What is Perspectivism?

He Perspectivism Is the philosophical position that holds that the access of the human being to the world through perception, experience and reason is possible only through the way of own perspective and interpretation.

From the point of view of visual perception, the appearance of an object changes according to the relative position of the viewer in relation to the object.

What is Perspectivism?

It rejects the idea of ​​an objective reality free from perspective and that of an objective reality without interpretation.

Perspectivism has among its greatest exponents Leibniz , Nietzsche Y Ortega y Gasset .


Perspectivism is a concept that holds that knowledge is always perspectival, that there are no immaculate perceptions and that comes through the observation of a thing, but from a particular point of view.

Perspectivism also denies the possibility of an integral perspective that could contain all other points of view and therefore make reality available as it is in itself. The concept of such an inclusive perspective is as incoherent as the concept of seeing an object from any possible point of view simultaneously.

Perspectivism from the visual point of view

Perspectivism in the context of vision and visual perception is the way objects appear in the eye, based on their spatial attributes, their dimensions and the relative position of the eye with respect to these objects.

As the objects become more distant, they appear smaller because the visual angle decreases. The visual angle of an object is the angle subtended in the eye by a triangle with the object at its base. The greater the height of this triangle and the distance between the object and the eye, the lower the visual angle. This is a basic deduction of Euclidean geometry.

We see the sun and the moon seemingly the same size, but although the sun is much larger, it is farther from the earth. The relation between the distance and the apparent height of the objects is not a linear pattern. If an object touched our eye without any distance, it would appear infinitely larger than it is.

From visual perception to philosophical analysis

What is Perspectivism?  1 From left to right: Leibniz, Nietzschey Ortega and Gasset

In our daily life, we do not usually see a round table as round but rather oval. We do not see a rectangular table as a perfect rectangle but rather diamond-shaped.

We rarely see a round table as a perfect circle. To see them in this way, we need a particular point of view where we can identify the table as round or rectangular in a wide variety of appearances. It is here when we give a particular point of view.

Perspectiveism rejects the assumptions held by some philosophers such as Plato, Descartes and Kant among others, in which reality appeared as objective and immutable. It rejects objective metaphysics, claiming that it is not possible to make an evaluation in this way.

There are no objective facts or knowledge of something in itself, truth is separated from any particular point of view and that is why there are no ethical or epistemological absolutes. The truth is then created through the integration of different points of view united.

People are always taking views on things regardless of whether they are aware of it or not, then the concepts of existence itself are defined by the circumstances surrounding each individual. Truth is made by particular individuals and by all people as a group.

This view differs from some types of relativism which consider the truth of a particular proposition as something which altogether can not be assessed with respect to an"absolute truth"without regard to culture and context.

The Perspective according to...


For Leibniz, the nature of the knowledge we have of the world has perspective, is limited and finite.

It has perspective and is limited because we are all in different places at the same time and we can only see the world from that position (perspective literally), we have different beliefs about the world (metaphorical perspective) and it is finite because our lives must end someday , But because in spite of our intellect, we can never grasp the world in all its fullness and totality as God can in all its Omniscience.

The degree to which our worldly capacities develop as mirrors of God is determined by the degree to which we can reason and understand Him, His beneficence, and the world. This same capacity is what allows us to appreciate our limitations.

Leibniz wrote about clear and distinct ideas; A differentiation between things gives a clear idea. For example, we can reason about objects because we can perceive their form, but when we know that something is as it is, and what are its essential properties, the idea is different.

He thought that scientific knowledge, although it aims to provide clear and objective ideas, can only be limited because it is based on sensory information and reflects our finitude as worldly.

The ideas of empiricism and mechanistic physics give confusing ideas, while the ideas of metaphysical reason lead to the necessary truths. These truths, which are distinct from knowledge, were a subject of central interest to Leibniz.

The knowledge of the necessary and eternal truths is what for him, distinguishes us from animals and takes us beyond science, to the true knowledge of ourselves, of the world and of God.

As worldly mirrors of God and his mind, we endure not only our futures, but these innate ideas or truths in our own minds, as dispositions or propensities. Leibniz denies that this knowledge was limited by our experience.

While our knowledge can only be limited and viewed from a perspective, God is perfect and infinite. Not only in this world that is your creation, but all your perspectives are coordinated and harmonized in your mind.

These interactions and interconnections between the mundane and their states have been pre-ordered by Him. In our finitude we can only poorly understand this true knowledge.

When two people look at the same subject or consider the same subject but think about and speak about it differently, they do so because they relate to the subject or subject from their own perspective.

The questioning and testing of these perspectives, in relation to the other and their objective circumstances, may result in the deepening of our understanding of what is seen and considered. Perspectives are essential for truth and our knowledge of the world.


According to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, interpretation is considered as the essential condition of human life or existence, because through these constant acts, we find meaning and meaning in our existence. For him, this interpretation of things always takes place from a particular perspective.

Nietzsche always rejected the idea of ​​an objective reality or to be true, supported by philosophers like Plato Descartes or Kant. For them, intellectual or rational capacity as a mental faculty, can liberate the human being from misunderstandings, misinterpretations and prejudices.

Nietzsche, on the other hand, went a little further than them, in rejecting the idea of ​​neutrality in philosophical concepts such as substance, being, self, subject, among others. He argued that such notions were invented by these thinkers as a conceptual fallacy in order to interpret the world from a particular perspective.

However, although Nietzsche rejected the presuppositions of traditional epistemologies, he did not attempt to establish a new one.

Rather, he shifted the whole question of knowledge to the issue of values, since interpretation attributes a perspective of value to the interpreter. He evaluated the whole philosophical apparatus based on the criterion of whether it contributes to opulence or to the overflow of the power of life.

From their perspective, traditional philosophies and Christianity, blocked the abundance or superabundance that is the essence of life. Rather, a dynamic and creative multiplicity of meanings of the world can only be ensured when viewed and interpreted from multiple perspectives.

Nietzsche's perspectivism has often been erroneously identified as relativism and skepticism, and at the same time, the question arises as to how one should understand his theses.

We can ask, then, if perspectivism is able to assert itself constantly without contradicting itself, since it must be true in an absolute sense, that is to say, not a perspective.

While Nietzsche described the world as"countless meanings"generated by interpretations from various perspectives, he denied all forms of intrinsic meaning to the world itself.

Thus, his perspectivism was tied with the nihilism Which he derived from the consequences of God's death. In their world on the one hand, human beings are fighting for the superabundance of meanings and values, and on the other hand, the whole world is underlying nihilism without God.

Nietzsche's thought is then sustained in this tension which is a unique feature of his philosophy.

José Ortega y Gasset

The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset was one of the main exponents of this current of thought. Although at first he opts for the objectivist philosophy influenced by the German neokantism and the phenomenology of Husserl, soon will enter a perspective stage that begins with his work Meditations of the Quixote.

Ortega proposed that philosophy should overcome both the lack of idealism in which reality gravitated around the ego, as well as medieval-ancient realism in which the subject is outside the world, to focus on the only truthful reality, life Same.

He suggested that there is no"I"without"things"and that"things"are nothing without"me". I as a human being, I can not be separated from my circumstances (the world). This led him to pronounce his famous maxim"I am me and my circumstance"that became the nucleus of his philosophy.

For both Ortega and Husserl, the Cogito ergo Added Cartesian was insufficient to explain reality and proposed instead a system where life is the sum of ego and circumstance.

This circumstance is oppressive and therefore, there is a continuous dialectical exchange of forces between the person and his circumstances, as a result life is a drama that exists between necessity and freedom.

Since each person's life and circumstances are unique, each individual has a unique perspective on the truth. Ortega wrote that life is both destiny and freedom, and that freedom is free within a given destiny.

Destiny gives us an inexorable repertoire of determined possibilities, that is, it gives us different destinations. We accept this and within it we choose another. Within this inescapable destiny we must therefore be active, decide and create a life project.

We should not be like those who live a conventional life according to accepted social customs and structures who prefer a carefree and imperturbable life because they fear the duty to choose their own project.

By focusing his philosophical system on the reality of everyday life, Ortega y Gasset went beyond Cogito ergo sum from Descartes And said"I live therefore I think".

He developed a perspectivism inspired by Nietzsche, adding a non-relativist character in which there is absolute truth and would be obtained by the sum of all perspectives of all lives, since for each human being, it takes a concrete form and life itself Is a true radical reality from which any philosophical system must be derived.

Ortega coined the terms"vital reason"to refer to a new type of reason that constantly defends the life from which it has emerged and"racivitalism"as a theory in which knowledge originates in the radical reality of life, one Of whose essential components is the reason itself.

This system of thought which he introduced in History as a System escaped the vitalism of Nietzsche in which life responded to impulses. For Ortega reason is crucial for life and it is necessary to create and develop the"project of life".

Some conclusions

Perspectivism raises many questions and problems. In the first place is Nietzschean perspectivism relativism? Since it rejects objectivism and the idea of ​​reality or definitive singular truth, it is relativism.

However, it does not mean that all perspectives are equally valid. While Nietzsche argued that all philosophical visions were established from a particular perspective (perspectivism), he rejected almost all such perspectives as invalid at the same time.

In this sense, Nietzschean perspectivism is not cultural relativism that accepts the validity of multiple perspectives. It should also be noted that postmodernist thinkers adopted Nietzschean perspectivism and extended it to various forms of pluralism and relativism.

Secondly, if Nietzsche defended the universality of perspectivism, is not his point of view one of several possible perspectives? Nietzsche would certainly accept that his philosophy developed from his own perspective.

Also, if all opinions are interpretations, is their interpretation their point of view? Once again, Nietzsche would accept that his point of view is an interpretation. He would, however, argue that all perspectives and interpretations are not equally valid, would reject all others except his own perspective.

Third, if one can access the world only from one's perspective, how can one understand the perspective of another person? Even if one tries to understand others, one's perspective is already confined to what one can see and know. How can we avoid the problem of solipsism?

Fourth, if the world is accessible only from one's perspective, can we somehow talk about objectivity? This question was later developed by the phenomenologists, including Merleau-Ponty with the subject of intersubjectivity and by the one previously treated by Jose Ortega y Gasset, who conceived a potential sum of all the perspectives of all the lives that could produce an absolute truth.

Fifth, some contemporary philosophers argue that universality and objectivity do not exist in reality, but only in the realm of languages. The use of common conceptual vocabularies gives us a quasi-objectivity, something that had already been discussed by Nietzsche.

Sixth, the interpretative nature of human existence was taken up by Heidegger and Gadamer, who reformulated it as the universality of hermeneutics within phenomenological contexts.


  1. Magnus, B. (s.f.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved on January 16, 2017, by Friedrich Nietzsche.
  2. New World Encyclopedia. (S.f.). Recovered on January 17, 2017, by José Ortega y Gasset.
  3. New World Encyclopedia. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 16, 2017, from Perspectivism.
  4. Philstanfield. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 16, 2017, from Leibniz Perspectivis.
  5. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (S.f.). Recovered on January 16, 2017, by Jose Ortega y Gasset.
  6. com. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 16, 2017, from Nietzsche's Perspectivism: Definition & Overview.
  7. Wikipedia. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 17, 2017, from Perspectivism.

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