Inhuman Perspectivism: A Truth of the Relative

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari distinguish between the relativity of truth and the truth of the relative in their concept of partial observers.  Unlike claims of a relativity of truth, for which truth is relative to different subject positions of human observers, the truth of the relative is inhuman, constituted by the experimental/experiential forces of the things themselves.   Consider their conceptualization of perspectivism in light of quantum physics. 

Heisenberg’s demon does not express the impossibility of measuring both the speed and the position of a particle on the grounds of a subjective interference of the measure with the measured, but it measures exactly an objective state of affairs that leaves the respective position of two of its particles outside of the field of its actualization, the number of independent variables being reduced and the values of the coordinates having the same probability. […]  Perspectivism, or scientific relativism, is never relative to a subject: it constitutes not a relativity of truth but, on the contrary, a truth of the relative, that is to say, of variables whose cases it orders according to the values it extracts from them in its system of coordinates. […]  In short, the role of a partial observer is to perceive and to experience, although these perceptions and affections are not those of a man, in the currently accepted sense, but belong to the things studied. […] Partial observers are forces. […] Partial observers are sensibilia.  [What is Philosophy? (1994) pp. 129-131]


2 responses to “Inhuman Perspectivism: A Truth of the Relative

  • Adam

    Brilliant. More confirming, more rigor, an intensely scientific move, one that confirms the power of observation and experience and avoids the problem of ego-centric relativism… instead a “scientific relativism” … How is this different from materialism? Why can’t materialism be less about reduction and killing things to know them… and more about sense or care?

    • sam

      I suppose it’s not that different from materialism, although I think Deleuze considered himself more of a vitalist than a materialist. In any case, the tide is turning in materialism. There’s a new breed of materialists, and they’re not just reductionists who kill things to know them. They’re much more oriented toward sense and care. There’s a good book on this edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. I highly recommend it.
      Cheers, brother!

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