Modes of vision

There are several ways of seeing things in a new or different way. Some of them can be explained with reference to other metaphors. For instance, one can change one’s “perspective.” That means that everything within your view shifts with regard to each other when you change your position within the field. It arranges itself with regard to a new focal point. From one point of view a particular thing might appear central to the problem, from another it might appear peripheral. In other words a perspective, or a focus, is a selection principle. It selects from the wealth of possibilities, that which is thought to be relevant to your view. Being aware of possible perspectives with regard to any issue, stops you settling into the habit that your way of seeing is the only valid one. Looking for different perspectives can be very rewarding.


One can also “magnify” one’s view. This means that one looks at a thing in larger detail. That has everything to do with analysis. Things change their nature as you look at them at a different scale. Is a chair a chair to the ant walking over this vast expanse of metal in search for food? To us it is a chair. To him it might be a desert.


I have already talked about resolution and focus above. One thing that helps to improve you resolution and so make your focus more precise is to expand your vocabulary in whatever medium you like to communicate. More words means an image with a higher dpi.[1] Words are like little boxes of labelled ignorance. We do not necessarily know what something like, for example “gravity” really is, but we know what it does. The word is a label. We must not mistake the label for an understanding of the thing it labels. But we are right whenever we see of feel the effect of gravity, that we label it as such. So the word “gravity” is a little black box standing for a phenomenon. The more we understand that phenomenon, the more we will be able to distinguish the different elements that make up that phenomenon. These elements we give further labels. The better we understand a phenomenon, the more labels will come to be used in the explanation of it. This means that to increase our vocabulary and to use it effectively, means that we can be more precise about what we want to communicate. That gives us a greater amount of control over ourselves. The fewer labels we have, the more those labels themselves have to cover. The more they cover, the more general they are.[2]


[1] Dpi is dots per inch, a measure used in printing. The higher the dpi the finer and more detailed the image.

[2] One of the most delightful book on thinking and the meaning of concepts is Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind, London, 1978 (1972)