Scotts View from above the River Tweed.


If we try to understand experience from an objective viewpoint that is distinct from that of the subject of the experience, then ... we will not be able to grasp its most specific qualities ... We will not know exactly how scrambled eggs taste to a cockroach even if we develop a detailed objective phenomenology of the cockroach sense of taste.

Thomas Nagel (1986)

Scott’s View, from above the Tweed looking towards the Eildons, surely provides an example of a pleasure that we all derive, as Scott did, from an uplifting panorama set out before us. Conceptualisations are similar. Whatever the breadth or narrowness of a view, or the range of a conception, it has to be from an exact location, a point. There is no average view, a view from ‘no where’. How, asks Nagel, can the ‘objective’ viewpoint ever include the subjective? If the subjective is not included, the objective is forever incomplete. Having a point of view means to stand somewhere, anywhere is possible, but it has to be somewhere. As we move away from a particular point, in our endeavours to create the ‘objective’, we also loose that subjective view. The human view is always particular just as it is always intrinsic to a view that it has a viewpoint.


The quote comes from page 25 of The View from Nowhere which was published by Oxford University Press and is certainly a milestone in later twentieth century philosophy, but it is not the most lucid of texts. Its central theme is this problem: is it possible to reconcile, to explain and maybe to integrate, how our subjective view - our point of view - relates to an objective view - a view from nowhere in particular. The viewpoint in the picture is three miles east of Melrose, and is one to which Sir Walter Scott often came from his home at Abbotsford by Galashiels.


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