The story of the blind men and an elephant
originated in India
from where it is widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies
. At various times it has provided insight into the relativity, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behaviour of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.
It is a parable that has crossed between many religious traditions and is part of Jain
lore. The tale is also well-known in Europe. In the 19th Century the poet John Godfrey Saxe
created his own version as a poem. Since then, the story has been published in many books for adults and children, and interpreted in an ever-increasing variety of ways.
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind
men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant
to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk
. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.
The stories differ primarily in how the elephant's body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.
version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like... Read More