What Is the Point of the Story “The Blind Men and the Elephant”?

According to All About Philosophy, the East Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant teaches a lesson about how one person’s view of an ultimate truth may not encompass the whole story. Each of the blind men is able to discover something about the elephant through touch, but none are able to determine the animal’s complete nature.

The parable of the blind men and the elephant is commonly used to illustrate the value of religious tolerance. In this view, the elephant represents God, and each of the blind men is a different religion trying to understand God. Each thinks he has the whole picture and insists the others are wrong, while the truth is, all of them understand only a part of the greater picture.

In a more secular sense, the story teaches a lesson about understanding the limits of one’s own point of view. If someone bases his understanding of truth solely on his own experiences, he may encounter another person with a contradictory but equally valid opinion due to the other person’s different path through life. Understanding that those differences exist and being able to consider the world from someone else’s viewpoint is an important part of developing tolerance.