Mistaking the Map for the Territory


The “Mistaking the Map for the Territory” fallacy is due to the mistaken belief that a symbol or model is actually the same as the reality that it represents or that one’s measurements are exactly the same as the thing that one measures. The fallacy also applies to misrepresentation or misinterpretation of the words and phrases used to describe something, which leads people to believe incorrect things about whatever is being described.

As an artist, what this specifically translates to for me is mistaking a tool for the art itself.  In my own personal experience, the more technologically sophisticated the tool is, the more easily and likely this can and will happen.

In my description of my studio on this website, I talk about the dangers of “toolcentricity” for artists.  What I missed entirely in that discourse was this – your tools are not your artwork.

This has been a painfully slow realization for me in certain aspects of my creativity and brings to mind two of my favorite conceptual ideas –

The first from Ursula Le Guin’s book, A Wizard of Earthsea, referred to by some as “The Rule of Names” posits that: “Knowing the correct name for something gives you power over it.”

The second from modern-day Philosopher, Sam Keen, “There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.”

I am so grateful for the clarity of mind and internal awareness I have been experiencing lately.  And to think it all began almost a month ago when I simply turned off the news and stopped scrolling through social media feeds.

So, Happy Saturday! Here’s a trip you can take without leaving home – Viewer Discretion is Advised. This may not be appropriate for people sensitive to rapidly moving shapes or flashing lights.

Until next time …