Point of view

In an earlier text (in Dutch: “Gezichtspunt”) I talk about how the same thing is different depending on your point of view. Somewhere on the internet I found some thoughts related to this subject.

6 or 9

There’s a meme I keep seeing that pictures two men looking at a symbol on the ground that could be either a ‘6’ or a ‘9.’ The man at the top says it’s a ‘6’ while while the man at the bottom says it’s a ‘9.’ Both men are correct from their perspective.

The picture is a perfect depiction of relativism1 – “Truth is determined by my experiences and perspective.” This meme is a slam-dunk for you who believe “my truth” can be different than “your truth.”

But before you congratulate yourself for a decisive philosophical victory over people (like me) who are not relativists, allow me to share a couple of thoughts from my narrow, exclusive point of view.

Agreement 90% of the time

When you replace the symbol with a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7, the meme doesn’t work anymore. You can recognize a ‘5’ even when it’s upside down. Replace the symbol with a ‘0, 1’or an ‘8’ and you see the same symbol whether viewed from the top or bottom. The truth only seems to be relative with one numeral out of 10. In other words, this simple example shows that 90% of the time ‘your truth’ and ‘my truth’ will agree.

What about context?

The meme doesn’t give us any context about the symbol. There are no other numerals in the vicinity to use as reference to indicate we are looking at a digit. We don’t know who put it there either. If it was one of the guys in the picture, he could tell us whether we are looking at a six or a nine. The person who created the symbol is therefore THE authority. That person’s ‘truth’ takes priority over yours (and mine).

A drawing of a 4 year-old looked like a crude rendering of male genitalia. Her mother asked about the drawings and she was informed that they were, “shampoo bottles.” Not every interpretation of artwork is accurate. The artist’s interpretation is the only true one.

Remember that perspective isn’t fixed. When you rent a car, you are encouraged to check the vehicle for pre-existing damage so that you don’t get charged for dents and scratches that aren’t your fault.
You can’t check the car by just standing in front of it. You have to walk around and look at it from different angles.

In human life and in the human mind every concept, every emotion, every thought, actually everything is relative to something else. Thus for a meaningful existence of anything we need to understand (or at least know) its context. Nothing is complete and absolute in and of itself. This is relativism.

It is not often that we let life happen to us, without putting up a question – “why?”. The very reason we want to ask the why-question(s): “why is it so… why did you do it… why is it so hot… why me?” shows we need added/extra information (context) to make sense of what we have/happens in that moment.

There is a link between relativism and our happiness: it is reality versus expectations:

happiness = reality – expectation

In words: happiness is what reality is “more” than expected.

The “formula” above is very similar as gap 5 in the Service Gap Model:

Service Quality Gaps (Parasuraman et al. 1988)

1 Relativism is a family of philosophical views which deny claims to objectivity within a particular domain. It asserts that valuations in that domain are relative to the perspective of an observer or the context in which they are assessed.
There are many different forms of relativism, with a great deal of variation in scope and differing degrees of controversy among them:

  • Moral relativism encompasses the differences in moral judgments among people and cultures.
  • Epistemic relativism holds that there are no absolute principles regarding normative belief, justification, or rationality, and that there are only relative ones.
  • Alethic relativism (also factual relativism) is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture (cultural relativism).
  • Descriptive relativism seeks to describe the differences among cultures and people without evaluation, while normative relativism evaluates the morality or truthfulness of views within a given framework.

Some forms of relativism bear a resemblance to philosophical skepticism.

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