Perspectivism-A Powerful Cognitive Metaphor

By Gordon, David J. | PSYART, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Perspectivism-A Powerful Cognitive Metaphor


Gordon, David J., PSYART


Perspectivism, a version of what Solms and Turnbull call "dual-aspect monism," denotes here the ability of individual persons to shuttle between objective and subjective points of view, positions represented by science on the one hand and by religion, morality and the arts on the other. Enthusiasts of science and religion in particular tend to insist on a unified point of view, but one viewpoint alone cannot do justice to the concerns of the other. The joining of partial views or "perspectivism" proves to be a metaphor of complexity and reach: it highlights the tension between opposed commitments and it offers fresh insight into such venerable topics of humanistic dispute as atheism versus theism and free will versus determinism. Psychoanalysis and literature emerge from the analysis as intellectual enterprises better able than most to encourage a shuttling between viewpoints.

This essay considers finally what contemporary neuroscience has to say about the importance of feeling and consciousness. At issue is the appreciation of value, often neglected in scientific approaches to culture.

keywords: Perspectivism, objectivity, subjectivity, neuroscience, religion, literature

url: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2006_gordon01.shtml

In their illuminating study, The Brain and the Inner World, Mark Solms and Oliver Turnbull adopt a position they call "dual-aspect monism."1 The phrase implies that brain and mind consist of the same stuff-hence monism-but that we necessarily think about this stuff from two different points of view, from the outside (objectively) and from the inside (subjectively). I take the objective viewpoint to be represented preeminently by science and the subjective viewpoint by religion, morality and the arts. By "perspective" (a term derived from art history) we usually mean a view partial to the viewer. I am therefore calling the ability to hold together two opposing points of view "perspectivism," and will attempt to show that this is a cognitive metaphor of considerable complexity and reach. It is complex because it is not easy to maintain the tension of a double viewpoint when enthusiasts on either side insist on the singleness of truth, the unity of knowledge. It has reach because it can throw new light on such venerable topics of humanistic dispute as belief in God and choice versus determinism. In commenting on these topics I will suggest that literature and psychoanalysis are intellectual enterprises better able than most to promote a flexible shuttling between objective and subjective perspectives.

Stephen Jay Gould has described science and religion as "non-overlapping magisteria" in the genial hope of preventing their advocates from competing with one another.2 His less genial ally, Richard Lewontin, observes that a desire to displace the competing rival may arise on either side, warning his side that "it takes a certain moral courage to accept the messages of scientific ignorance and all that it implies."3 Certainly we can find some examples of intellectual imperialism in the work of distinguished scientists. E. O. Wilson's celebrated book Consilience (pointedly subtitled "The Unity of Knowledge") describes modern science "as religion liberated and writ large-a continuation on better-tested ground of Holy Writ."4 Richard Dawkins is irritated by the fact that statements of belief are made "in the absence of evidence," and cites as an instance a passage in Tennyson's "In Memoriam"!5 The scientific perspective may of course legitimately address the phenomenon of mind, of consciousness, but because it is committed to seeing the self only as object, it cannot do justice to the self as subject and hence to such concerns as religion, morality and the arts.

I admit to finding the passion for single truth more attractive in science-based than religion-based discourse. I have read with admiration two recent, hard-hitting examples-Sam Harris's The End of Faith and Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Perspectivism-A Powerful Cognitive Metaphor
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.