When it comes to the truth, point of view really does matter.

You may have seen a version of this meme floating around.

I don’t know the source of the original, but just now I came across an adaptation by Haplo Schaffer:

I like it, but I had some thoughts of my own.


Hah! And showing that Haplo is an open-minded good sport about this whole thing….

More feedback… again, Haplo is being admirably open-minded, and her followers are participating in a spirited conversation on Facebook. (She also told me on Twitter that English is not her first language, so that provides some context for my punctuation quibbles.)





5 thoughts on “When it comes to the truth, point of view really does matter.

  1. Well, technically, you’re wrong. Every reaction has its own perspective, understanding, implicit premise and intention. The response of “But one of these people is wrong” is not wrong, even in the situation where the 6th and 9th slots are both using the same symbol. The reason is because both players are incorrect. They both give a partial answer as the answer would be “Six or nine” is the situation of the parking lot.

    At ‘best’, I would conceive that “someone painted a six or nine” could be changed to something like that someone had a particular meaning for the symbol.

    Also, you addressing the fact that Haplo was missing the intention of the intention of the original author… Haplo’s intention was to point out within the text itself “does not mean I’m wrong” is actually false. Because you can’t have them both be correct. You can only have them both wrong. This is Haplo’s intention, to point out that there was an original intention and from your biased perspective, you can’t decide (within the drawing) between the two of you what the original intention was. So when you refer to the original author’s intention to depict a difference of perspective, is actually a relevance fallacy as it was not Haplo’s intention to write about that. That makes you fall into the mistake you want to blame Haplo’s. At best you can suggest that Haplo is using an out of context fallacy or a straw man fallacy by criticizing a detail in the bigger picture. But I don’t think this is valid as it is relevant to point out a logical fallacy within the intended context.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Douwe. Your response aligns very strongly with taking author intent as the primary (only?) way to interpret a text. I could intend to write a powerful tragic epic, but if critics interpret it as a juvenile farce, then my intentions are at best a footnote to their critical judgement. Neither your assertion that I am wrong nor your appeal to Haplo’s intentions are nearly as interesting to me as your suggestion that “a six or a nine” is a discrete thing that the original artist intended to draw. That last suggestion adds to the discussion and gives me another way to explore and articulate my own argument, while the previous two claims seem instead designed to close off the discussion. My own disciplinary bias encourages productive discussion, when it is evidence-based and rational. The claim “you can’t have them both be correct” is not a fact, but an assertion that articulates a value statement. Shakespeare can succeed in his intention to write a comic Jewish villain (Shylock in The Merchant of Venice) and Shylock can be seen today as a tragic hero. I see the tension between the author’s intent and the present day meaning of the text not as an error that an authority figure or universal rule must resolve one way or the other, but as an opportunity to embrace that ambiguity as a feature. It is okay that you and I disagree about Haplo’s intent, and that our values lead us to weigh evidence differently; but even if she weighed in to break the tie, that would not erase the value of exploring ambiguity as one possible way to examine a text. If the text were “2 + 2 = 4” and the context was scientific, the author’s intent would matter a lot less than whether the content of the text was correct. This particular text requires interpretation, which is a subjective act that draws on values. I encourage my students to seek alternate explanations, with the expectations that the explanations that are closer to the truth will incorporate more evidence, and better evidence, than the explanations that are merely possible (but not necessary, or useful, or otherwise valuable).

  2. Pingback: Journalism 101: I fixed this meme for you. | Jerz's Literacy Weblog

  3. :) Nice that Haplo is an open-minded good sport about the matter – don’t see much of that nowadays. I’ve also pretty much quit pointing out to people their grammar and punctuation transgressions – they won’t change, and some have accused me of “nitpicking” (!!!) … especially my husband, who types in caps because he says it’s easier … He sent a letter to the editor of the local paper that way … and they published it (but not in caps).

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