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Yanis Varoufakis on the Parallax Challenge

From loc 460-477 of his The Global Minotaur:

The parallax challenge A stick half submerged in a river looks bent. As one moves around it, the angle changes and every different location yields a different perspective. If, in addition, the river’s flow gently moves the stick around, both the ‘reality’ of the ‘bent’ stick and our understanding of it are in constant flux. Physicists refer to the phenomenon as the parallax. I enlist it here to make the simple point that many different observations about the Crash of 2008 may be both accurate and misleading. This is not to deny the objective reality either of the stick (i.e. that it is not bent at all) or of the Crash and its aftermath, the Crisis. It is simply to note that different viewpoints can all generate ‘true’ observations, yet fail to unveil the basic truth about the phenomenon under study. What we need is something beyond a variety of potential explanations and perspectives from which to grasp the stick’s reality. We need a theoretical leap, like the one the physicist makes, which will allow us to rise above the incommensurable observations before landing in a conceptual place from which the whole thing makes perfect sense. I call this ‘leap’ the parallax challenge.

Categories: Thinking

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