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 don't know these authors but I disagree about the oppressed people being more objective than the oppressors, the oppressed may just as well think that whatever happens is "natural", this being and effect of ideology. The argument of strong objectivism seems to state that ideology would affect the opressors in a more effective way. To marxists the opressed are the only possible revolutionary people, but that doesn't mean that they are spontaneously more aware of the ideology surrounding them. – Tames Jul 31 '12 at 1:57
  • Some person pertaining to some minority may be more aware of minority issues but this doesn't guarantee a position (for or against it). So if you are on a ghetto you would know more about ghetto problems, because it is all around you - from a scientific standpoint, you make questions based on problems surrounding you, but possibly this wouldn't make you less objective about the problem. This perspective resembles that of Max Weber - something like, the question stems from subjectivity, but the answer will be objective if it follows a scientific method. – Tames Jul 31 '12 at 2:01

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