Anatol Rapoport on Common Experience

The following ancient anecdote is probably of Indian origin:

A blind man asked someone to explain the meaning of “white.”
“White is a color,“ he was told, ”as, for example, white snow.“
“I understand,” said the blind man. “It is a cold and damp color.”
“No, it doesn’t have to be cold and damp. Forget about snow. Paper, for instance, is white.”
“So it rustles?” asked the blind man.
“No, indeed, it need not rustle. It is like the fur of an albino rabbit.”
“A soft, fluffy color?” the blind man wanted to know.
“It need not be soft either. Porcelain is white, too.”
“Perhaps it is a brittle color, then,” said the blind man.

This story goes to the core of the matter. It illustrates the impossibility of communication between two people who have not shared a common experience.

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