Nietzsche’s Epistemic Perspectivism

In Michela Massimi & Ana-Maria Cretu (eds.), Knowledge From a Human Point of View. New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 19-34 (2020)
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Nietzsche offers a positive epistemology, and those who interpret him as a skeptic or a mere pragmatist are mistaken. Instead he supports what he calls per- spectivism. This is a familiar take on Nietzsche, as perspectivism has been analyzed by many previous interpreters. The present paper presents a sketch of the textually best supported and logically most consistent treatment of perspectivism as a first- order epistemic theory. What’s original in the present paper is an argument that Nietzsche also offers a second-order methodological perspectivism aimed at enhancing understanding, an epistemic state distinct from knowledge. Just as Descartes considers and rejects radical skepticism while at the same time adopting methodological skepticism, one could consistently reject perspectivism as a theory of knowledge while accepting it as contributing to our understanding. It is argued that Nietzsche’s perspectivism is in fact two-tiered: knowledge is perspectival because truth itself is, and in addition there is a methodological perspectivism in which distinct ways of knowing are utilized to produce understanding. A review of the manner in which understanding is conceptualized in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science serves to illuminate how Nietzsche was tackling these ideas.
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