Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A point of view is inevitable. And desirable too

The idea that one should not have a point of view when writing is fallacious.

This is an idea frequently encountered in the old and new media alike.
For example, Wikipedia, an online community site which, nonetheless, carries many interesting and useful articles, says:

‘Our Wikipedia community has by experience developed an informal hierarchy of core principles — the most important being that articles be written with a neutral point of view.’

A neutral point of view for a writer is just as possible as a neutral point of view for a camera. That is: totally impossible.

Imagine a photograph taken by a camera.
The camera has to be placed somewhere. The picture taken will be different from the picture of the same subject taken from a different spot. The angle will be different, and will give a dissimilar view of this particular piece of reality.

But it is simply inevitable.

The camera needs a place to stand. It would be impossible to shoot a photo from a place which covers all space, or that, even better, does not exist in space, although either could certainly be called neutral.

Exactly the same thing happens when someone writes.
Even if the writer did not have a point of view on a subject prior to writing on it, s/he must have a point of view once s/he has started writing, which is to say has started thinking about it (unless of course someone copies or otherwise writes unthinkingly, which would be worthless).

If you think about it carefully, neutral point of view is a contradiction in terms and, since language corresponds to thought, this shows that a neutral point of view is an absurd concept.

So, the best practice in writing is not to strive for a neutrality or independence which are not only impossible but perhaps not even desirable, because a thought (a point of view) is what gives spice and interest to a piece of writing.
The best practice, I think, is not to hide one’s opinions under a screen, to declare them and to make them explicit.
This, I believe, is less deceitful than to fake impartiality.

And, following the example of science and philosophy, by confronting many subjective points of view we are more likely to arrive, if not at objectivity, at least at an inter-subjective result.

Let’s take pictures of the same thing from different angles.

Science and philosophy, the most rational human activities, encourage debate and controversy by asking the participants to give reasons (arguments, logic, empirical evidence, satistics) that support their point of view, and not to deny it.

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