Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on January 7, 2016

I’m preparing a series on illusion for a class I’ll be giving starting at the end of this month at the lifelong learning organization that I helped found about 19 years ago. Not optical illusions, or magician’s illusions—though those are undoubtedly interesting, but psychological illusions. These operate at all levels of social organization.
I think it’s good to know about this, and the knowledge can range from very superficial to in-depth. Fooling oneself and others can include many forms of deception, manipulation, rhetoric, propaganda, sales pitches, advertising, religious preaching, and even the talk in the street. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that all human thought is contaminated with a degree of illusion.

For example, we tend to believe that words mean things, forgetting that words are tools of a particular language, and words don’t mean whatever it means in another language. So linguistics and semantics plays a part here. Human psychological developmental theory, from childhood to elder, or according to the technological advancement of the culture, also lends different meanings. Then there’s the simple fact that a given word like “God” (for example) may well “mean” quite different things even among people who say they belong to the same religious denomination. The same may be said about politics!

At this point, having studied rhetoric, I cannot say what does not operate within a context where just about everything is a little illusory. There are so many steps in thinking and communications, so a sign I read some time back hints at this ambiguity: “I know you think you understand what I said, but I’m not sure that what I put into words was really what I meant.” (In other words, can human beings escape from some degree of illusion?)

The point to make here is that types and combinations of illusions are innumerable, without numbering. There are variations, twists and turns.  Adult, mature people who pride themselves about being matter-of-fact-ual or no-nonsense seem to me to be embedded in many types of self-deception. I invite your disagreement and with it your permission to post your argument and my response. I may agree with you. Whether you want your name used should also be included in your response.

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