Perspectivalism in the Development of Scientific Observer-Relativity

In Martin Kusch, Katherina Kinzel, Johannes Steizinger & Niels Jacob Wildschut (eds.), The Emergence of Relativism. New York: Routledge. pp. 63-78 (2019)
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Hermann von Helmholtz allows for not only physiological facts and psychological inferences, but also perspectival reasoning, to influence perceptual experience and knowledge gained from perception. But Helmholtz also defends a version of the view according to which there can be a kind of “perspectival truth” revealed in scientific research and investigation. Helmholtz argues that the relationships between subjective and objective, real and actual, actual and illusory, must be analyzed scientifically, within experience. There is no standpoint outside experience from which we can reason, no extra-sensory knowledge of the constitution of the “ideal subject” or of the properties of “real objects.” In the tradition of psychophysics inherited by Helmholtz, we can arrive at a kind of perspectival analysis of perceptual experience, which embeds an account of that experience within the context of the history and situation of the perceiving subject. That analysis is relative to the perceiving subject, but the perspectival explanations Helmholtz constructs are not thereby relativist: in fact, for Helmholtz, the more squarely the perceiving subject is placed in a scientific, perspectival context, the more facts we are able to learn about her experience and the objects with which she interacts.
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