Point of view

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Point of view is the 'position', in some sense, of the 'subject' of a sentence. For instance, to say "the dog is green" is to say that someone has observed something, identified it as "the dog," whichever dog that is, and compared it to the memory of the spectrum "green", and decided it is close enough to "the same" to use the word "is" to describe the relationship. All of these decisions are part of the point of view. Usually point of view is described as:

  • First person, i.e. "Seeing that the dog is green, I decide to wash it."
  • Second person, i.e. "You say the dog is green? Can I believe that?"
  • Third person, i.e. "Joey and Tom agreed that the dog is green."

A neutral point of view involves trying to assign all statements to a third person authority, i.e. "A says B about C." The Wikipedia tries to employ this point of view. But it does not solve all problems. It requires one to appeal often to credentialism and perhaps professionalism, e.g. "Professor A said, on the record, B about the scientific view of C". Without a vast array of agreements that constitute a systemic bias of its own, there is no real way to adhere to this 'neutral' view, and many simply disregard it. The Meta-Wikipedia often debates the problems arising from this strategy.

Natural point of view, as in the idea of natural law, is often the result of choosing a particular science, e.g. particle physics or ecology, or even economics as expressed in biology ("food chains" etc.) and deciding that all of reality can be evaluated from it. Buddhism and Taoism idealize the approach to such a point of view, but admit it is hard or impossible to achieve, and definitely impossible to reliably communicate to a human being. Accordingly, claiming this point of view can be a power grab.

Multiple point of view is one compromise but necessitates what is called (often disdainfully) "politics as usual": the division of participants into factions if only to agree on vocabulary and etiquette and at least some "simple view of ethics and morals," if not the formal method for evaluating and quantifying ethicality and morality of human actions long sought in vain by philosophers and theologians.

In addition to these 'spatial' variations, there are also 'temporal' or 'tense' variations in point of view. In English there is a past tense ("saw the dog"), present tense ("see the dog"), future perfect ("will see the dog") and future imperfect ("might see the dog", "could see the dog", "may see the dog"). In French there are separate tenses for backfilling facts incidental to the action (e.g., the Bush administration claims to care about finding any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) and for actually advancing the action (e.g. Bush administration desire to discover any new dangerous technology they think may be more advanced than their own). In Japanese there is sensitivity to the status of the speaker and listener. These differences in linguistic tense imply a point of view, suspectibility or immunity to certain propaganda techniques, e.g. one might expect the Japanese to fall more often for credentialism or at least not challenge views presented with credentials, while one might expect the French not to accept, e.g. the "logic of war" when presented as obvious rationalization for an already-made decision.

Alfred Korzybski in his General Semantics theory pointed out that the verb "to be" hides a great many divergences in point of view, and that the terms becomes, remains and equals were far more exact and placed one more exactly in a temporal frame. One was less likely to make easy-to-abuse claims for-all-time, i.e. a dogma.