed in Spinoza's version of God). Everything else is a mere attribute of God or the One Substance and thus "doomed" to perspective. Beardsley seems to like Spinoza, but I don't know that Loeb does. Maybe you can set up a wrestling match between the two--a philosophers' WWF. You might enjoy Jack Miles's book, Jesus: A Crisis in the Life of God. Provocative title, interesting book.