INFINITY AND PERSPECTIVE

Karsten Harries, Author . MIT $37.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-262-08292-1

Postmodern philosophy rests its assumptions on perspectivism, a view supported by various readings of Nietzsche, who argued against the existence of absolute, objective Truth (i.e., the infinite or God) and in favor of relative, subjective truths (i.e., perspective). Indeed, long before Nietzsche, Copernicus and others challenged the medieval theocentric view of the world and established a modern anthropocentric view, initiating a revolution that proffered epistemological relativism as a method of reading the world and God. Yet, as Harries, professor of philosophy at Yale, observes, both moderns and postmoderns engage in a quest for knowledge and truth: "Truth requires objectivity; objectivity requires freedom from particular points of view. Reality discloses itself to us only in the spirit's more objective reconstructions of what the senses present to us." Harries's wide-ranging intellectual history pursues this thesis through close readings of medieval philosopher Nicolaus Cusanus, the Renaissance architect Alberti, Copernicus, Aristotle, Descartes, Galileo and modern philosopher of science Hans Blumenberg. He concludes that the greatest desire of human nature is to know and that people's "own nature calls them again and again beyond the points of view and perspectives assigned to them by their place in the world." Harries's demanding exploration of the study of knowledge offers an affirmation of human freedom and a rejection of nihilism—that truth has no meaning—because there are so many meanings of truth. Given this perspective, Harries's well-positioned and clearly presented history of ideas will generate a great deal of controversy among a select audience of scholars. Color and b&w illus. not seen by PW. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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Paperback - 392 pages - 978-0-262-58218-6
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