Analysis of Ways of Seeing

In Ways of Seeing, John Berger argues that “the way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe”. Berger’s argument is practically true whereby it is evident that most human beings often carry out tasks as they know they should be done or according to the belief that has been created around the subject at hand. To add onto his argument, Berger further stated that “It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world”. Berger’s argument means that human beings connect their perception on man-made and natural images to the knowledge they have. The implications of Berger’s argument are that human beings perception of both man-made and natural images are derived from knowledge, history, and choice. Knowledge is gotten from one’s experience with a certain concept whereas belief is an aspect that comes as a result of exposure to a given phenomenon. Therefore, the dependence of one’s perception on knowledge and belief is understandable, and most philosophers have defined this as a major human weakness. Berger’s argument relates to several secondary texts whereby the texts carry related information to Berger’s argument. The essay analyzes how Berger’s argument is related to secondary texts of “Education as Maturity”, “The Point”, “Deciderization 2007: A Special Report”, The Democratic Thinker” and “The Blind Men and the Elephant”.

This section of the paper focuses on Berger’s argument “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe” in an explanatory argument in the text “Education as Maturity”. The text by Overstreet presents education as the basic aspect that leads to human development. Humans are defined in the text as generally ignorant to information. This is because humans are not born without knowledge but they tend to minimally apply it in real life application. The text specifically states that a newborn child is born with knowledge on how to suckle, but a child ignores this knowledge which is crucial for survivor. However, the skills on survival are later opened unto a child once he or she is taught how to undergo survival. The knowledge given to a child is in a form of education which involves reading, writing, and arithmetic. These acquired skills help a child to be more responsible. This confirms Berger’s argument whereby human beings act as they know as they believe similarly to a child who after acquiring skills he or she acts as the knowledge acquired dictates. The knowledge that a man acquires, therefore, forms the basis of his perception hence influencing the man’s actions.

 “The Point” is a fable written by Harry Nilsson. The fable gives the story of a character by the name of Oblio who is regarded as a pointless member of the community. This creates dormancy in Oblio’s development whereby he cannot develop himself due to the society’s perception on him. In fact, he had accepted his situation through wearing a pointed hat. Despite his unconformity nature, the people of the town have accepted Oblio. This state changed when Oblio dishonored the son of an evil count. A challenge is set between Oblio and the son whereby Oblio wins. Oblio was punished by been banished from the town to a pointless forest. In the forest, Oblio gained knowledge that everything had a point including him. He, therefore, returns to the town and convinces everyone that everything has a point. He changes people’s thinking and his attitude. According to Berger’s argument, Oblio confirms that humans act according to their knowledge. Oblio was convinced that he was not pointless after he learnt it despite that even before he was not. Therefore, the text “The Point” is a presentation of Berger’s argument.

 “Deciderization 2007: A Special Report” is a report that defines the hunger that humans have towards acquiring knowledge. The report defines that living in the current society requires humans to have a lot of knowledge on the societal aspects. The secondary text states that ‘In sum, to really try to be informed and literate today is to feel stupid nearly all the time, and to need help. That’s about as clearly as I can put it.’ Therefore, the text emphasizes the need for one to have knowledge in order to act accordingly. According to Berger’s argument, the text relates to the argument whereby the hunger of humans to acquire knowledge. As a result, humans are able to act according to what they have learnt. Therefore, “Deciderization 2007: A Special Report” is an interpretation of Berger’s argument.

Leon Wieseltier presents the text on “The Democratic Thinker” that is related to Berger’s argument. “The Democratic Thinker” states that one has to have knowledge on his or her democratic rights so that he or she can react accordingly. The knowledge of the rights and belief that the rights ought to be maintained leads to the aggressive nature of people to make a close follow up on their rights. Similarly, Berger’s argument illustrates that people’s actions are influenced by their knowledge and belief. Therefore, “The Democratic Thinker” is an illustration of Berger’s argument.

 “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is a tale that involves six blind old men who were appreciated in the village. The tale is closely related to Berger’s argument in that the blind men perception on elephants was based on their knowledge on the elephant. The blind men had heard various people comment about the elephant whereby they had varying ideas on the elephant’s nature. Their disagreement about the nature of the elephant led to them deciding that they should visit Rajah’s home place to experience the nature of the elephant. Each of the men touched various body parts and they confirmed what each one of them knew about elephants. This heated up the argument until when Rajah came and told them to join the parts of their ideas, and they will conclude on the true nature of the elephant. This changed their thought of elephants whereby they got one common idea about the nature of an elephant. Therefore, the blind men have created the foundation of the perceptions they had about the elephants. Berger’s argument is well presented in this text whereby after joining the parts of the ideas the blind men had, they were able to see that an elephant is a large creature. Therefore, the tale of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” dictates that Berger’s argument is true through the conclusions made by the blind men. 

 “Harold and Maude” is a film that illustrates characters that are fascinated by the fact of death. Harold is a young man who loves attending funerals. The film is related to Berger’s argument whereby Harold’s perception on death is based on his knowledge about death. He enjoys people being dead to an extent of being a hearse driver. During a stranger’s burial, Harold meets a seventy-nine years old lady who also enjoys funerals. They become close friends up to an extent of Harold proposing to marry Maude. However, Maude takes sleeping pills that result to her death. After Harold learns this, he also attempts to commit murder but he gains knowledge that there is nothing pleasant in death. Harold gains knowledge about miseries of death, and stops fascinating about it. In fact, he starts living a happy life free from fantasies of death. The film illustrates that Harold’s knowledge on death influences his actions. This reaffirms Berger’s argument whereby after Harold learns that death is nothing to enjoy, he changes his trend of visiting funerals. Berger’s argument, therefore, helps to have a clear understanding of the film whereby both Harold’s knowledge and belief on death influences his attitude towards death.

In conclusion, John Berger’s argument from Ways of Seeing helps in close examination of secondary texts. The comparison of the argument with what other authors have presented in their articles and films helps in emphasizing Berger’s message in the arguments. In the text “Education as Maturity”, Berger’s argument helps in illustrating that education helps in influencing the actions of people. In addition, in “Deciderization 2007: A Special Report”, there is a great need found for human beings to acquire knowledge so that they can adapt to their present situations. ‘The Point” gives a practical explanation of Berger’s argument whereby knowledge and belief contribute to people’s attitudes and reactions. Therefore, Berger’s argument is a true argument whereby humans rely on their knowledge and belief in making conclusions.

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