In the discussion about race I adopted a position I am not entirely comfortable with. I think there is a sense in which it is useful to distinguish categories of description that can be fruitfully defended (apples and bananas) and those that cannot (Caucasian or other racial descriptions for example). But there is a more fundamental sense in which I believe that everything is socially constructed, every single line you can think of. Including fruit. Another poster expressed it this way:
Every attempt to classify living things is flawed and tentative. Look at the arguments that rage among paleontologists. Every definition of species is subject to being contradicted by exceptions.
That's perspectivism in a nutshell I'd say. You can't get clearer than that. I'd apply it to everything including the stars and man and flies and eyes and hopes and harps.
At the beginning of his book "The Greatest Show on Earth" Richard Dawkins explained that the Platonic idea of perfect forms had inhibited acceptance of the radical idea of evolution and common descent. Western culture is so committed to the idea that categories are fixed by their ideal forms that the suggestion that all life is related and there are no non-arbitrary lines to be drawn anywhere was simply unthinkable for most people.
Take the question: when did the first human live? It depends what you mean by human. It depends where you want to draw the line. There is no right and wrong answer. Some scientists say that around 200,000 years ago a species emerged from which we decend and which we can reasonably begin to identify with our own. But you can argue earlier or later for different reasons. And whoever you choose to call the first human, his parents were virtually identical to him. The line is arbitrary.
Dawkins understands this and it's a good insight he puts at the start of his book. But what he doesn't seem to appreciate is that ALL lines are arbitrary. Every taxonomy, every name, every collection of names and theories and typologies and explanations involving causation. Every meaningful utterance you care to make, hear or value. It has all been made not found. And it can be unmade. We need to get past the idea that we are discovering lines where there are none. We need to be fully aware that we are drawing our own lines. Why? Because then instead of asking the stupid question: does this line truthfully belong here? We'll ask the much better question: is it useful to draw a line here or not.
And that's where I draw the line.
And it deconstructs itself, which is beyond the line I have drawn but infects the inside. As always. Recursive, but none the less useful for that. Dare I say true? I believe I can say the word only because I don't believe in it. And because people like to hear it. But it wouldn't miss it at all.
Let's stop chasing shadows.