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Absolute Understanding


Absolute Understanding An elephant was brought to a group
of blind men who had never encountered such an animal
before. One felt a leg and reported that an elephant is a
great living pillar. Another felt the trunk and reported
that an elephant is a great snake. Another felt a tusk and
reported that an elephant is like a sharp ploughshare. And
so on. And then they all quarreled together, each claiming
that his own account was the truth and therefore all the
others false (traditional parable). None of the accounts
that the blind men made about the nature of the elephant
are absolute truths, nor are the accounts false. An
absolute truth, or one that is true for all, can not be
achieved because of the constant motion of circumstances of
who said it, to whom, when, where, why, and how it was
said. Instead of absolute truths, the concepts or beliefs
that the blind men claim are viewpoints that each one
clarifies the nature of the elephant. Everybody has learned
to see things from his or her own sense of reason and
logic. The many things that people experience throughout
their lifetimes, help to determine the judgments toward the
different issues and objects that they encounter. Because
individuals has his or her own sense of reason and logic,
the perceptions that people encounter are ultimately true,
and not false. Life does not contain one truth for any idea
or object, but truths can be found in one's perception. It
is difficult to determine that anything is the absolute
truth. One should not prove that any object contains a true
meaning, but should develop conceptions surrounding the
object. Attempting to prove anything then would be
difficult, if not impossible. Our senses from smell to
values to reality may differ from person to person. What
may be true to one person may be different for another.
Because everybody has different perceptions about life, it
is difficult to weigh the content of any concept. Every
account, of its own, is formed to be the truth of the one
individual who assumes it. The variety of concepts may have
the virtue of being considered. This is how people develop
a deeper sense of understanding for all objects. Truth is
achieved through the concept and not the object itself.
Because many individuals hold different perceptions, they
have many truths to consider, or not to consider. For
example, it would be impossible to determine, whether or
not, the cutting of trees is either "good" or "bad." One
might have the conception that cutting trees destroys homes
for birds and other animals. Another person might have the
conception that cutting trees is necessary to satisfy the
need to provide homes for humans. Whatever concept is
understood from the object, may be the truth. Just because
there may be other viewpoints to this situation, does not
mean that there has to be false statements. The tree can be
used for many uses from medicine to paper to boats and none
of these views would be wrong. The tree remains to be a
tree, but the values of the tree can differentiate,
depending on who is using it. The conception of God, or the
non-conception of God, is another issue that many people
make the mistake of trying to prove. A well recognized
philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard states, "For if God does not
exist it would of course be impossible to prove it; and if
he [or she] does exist it would be folly to attempt it."
Demonstrating the existence or non- existence of God only
produces reasons for belief, not the actual proof that God
exists. Kierkegaard also claims, "...between God and his
works there exists an absolute relationship: God is not a
name but a concept"( Kierkegaard 72). The relationship
between man and God is a concept. A person with belief in
God, cannot prove its existence through his or her own
relationship with God. Kierkegaard adds again, "The works
of God are such that only God can perform them" We have no
basis of proving God's works, nor do we know what kind of
works God uses on different individuals. Yet, some
religious groups have made the mistake to try to enforce
their own religion upon different individuals. Some
religious groups claim that their religion is the only
"true" religion, which is very untrue. This may be a reason
why religion has been a major factor in previous wars and
movements. The attempt to follow one truth, instead of
freely allowing individuals and societies to follow their
own truth, has led many people into frustration and
hostility. All concepts are so dynamic that the truth that
one believes may appear to be self-ironic. A person may
believe that television promotes violence in kids, exposes
the use of profanity, and stupidity. Another person my
believe that television may be educational because the
exposure of all these problems will form into
understanding. Although both may be perfectly true to each
other, the two issues are found to be to be contradictory.
The disagreement does not make the other statement false,
but establishes another truth.
 If each of the blind men spend less time on proving his
own account and spend more time understanding the different
truths that exist, they may discover that all perceptions
of the elephant can be taken into consideration. The men
may discover that the elephant is a great living pillar, a
great snake, and like a sharp ploughshare at the same time,
or at different times. The blind men may even come to the
conclusion that the elephant may be neither of these. The
opinions of the blind men may be constantly in motion
because of the acceptance of the many viewpoints that
currently exist and may exist in the future. Although the
elephant may stay the same, opinions about it may change
and adapt. 
Works Cited
Bowie, Lee G., Michaels, Meredith W., Solomon, Robert C.
Twenty Questions "An 

Introduction to Philosophy. Harcourt Brace & Company, 3rd
ed. Kierkegaard 72- 75
Handout. Traditional Parable



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