There are many perspectives in which the world may be viewed. In my opinion, the most universal perspective stems from empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. For example, a mosquito biting you is just a little guy trying to get food the only way he knows how.
The perspectives of reality have been contemplated and debated by philosophers since almost the beginning of civilization. For instance, Hegel maintained the notion of idealism; arguing that the universe is throughout the work of reason and the mind. In other words, physical existence is dependent on some sort of mental, or metaphysical, reality.
I feel as though this corresponds with empathy in the sense that within this philosophy, no particular can be understood on its own—for everything is merely an aspect of a whole. However, this conflicts with the idea of materialism, which defines reality as made up of tangible atoms that are always in constant motion, and therefore, susceptible to change.
Then again, there is the philosophy of realism, or representative realism as coined by John Locke, which states that the mind is directly acquainted only with its own ideas. However, these ideas are caused by and represent objects external to the mind.
There is no denying that the infinite ways one may depict reality and life itself is simply whacky. Nietzsche believed that the overall chaos of the world is made manageable by perspectives. There are so many meanings that can be interpreted from everything that it is hard to comprehend why one perspective, dare I say opinion, can hold value while others are oppressed. For example, how is it possible to disrespect an individual just because they do or do not believe in a God?
Nietzsche also felt that because everything is seen from one perspective or another (and that this is unavoidable), and since facts are merely interpretations, that there is no truth. Perhaps it is impossible, but I would like to think that humans can attempt to combat this by opening up their minds and trying to take on multiple perspectives, and by finding truth within other beings.
Like I said before, being able to grasp the concept of empathy is essential to gaining a universal perspective.
That being said, what exactly is valuable about viewing the world and life from all angles? Someone who has the ability to recognize multiple perspectives will most likely be more successful when it comes to making decisions.
John Dewey believes that ideas are the basis for organizing future observations and experiences. This is a very pragmatic way of thinking. However, as those graduating may soon learn, pragmatics are very relevant to the working world.
One way to understand this philosophy is to look at it from a means/ends viewpoint. Ideas are tools for getting a job done and are only beneficial if they can be successfully applied to work. It is the future consequences that determine the validity, truth, and meaning in an idea. With a strong sense of empathy and therefore universal perspective, one is more inclined to think and make decisions that have a more positive outcome for more beings.
Though still appreciating many opinions, I personally think it is silly to not want to enter the workforce as a citizen attempting to better the world.
That being said, reality and perspectives alike should not simply be evaluated on how useful they are for accomplishing our purposes.
I believe it is equally important to also take into consideration an idea’s aesthetics and beauty. Not everyone leaving college is headed for an office desk. It is the duty of artists to create in an attempt to grab society’s attention and provide new outlooks on life. As Nietzsche would say, where ideas do not have utility, they may still be an expression of intellectual play and impulse.
Therefore, it is important to try and view all things from different perspectives. This will without a doubt give you more insight while figuring out which decisions to make, based off their consequences.
Imagine if our lives were on a different scale and you were the size of an ant. How much different would a dandelion look? Empathy is the key to true understanding, and with it, one can certainly expect to be a more well rounded individual ready to take on the world.
Elissa Fredeen can be contacted at