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Late Night Thoughts on Metaphysical Points-Of-View

Late Night Thoughts on Metaphysical Points-Of-View

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Published by Frank Bertrand

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Published by: Frank Bertrand on Jul 12, 2011
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08/30/2013

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Late Night Thoughts On Metaphysical Points-of-view 
In a June 7, 1964 letter to James Blish, Philip K. Dick writes:
“As to my multiplicity of characters: I was weaned onthe school of young post World War II Japanesewriters at the French Department of the TokyoUniversity; they write without a protagonist appearing,only, as in my books, a variety of human viewpoints,a sort of several monad percept-system intertwinedstructure in which the “reality” is always thereforesubjective, and varying with each character.”(
The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1938-1971
, pp. 77-78)
Then, in an April, 1981 interview with Gregg Rickman, PKD states:
“I’ll bet I can think of another viewpoint (laughs). Like havinga whole lot of people walking around with interior viewpoints,you know. That’s where I developed the multi-foci third personinterior, was I tried all the logical possibilities.”(
Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words 
, p. 93)
Now, what might we glean from these two PKD quotations thathelps us to understand how, as Jason K. aptly notes, PKD “makes hisreaders constantly re-examine their metaphysical point-of view”?I would suggest that our starting point should be the particular“point-of-view” indicated – metaphysical. But, to paraphrase Aristotle,metaphysics lies in the eye of the beholder. It is the most abstract, and insome commentary, ‘high-falutin’ part of philosophy. It’s concerned withcharacteristics of ultimate reality, what really exists, and what it is thatdistinguishes ultimate reality and makes it possible.Reality is, of course, a concept PKD wrote a great deal about, bothin his fiction
and
non-fiction. It is one of his two major literary motifs, theother being What is a human. And the two become inextricably intertwinedin his work as he attempts to ascertain the kinds of points-of-view that aremanifest in any reality which involves human selves.
 
As the first quote suggests there are for PKD a “variety of humanviewpoints” and therefore reality is always “subjective, and varying witheach character.” So, reality lies in the eye of the character. This implies, inturn, that each of us as a reader of a PKD book will bring our ownmetaphysical viewpoint(s) with us to PKD’s subjective fictionalrepresentation of a subjective reality, adding yet another layer to obscureour ability to clearly see into PKD’s “glass [onion] darkly.” In effect a PKDwork lies in the eye of the reader.How, then, can we possibly engage in a coherent and cogentexploration and explication of PKD’s fiction and, perhaps, non-fiction? Onepossible solution is the “interior viewpoints” mentioned in the secondquote. This notion derives from his reading of Joyce’s
Ulysses 
and
Finnegan’s Wake 
, and PKD explains that:
“It allows the greatest latitude in terms of characterdevelopment….It’s not valuable in terms of an overviewof the actions of the plot. That’s where the omniscientviewpoint is useful. But the third person interior tunesyou into the thoughts of the person beautifully.”(
Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words 
, pp. 93-94)
But that’s just one possible resolution. There are as many others asour respective interior viewpoints can focus on and elucidate. Myparticular preference would be to use PKD’s non-fiction, along withrelevant philosophical and literary contexts, as “thought probes” that couldhelp us identify potential ideas for increasing our understanding of PKD – his reality and the realities in his works of fiction. And as we do so weneed to keep in mind Samuel R. Delany’s observation that “Literature – whether a particular piece right through here is being judged minor or

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