Nietzsche and the NPOV
Wikipedia's Neutral Point of view is, understandably, a controversial thing in some circles. I'm still investigating what the actual impact of the NPOV is, and I think its effects are actually complicated. However, I think some people are getting hung up on the word "Neutral," which may imply a sort of "objectivity" that they find distasteful. Namely, a vision of objective knowledge that is "neutral" because it is "pure," somehow detached from the messy world of politics and subjectivity we live in. This critique of the NPOV, I think, is a mistake. I'm not the only one to make this argument, Wikipedians themselves make it in their FAQ for the NPOV, and Joe Reagle has made it as well.
Nietzsche, in The Geneology of Morals makes a critique of the notion of "pure reason" or "knowledge in itself," not dissimilar, I think, to the criticism that is sometimes leveled at the NPOV. He writes:
There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing"; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity," be.
I couldn't help but be struck by how similar Nietzsche's call for an "objectivity" based on a multitude of perspectives is to the NPOV itself! One section of the policy reads:
[The NPOV] is not a lack of viewpoint, but is rather an editorially neutral point of view. An article and its sub-articles should clearly describe, represent, and characterize all the disputes within a topic, but should not endorse any particular point of view. It should explain who believes what, and why, and which points of view are most common.
Of course, this proves nothing about how the NPOV is actually employed in practice, which is considerably more complicated. Still, I think it makes for an interesting comparison.