Monday, July 07, 2008

On prejudice

The problem with seeing the culture of another person is that one has always to see it through spectacles with glasses coloured by one’s own culture. One cannot remove these spectacles for then the picture will become blurred. The most one can do is changing the colour of the glasses, but the glasses will always have some colour. In philosophy we call this the problem of double interpretation. People interpret their own situation by means of their own frames of reference (what I called mind schemes in another blog). But people that are looking at them and that are maybe studying them have their own frames of reference. Usually both frames of reference do not automatically fit. Therefore, understanding other people involves the double act of understanding their understanding (finding out what the colour of their glasses is) and understanding one’s own understanding (finding out which colour the glasses in one’s own spectacles have). Often the first kind of understanding fails, which is the basis of prejudice (one thinks that all spectacles have glasses with the same colour and that the colour of the glasses is the colour of one’s own glasses). In analogy with a distinction made by Chalmers, one can call the first kind of understanding the hard problem, and the second kind the easy problem, although I must say that also understanding oneself can be a very hard job.

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