We have previously discussed bad novels as being worthy of defense, and a couple of grounds for defending bad novels in terms of the questions that they raise and the preoccupations that they show. I would like to close this defense on bad novels by looking at another aspect of bad novels, and that is the way that bad novels are worth defending because they demonstrate the perspective and point of view. There is some worth in knowing these things even if they are not always presented in a skillful fashion. It is worth at least a bit of time to discuss how and why this is the case, even when the perspective is not presented very skillfully and when it may even be deeply mistaken when compared with objective reality. There is still worth in bad perspectives and defective points of view, and that is something that is worth being defended, especially in times like our own when there is an increasing hostility and unwillingness to defend the legitimacy of points of view which differ from ourselves. What is the worth of points of view whose truth value we consider to be negligent to nonexistent?
What is the value of a point of view to the person expressing it? Before we can affirm its value to others, we must first understand what someone is trying to do when they express themselves. Self-expression is first and foremost a means of communication. It is an attempt to communicate something, and sometimes many things, to others through means of bringing what is inside the communicator to the outside. What is the worth of knowing something about what is inside of others? That is a question we have to answer for ourselves, but at least for me, there is worth in knowing at least something about what people think and feel and believe, so that we may respond to reality as best as can be understood from other people rather than from our interpretation of others. It is hard for us to infer properly what is inside others, and when others communicate things to us, it is to our benefit that they do so.
We can understand the worth of this communication if we conduct a thought experiment that expresses the opposite. What is lost when people do not communicate with us? How difficult is it to infer what is going on inside the head of others, or why it is that they are so hostile to us and so unwilling to interact with us when they simply refuse to give us the information of their point of view or perspective? A great deal is lost. We may know that something is wrong, but are not likely to have a good idea of exactly what is wrong or what can be done about it. The loss of communication signifies a loss of faith in the power of words to bridge the gulf between people. Indeed, I must confess that this is not too unusual of a state for me. There are certainly plenty of people who do not particularly enjoy communicating with me, certain people I do not always enjoy communicating with because they do not do a good job of respecting or paying attention to what I say, and plenty of matters which are too personal or too painful for me to want to communicate about in great detail.
And I do not think I am alone in this. We may not always like or appreciate the point of view or perspectives of other people–and I know that I do not always appreciate knowing the content of what other are thinking or feeling or believing–but there is value in having that communicated to us. It is not when people are communicating to us what they think and feel and believe when they are most dangerous. It is when they cease to communicate what is inside of them when they are more dangerous, because they believe us to be enemies and are therefore seeking to deceive us. If people are not always trustworthy, and they are not, it i vastly to our benefit when we get trustworthy information from others rather than having to guess what is going on or receiving inaccurate information that makes it more difficult for us to know what is going on and to respond accordingly. And we can best ensure that we get honest information about others communicate to us about the point of view of others when we respect others and their point of view, even where we may not like it or agree with it. And we can all agree, I hope, that we would prefer to have our own point of view respected and honored regardless of whether others agree with it or not. Alas, that does not appear to be the case and appears decreasingly the case at present. And this bodes ill for our well-being.