Prismatic Perspectives

One of my greatest joys as a teacher was teaching a Logic course to 8th graders. That age group just loves to argue. They are quick to find fallacies and invalid conclusions, especially when they are someone else’s!

If I were teaching today, I would introduce a new fallacy called the “I don’t understand how” fallacy. The more you are aware of it, the more you hear it.
 
I was listening to an interview with a public figure who was talking about one of the presidential candidates. “I don’t understand how anyone could have voted for someone who…(a number of reasons). I have friends who voted for him and I don’t understand how that’s possible.”

It’s as if our lack of understanding is proof that someone is wrong. If something is beyond our ability to believe, then anyone who believes that is wrong. 

Most fallacies oversimplify another’s point of view by assigning it the worst possible motive. Instead of saying “I don’t understand how” and leaving it there, maybe we should be saying “I want to understand how.” The public figure who couldn’t understand how his friends voted for a candidate could have asked. I have kind, thoughtful, and compassionate friends who voted both parties.

Their reasons are as complex as they are. They are standing in different places, and they see different “colors.” We have prismatic perspectives. The light we see is reflected differently and our perspectives will be different as well. 

I really don’t care about opinions on facebook and twitter. But if people I care about have different perspectives, I want to be able to understand them. I don’t want to ever assume the worst possible motive. It’s really ridiculous to argue a conclusion. It is important to understand how people reach conclusions, and often, it takes time to peel back emotions and get to reasons.

It would be nice to actually argue the issues involved, which would involve supported premises and conclusions that follow. But until then, maybe we could at least remember that even if we can only see one color of the prism, there are at least six others that may just as “true.” 

Maybe it’s easier just to say, “I don’t understand how…”

2 thoughts on “Prismatic Perspectives

  1. Even though I wholeheartedly agree with the ridiculousness of comments posted on various social media platforms-THIS post should go viral! Such truth in seeking to understand context and having the gift of a listening ear. The art of discovery is sorely lost currently. Thank you for your thoughtful admonition.

    Liked by 1 person

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