Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Elephant and his epistemology

ABC Wednesday
August 9th, 2017

The letter is E for Elephant and Epistemology

The Blindmen and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan, to learning much inclined
who went to see the elephant (Though all of them were blind)
that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the elephant, and, happening to fall,
against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl;
'God bless me! but the elephant is nothing but a wall!'

The second feeling of the tusk, cried; 'Ho! What have we here,
so very round and smooth and sharp?  To me tis mighty clear,
this wonder of an elephant, is very like a spear!'

The third approached the animal, and, happening to take
the squirming trunk within his hands, 'I see' quoth he,
'the elephant is very like a snake!'

The fourth reached out his eager hand, and felt about the knee;
'What most this wondrous beast is like, is mighty plain, ' quoth he.
'Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree.'

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said; "E'en the blindest man
can tell what this resembles most;  Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an elephant, is very like a fan!'

The sixth no sooner had begun, about the beast to grope,
than, seizing on the swinging tail, that fell within his scope,
'I see' quoth he, 'the elephant is very like a rope!'

And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long,
each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
tread on in utter ignorance, of what each other mean,
and prate about the elephant, not one of them has seen!

John Godfrey Saxe

This tale is ancient, originating in the sub-continent of India
and has an epistemic context in that it regards
the way we absorb human knowledge
- and its limitations....!!!!

"all these partial truths could be integrated within
a bigger picture so long as you have eyes to transcend
your own limited perspective."

A good thing to keep in mind when you are
judging other's opinions!!

Lots more Es here at ABC Wednesday
with thanks to all who maintain this exhilarating meme.