Monday, October 22, 2012

Nietzsche IV: Perspectivism

Scott Bradley

The similarities between Nietzsche's thought and that of Zhuangzi are striking; since it is unlikely that the former was ever exposed to any substantial part of the Zhuangzi, it would seem that this path has roots in a common human experience.

Zhuangzi introduces us to a kind of perspectivism in which we become aware that our points of view are dependent upon the points from which we view. The rights and wrongs of the Confucians and Mohists therefore cancel each other out. Perspectivism does not therefore cancel out either, however, but simply acknowledges that our truths are relative. Understanding this, the Zhuangzian clings to no one, fixed articulation of truth as a means to wandering unfixedly in no-truth, while simultaneously affirming the rights and wrongs of others. It understands all truths as partial.

Nietzsche's "perspectivism" goes a step further in its critique of truth. Human beings are "artistically creating subjects"; all 'truth' is a subjectively created interpretation of reality inextricably intertwined with our unique "interpretive forces" — we make our own truth. "There is no truth that corresponds objectively to things we confront," writes Ge Ling Sheng. "There are only perspectives mediated by our wills, affects, sensations, beliefs, and physical bodies..."

This perspective is important to both philosophers because, in pulling the rug out from under our presumption of fixed and metaphysically grounded truth, it facilitates a new and more authentic (honest) interface with our world experience. For Zhuangzi, it enables release into and playful wandering in the Unknown. For Nietzsche, it suggests a "Dionysian philosophy" that affirms life as a becoming which includes both an arising and a passing away, and in that context, a life embraced as it is, not as we would have it be. His "play" is the play of the worldly Pan; Zhuangzi's play is of the spirit.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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