Sunday, March 18, 2012

James and Perspectivism

I definitely had a very hard time with this reading. I don’t know if it was because I did it late at night, but I had to re-read several sections to have even a basic grasp of what James was talking about.

However, one part I did latch onto was his discussion of sensations being different according to perceptions or moods. “Are not the sensations which we get from the same object, for example, always the same? … What we got twice is the same OBJECT. We hear the same note over and over again; we see the same quality of green, or smell the same objective perfume, or experience the same species of pain”. This reminded me perfectly of our discussion concerning Emerson’s idea of the “train of moods like a string of beads” that “paint the world their own hue” (Experience). We talked about how a song can make you happy one year and then when you listen to it later it makes you sad. Nothing whatsoever has changed about the song, only you have changed.

In relation to this idea, James says that, “[t]his is what makes off-hand testimony about the subjective identity of different sensations well-nigh worthless as a proof of the fact.” I can see where James is coming from but this idea seems to discredit any level of perspectivism. Yes, people are bound to have different perceptions and their sensations will therefore be different, but that only means there is no absolute, objective truth—something with which I thought James sort of agreed.

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