My aim is to propose an approach, an understanding of perspectivism which, on one hand, has its roots in the valorization of its rhetorical basis, and, on the other hand, aims at the evaluation of the consequences of this fact. This approach is divided into three moments: in the first place, I will very briefly try to outline the philosophical background in which it appears; secondly, I will try to characterize perspectivism not only in its, shall we say, inaugural Nietzchean configuration, but also, in the way perspectivism today provides new possibilities of thinking; finally I will highlight some of the main aspects of the strategical and thematic affinity that, in my point of view, allow us to, nowadays, refer to a perspectivic rhetoric.
1. There are three aspects of the contemporary philosophical picture that I would like to highlight. They can present, in a brief and schematic way, what the 80’s were like.
1.1. In the first place, I am referring to the postmodern thematic. In fact, it was in the 80’s that postmodernity became, philosophically speaking, a central theme. The theses by J.F. Lyotard, contributed to this fact; in 1979 he published The Postmodern Condition in which he predicted, not only the end of modernity, with the dawning of a new era, in a transition influenced by the progressive abandon of the legitimating narratives that, as from the 18th century had been the basis for men’s thinking and action, thus opening the way to a period of intense debate on the sense and value of modernity, as well as on its most recent transformations. Nevertheless, one of the main objectives, despite being one of the most obscure of this debate was to give philosophy a new image retracing its history, reformulating its functions, trying out new articulations.
The works, for example, of G. Vattimo, J. Habermas or R. Rorty are, no doubt, different in their ambition and intention, mainly in expressing that search of the theoretical adaptation to the new times, which are always, for philosophy, the times in which it is expressed in a language in which it no longer recognizes itself. It was a space mined by this distance that philosophy went through in the early 80’s, and, in a sense, in many ways opposite to what it had gone through in the previous decade, abandoning the dramatization of the initial diagnoses on modernity through its historical reason (Habermas) the aesthetizion of the alternatives (Vattimo) or the resolute displacement of its theoretical presuppositions (Rorty).
1.2. This fact become more interesting due to its simultaneous occurrence with a fact which had never happened before: the mingling of philosophical traditions which, up to then, had almost ignored each other, namely the Continental and the Anglo-Saxon traditions. Until the 70’s, these traditions inspired themselves, basically in their respective histories that, by the way, identified themselves – with the exclusions derived from this fact – with “the” philosophy. The difficulties, in the meantime, encountered by the critical – transcendental project, on the one hand, and the program of the analytical philosophy, on the other hand, stimulated the contact among the different traditions, giving rise to an increasingly trans-traditional practice of philosophy, for example, some of the best studies on Foucault, have been published in the U.S.A. and some of the most influent analyses on Peirce, in Germany.
The philosophers who have best represented this situation are, maybe, Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty. Habermas greatly influenced the 80’s, particularly with the publishing of the Theory of Communicative Action and The
Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, works with which, as we know, he tried to renew the understanding of the historical constitution of modernity and of the limitations that the philosophy of subjectivity have imposed, from Hegel to Foucault; Habermas intended to provide an alternative to this philosophy through the elaboration of a communicational perspective. Communication, Habermas sustained, was the problematic that had been ignored by the philosophies of the individual and by the critiques of modernity. Today, it is the dimension which enables to relink the thematics of rationality, modernity and praxis and also to put philosophy back into the group of acquirements by re-thinking its “nature” and functions. This is achieved by exchanging the problematics of justification or foundation for the thematic of mediation, where attention to internal movements in the fields of science, culture or of art, and their articulation with the world of life, leads to a radical transformation of the disciplinar profile which Kantianism outlined for philosophy.
With Habermas, philosophy abandons the role of judge that the metaphor of the “tribunal of reason” had forced it to, maintaining it far beyond the context that promoted and justified it. The contemporary situation calls, no doubt, for another language, other metaphors, a new “rephrasing” of reflection: the image of the philosopher as an interpreter – mediator is an intention to respond to that necessity and, here, it is hermeneutics and pragmatics that are the center of attention – if one may still refer to a center.