Blind Men, an Elephant, and Its Response

Relativists often cite an old Eastern parable about six blind men who stumble upon an elephant. Yet, it is a parable that, if completed, would not support Relativism, but revelatory truth.

According to the parable, each blind man touches a different part of the elephant. The blind men start to argue with one another about what they have encountered. They can not agree whether they have encountered a pillar, a rope, a tree branch, a fan, a wall, or a solid pipe. Relativists would say that each has a bit of the truth. Each is right; however…

The elephant, being uncomfortable with six blind men groping around it, trumpets aloud. Each blind man immediately hears and understands what it is. The elephant has revealed itself. Each one stumbles back in fear of being gored or trampled by the mighty creature. Each understands that they are at the mercy of something far greater than themselves.


About haroyce

Royce is an aspiring writer of fantasy, history, philosophy, and theology. He earned his BS in History from Cedarville College, and his MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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2 Responses to Blind Men, an Elephant, and Its Response

  1. Great read Royce but I agree to disagree. While an elaborate attempt to refute relativism, the history of the blind men is unknown to begin with. Is it implausible that not all of them would be able to distinguish the sound of an elephant had any of them been born deaf? Surely the sound of the elephant is revelatory, in the same sense me shouting during a game of hide and seek would be revelatory, but the ‘truth’ that it is an elephant is still only a human truth. What it is outside of our perception cannot be ascertained.

    One last question: is the elephant representative of something greater in our world, such as God?
    Because the elephant in the parable is a physical thing, which would be contradictory to your presumed point.

    • haroyce says:

      Good point Pseudonymbill. Some of the blind men could indeed interpret the trumpet to be something other than an elephant. Others could be both blind and deaf, unable to hear the elephant’s warning. They most certainly would have a very bad sense of smell. Yet, the fact of the matter is (in both the original and in my updated version) the elephant does in fact exist. The various interpretations of the blind men do not make the elephant anything else. If none of the blind men recognize said truth, they will all likely be gored or trampled.

      A physical correspondence between the elephant and that which it represents is unnecessary. If one-to-one correspondence was necessary in parables, then the kingdom of God must be some sort of plant since it is like a mustard seed. Remember, this is a parable. The elephant represents absolute truth. The blind men represent all of humanity. They are unable to ascertain absolute truth, but only parts and fragments. The main point of my version of the story is that if truth were to make itself known it can be known. From a theistic point of view, which I hold, absolute truth can be known, because God has revealed Himself both in nature (general revelation), and in His Word (special revelation).

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