Me myself, it is difficult for me to read articles that are written in a normative voice using descriptive language. Beth linked an article from Atlantic that, even after a not complete read yet, was utterly compelling. It's shockingly personal, utterly brave, and I like how starkly she asserts perspective. I think its as effective for me as it is because it doesn't use normative language; her voice is emphatically descriptive. Normative language typically is not compelling because it relies on conclusions without necessarily elucidating the import of its premises; normativity is only effective when it is impelling.
Descriptive language is frequently compelling because it does not drown its premises in conclusions, it allows the reader to frequently bridge for themselves. Because of this, even in disagreement, one can be assured that to some extent one's case was heard. I am not always worried about whether my conclusion follows from your premises. Especially if I'm talking to someone I care about regarding something that concerns me. My conclusions are frequently faulty, and subject to change in ego-decimating ways. And that's rad.
More than my own conclusions, I worry that I am missing the point of the premises in the first place. Is the person talking to me worried that I won't come to the same conclusion, or that I am not listening to the premises? Language is essential here. I'd rather be sympathetic than right.
Unfortunately, six years of majors in Philosophy and Religious studies has warped my ability to talk and understand. My first problem is I am typically ready to prepare an argument or a solution, when one was never called for. So sometimes I need a rephrasing of things. Specifically, how does Schwyzer's take, and Harding's study of standpoint theory and strong objectivism conform to a Wittgensteinian framework of language?
A recent Hugo Schwyzer article laid out the following explanation of "Strong Objectivity":
We can never adopt a true “view from nowhere.” We can defy gravity in outer space, but we can never slip the surly bonds of our human imperfection. Our experiences impact us each day of our lives, and our experiences are shaped by our gender identity, our race, our class, our faith, and our communities. And while everyone sees “through a glass darkly” as a result, it seems eminently reasonable to say that the experience of being a member of a historically disadvantaged group (women; sexual, ethnic, or religious minorities; the working class) creates greater clarity about the dynamics of oppression. This is what the foremost advocate for standpoint theory, Sandra Harding, calls “strong objectivity.”
His article laid out cases wherein a particular set of opinions, though no more predisposed to being correct, might be afforded a certain privileged place due to their likelihood of carrying a depth and scope of experiences more novel in their perception of power dynamics. Essentially, the article drove home that privilege and power hide themselves from those who are afforded them, and those without them have claims to special knowledge with respect to how privilege and power assert themselves.
I am having difficulty identifying why this is called strong objectivism (apparently contrasted to weak objectivity in Harding's "Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women's Lives"), with respect to its inherently relativistic claim of special knowledge. I am trying to understand how Schwyzer's article, and standpoint theory generally, relates to epistemic claims, and specifically about the nature of making this knowledge actionable.
- Is standpoint theory a form of relativism or objectivism, or something else entirely?
- Does standpoint theory attempt to reconcile divergent frames of reference, or otherwise make differing speakers' language soluble?
- Is standpoint theory a form of descriptive or normative discourse?
I am looking forward to answers to this. If you have one, hop on over to ph.se and drop some info for me.