The Understanding Opinions Metaphor: Some Initial Observations

1. The Vantage Point

I am inescapably rooted to a unique vantage point from which I view all things

• No vantage point offers a more correct perspective, although some give more information

• While my vantage point may change, I remain unalterably attached to it

• Not being God, I can never occupy all vantage points at once

• Even from my vantage point I do not always see clearly all there is to see

2. The Object

The sum of all vantage points approximates all there is to see of the object

• Being rooted to one vantage point, I cannot “see” everything there is to see of the object

• The object is what it is; it is not affected by my perception of it

• However, I tend to make the object suit my perception of it

3. The Perception

I perceive the object on four different levels: factual (objective), emotional (subjective), interpretive (meaning or value), decisional (what to do with it)

• These four are distinct, although I sometimes confuse my emotional response or my interpretation with the facts

• My perception may differ from that of others on anyone or several of these four levels

• Because I am often unaware of my own emotions or fail to recognize emotional responses in others, I often arrive at flawed interpretations

4. The Communication

The collective vision of a community is always greater than that of a single member

• I can broaden my “seeing” by listening to what others say they see

• At best I can only approximate what others say they see

• Without the insight of others my own vision remains one-sided

• Community results when persons accept as valid and significant the vision held and communicated by others

• To accept the vision of others I must listen to them, and trust them

5. The Potential for Conflict

Different perceptions often lead to conflicts which in turn undermine community

• The terms “right” and “wrong” are not appropriate to deliberative exercises

• When I refuse to accept the validity of another’s perspective, I absolutize my own (limited) perception

• Absolutized opinions are, in effect, deeply entrenched positions from which only the walls of the trench can be seen. Trenches block dialogue and destroy community

Note: When the metaphor is applied to other situations, the term object used here may be replaced with topic, issue, subject, problem, etc.

June 8, SYNOD ‘93

Reinder and Diane Klein