You have most certainly seen this expression go by lately: "This is my point of view, this is my opinion and it is as valid as yours". These expressions are often used to close more than to open the conversation.
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What is a “point of view” in the end? Quite simply, this is the place from which you look. There is therefore necessarily a subjective approach here: the appreciation of reality depends on the subject's positioning.
However, in the face of the vastness of the world and its complexity, no individual can claim to have any absolute and complete truth about the world.
However, until recently, I found this expression on one of the social networks, which have become combat rings where we throw our opinions on the “walls” without creating real conversations:
“An Indian sage said this: “The truth is a mirror fallen from the hand of God, and which is broken. Each one picks up a fragment of it and says that all the truth is there". Respect each other: Your truth will not be that of your neighbor but will be just as respectable as his. And vice versa. ”
This is a fundamental error in the appreciation of dialogue.
If “my” point of view is by nature subjective, I cannot be satisfied and compare it individually to that of the other. Because there is no search here for an understanding of reality but the defense of an individual position.
In his recent autobiography, Edward Snowden reflects on this current issue of social networks. According to him, the lifting of anonymity on the internet has transformed it into a place where one comes to defend his identity, his self, his existence by presenting his ideas as incontestable, as valid as the others ... Some could say that many on social networks take advantage of a false identity to indulge in the most violent forms of expression. But, I agree with Snowden that the Internet is now more of a place of self-affirmation than a place of exchange as it may have been in its idealistic beginnings.
In my opinion, the trend towards individual well-being and personal development in recent years has reinforced this situation. But I will deal with the subject in a future publication.
To come back to the point of view and the subjectivity inherent in “my” point of view. This is the very meaning of the etymology of "opinion": preconceived idea, prejudice, conjecture, belief, illusion.
In my approach to understanding the world around me, my first experience is that of my feelings about the world, from my point of view, which is therefore subjective.
This is all the more true as the feeling, therefore the emotional result of our experience of the world, is distorted by the imperceptibility of our senses (our eyes do not see 100% of reality for example) and the interpretation of their signals through the filter of our past experience, of our level of knowledge… So even my emotions are subjective and cannot serve as a reference in my understanding of reality.
This is further aggravated by the fact that our sensors (eyes, nose, ears…) sometimes play with us! Thus, my perception of my reality is not only incomplete but very often erroneous and trapped in so many cognitive biases. Thus “my” reality is above all a patchwork of imperfect impressions brought together in an attempt to make sense of a solitary experience!
So what to do? Remember that, as humans, we are not just the juxtaposition of individuals but that it is the addition of our points of view, our knowledge that makes our wealth. The more diverse and complementary these points of view, the more they will help us approach a collective truth that will be as complete as possible.
Incidentally, this comes in defense of diversity and the necessary mix of cultures to guarantee an effective approach to reality.
So, unlike the interpretation shared above, my truth is not valid in itself. It will only be valid if shared and supplemented by that of the other to reconstitute the mirror as a whole. Otherwise, again, I'm just defending my position, asserting my ego.
And the more my ego distances “my” imperfect reality from yours, the more I widen the gap of our differences and the more the truth will be lost in the darkness of oblivion.
This is most certainly the problem with this absence or this difficulty of conversation that is undermining our society in these pandemic times. What is more, this is strongly reinforced by the algorithms of social networks which are not there to create conversation but to create opposition.
So what to do? The first thing is to get out of an egotistical attitude: recognize that the individual is nothing in himself because the human is a social being by nature . As the Zulus' concept of Ubuntu explains, as a human I exist only through the other. My existence, from my point of view, is locked in my mind. I can only have other proof of my fulfillment and of my existence as an individual if others recognize me.
But then, should I provoke this recognition by the opposition and the imposition of “my” reality, however imperfect, or should I do it by participating in the creation of a more objective collective reality, which will mark my presence in this world?
Then we have to admit the extent of our ignorance. Socrates reminds us of the importance of “knowing what you don't know”. If one could quantify the mass of knowledge in the universe, the amount of individual knowledge would be barely visible to the naked eye. The bulk of what we know we don't know would be a small portion on a statistical pie chart.
On the other hand, the mass of what we know that we do not know represents almost all of this diagram. And that is why it is important to get out of our “point of view”, not to limit ourselves to our “opinion” or to our “feelings” because that pushes us to consider that we have sufficient knowledge to understand reality.
This is far from being the case. My point of view therefore becomes anecdotal and cannot serve as a basis for defining generalities or guiding principles for assessing reality. Very often, however, many assert their truth by sharing what they observe, what they experience as part of their reality. As we have just seen, this reality being far too limited, empirical reasoning from an individual point of view alone will never be relevant for drawing a rule of life or rational conclusions.
The only solution will therefore be dialogue, the real one. He will start from an attitude of ignorance, of candidness where we will approach the other to make us understand. The English word “understanding”, if broken down, amounts to saying: to stand below. If I talk to the other to tell them, teach them, I don't give myself the opportunity to complete my point of view, I impose my own. I place myself in a position of control and intellectual rigidity.
When I open up to others to hear their experiences, their experiences, I can then bring mine and together we build a more complete picture of reality. Even more if the other is very different from me.
The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said:
“The greatest antidote to violence is conversation, sharing our fears, listening to those of others and, as we share our vulnerabilities, we discover the genesis of hope”.