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Look Away to See More Clearly

The Ethical Lexicon #10: The big picture resides at the corner of your eye

Did you see that? It was right there, at the corner of your eye. But when you turned to look, it was gone.

You’re not going crazy. In fact, your eyes are working exactly the way they were designed to work.

Aristotle called it “averted vision,” and it teaches us a profound lesson about how we see, but also about how we perceive, about not only sight but insight.

When you look straight ahead, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re seeing all there is to see. But tunnel vision doesn’t require a tunnel, and overconfidence that we’re getting the whole picture can lead us into the realm of dangerous delusion.

Our eyes are designed to see clear, sharp images when we look straight ahead. Shadowy images register at the periphery of our vision.

In the same way, ideas that seem clear and obvious assert themselves as truths because they already occupy the center of our attention. But what about ideas we haven’t fully considered? Should we dismiss them simply because we haven’t invested time and effort to give them their due?

The more certain we are that we’re right, the greater the probability that we’ve missed something important.

The true value of diversity comes from making sure a variety of perspectives are represented and evaluated. All of us are smarter than any of us, and constructive disagreement ensures that, collectively, we can be more confident in the course we set moving forward.

Click to read this installment of The Ethical Lexicon.

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