Thursday, August 16, 2012


Imagine looking at a square table and drawing it.  Your final result will depend on your point of view.  The image of the table will not be "square" unless you are seeing it from directly above, but from that perspective it might actually be hard to recognize it as a "table" at all, because perhaps a photograph of a room from the ceiling will just show a green square and from that perspective it might not be identifiable.

If you are standing at some distance from the table, it will appear as perhaps a parallelogram and at first glance you might not know that it is "square".

Directly from the side, all you will see is the legs and the side, and and again perhaps you might not see it as a table, but you will certainly not know it is "square".  In fact, from the side, if the legs are longer than the top nothing about the image you see will be square at all.

The best way to "know" the most about the table is to see it from all angles and perspectives- to see how the legs are attached, if there is a label on the bottom, casters on the legs etc.

But if you have never seen a card table with a green felt top, you might not know the function of the table even after you have examined it carefully from an "objective" perspective.

Further, suppose this is the very table at which Wild Bill Hickok was shot. (I don't even know if he was shot like that- it is just an example)

It might be worth a million dollars as an historical artifact.

So there are entire cultural dimensions to this simple table that have no bearing on what you first see.  You don't see its function, you don't see its history, you don't see its significance to a collector who will pay what seems like a ridiculous sum to you, just to own this object you at first saw as a "green square" in a shot from the ceiling.

But was it wrong to see it as a "green square"?  No, indeed it is all of these things from each perspective.  None of them was wrong- all were right from their point of view.

"But it has to be one or the other, it can't be BOTH" someone might say.  "One HAS to be True!"

But to say that seeing it from one point of view is THE "correct" one, absolutely, is just short sighted.  It's not necessarily "wrong", it just doesn't capture the full reality.  That is where dogmatism enters the view, be it in either science OR religion.

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