Perspective and Contradition

Insight: all evaluation is made from a definite perspective… The wisest man would be the one richest in contradictions. – Friedrich Nietzche

The parable of the blind men and an elephant proves that different perspectives can, and often do, contradict one another. But the contradiction is always between perspectives, not between claims within a single perspective.

This means that in evaluating a claim you must know the worldview it comes from. For a claim in the worldview of Christianity will naturally contradict a claim from Buddhism. Coherence is always within a worldview.

I have spent the last few years struggling with how to synthesize the various wisdom traditions of Humanism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Stoicism. It has taught me much.

First, each tradition must be interpreted with the context of its own belief system. Then different beliefs within each system have to be evaluated on the evidence for it, its coherence within the system, and its pragmatic implications.

Second, you compare the beliefs about a particular thing from the various traditions. Where do these agree, where do they disagree.

Third, in areas of disagreement, how does the perspective of the tradition influence the interpretation. It is the same reality being described? It is a different side of that reality being described, or is the reality being distorted by the conceptual filter?

Fourth, remember that all worldviews both illuminate and obscure reality. Favor the view that least distorts, does honor to the different standpoints, and that gives the best explanation of things. And hold that view lightly.

Published by

Jay N. Forrest

Zen Humanist Teacher.