Thursday, August 29, 2019

A New Sensation

I understand the impulse to give up on explaining things to people who we understand don't perceive the world in the same way that we do. After all, I don't know how I would explain the difference between Yellow and Red to a blind person. It's the urge to then blame the other person for their inability to comprehend, rather than accept one is unable to overcome the barriers to communicating with them, that becomes a problem. To continue with the analogy of blindness, it's considered inappropriate to blame a blind person for the fact that they're unable to differentiate between different colors that they can't see; it's understood that their disability is not willful. And at the same time, it's not considered especially blameworthy to be unable to effectively explain the differences is hues to someone who has never seen them, and has no real way of directly interacting with them.

And in this, I think that there is value in extending the disability metaphor to discussions of ideas; specifically because it takes the conversation away from the idea that people are being willfully obtuse. Ideas are not necessarily any more accessible to someone with limited or no exposure to them than physical sensations are, because of the role that lived experience plays in how ideas are understood. Without a particular lived experience, certain ideas can be difficult, or even impossible, to fully or accurately comprehend. And the common aspects of our lived experiences are often much more narrow than we give them credit for.

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