Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From the Stray Thought Bin - "...And More Maps"

Some people seem to use the saying "The map is not the territory," as a way to wash out all claims and viewpoints into some kind of tepid equivalency: "It's all just opinions...B.S. ...your narrative...your map...maps all we have...yadda yadda yadda." Post-Modernist Couldn't-Care-Less-ism.

Sure, up to a point, we can't get beyond viewpoints and opinions.  Everything that is said is said by someone—opinions and viewpoints...Maps.


We do presume some 'territory'. (At least I do.) There are 'things' we bump into whether we want to or not.

Some viewpoints provide a better look at a presumed territory. Some opinions seem more useful. We shouldn't be shy. Some maps  give us greater predictability, seem more useful, thus better than others for given purposes in dealing with the 'territories' of life. Including the fact that other  people may operate by dramatically different maps.

We can and should strive for more fruitful viewpoints, more informed opinions, better maps. Which presumes that some maps may be better than others for some purposes. Indeed, yes.

And yes, our maps will still not be the territories they represent—ever. As far as I know.


mamund said...

nice post.

FWIW, i try to remember that "the map is not the territory" is a statement about the condition of the territory, too. IOW, it is the nature of "the territory" that an accurate "map" cannot be accessed.

for me, it is not just a challenge of accepting our own limitations (e.g. dismissing POVs, etc.), but also realizing that the target of our discussion has many hidden aspects we will not know.

Austin said...

The fundamental judgment of value for any map - or scientific theory, or philosophy, or whatever you want to call them - is usefulness.

Obviously that's highly subjective, but in general cases usefulness is linked to how accurately the map predicts corresponding behavior in reality. We can never say that a map is "right", but we can say that it is "functionally representative to a given level of approximation".

That's why Newtonian mechanics can be wrong but still valid.