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Genealogy of Morals

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Summary

Third Essay, Sections 11-14

Summary Third Essay, Sections 11-14

Nietzsche's maxim that we should look at any issue from as many points of view as possible is called "perspectivism," and we find a particularly clear expression of it in section 12. According to Nietzsche, "absolute truth" and "objectivity" are myths that delude us into thinking that there is one and only one right way of looking at the truth. "Absolute truth" might see truth as a picture on a wall, something that we can survey easily from a fixed perspective. Nietzsche's view of truth might be more like a sculpture, where there is no one ideal point of view from which the whole sculpture can be viewed. Instead, we should walk around the sculpture, looking at it from all sides in order to appreciate it better. The more perspectives from which we observe a sculpture, the more we know about it. Similarly, Nietzsche suggests that we are best served in looking at any idea or proposition from as many different points of view as possible so that we can gain the most reasonable and multi-faceted perspective possible. Thus, Nietzsche thinks he can best understand ascetic ideals by looking at them from as many perspectives as possible: that of the artist, the philosopher, the ascetic priest, the "sick" masses, and so on.

Nietzsche's perspectivism has been enormously influential in the twentieth century, particularly upon postmodern thought. The development of modern physics has only served to reinforce and deepen Nietzsche's claim that what is true depends largely on the perspective one takes.