The ubiquitous dichotomy

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The ubiquitous dichotomy

The universal dichotomy has helped Western civilization develop. No doubt about that. It's also hindered its development. It's time that we grew up and understood that the dialectic is only one possible framework. The world is not just divided into binary opposites. A contradiction might reveal more options, rather than closing the discussion.

The certainty that either x is the case, or not x, informs the ruthless logic of many things, including 'He, who is not with me, is against me'. It is simply not true. We may be for something, or somebody, in some respects and against them in others. This is an everyday truism.

The adherence to the excluded middle, as a fact, rather than a convenient axiom, leads to this sort of binary logic. Excellent logic for conquerors, or other psychopaths, it helps manufacture consent, as Chomsky puts it. The exclusion of the intermediate, the grey areas, is a feature of fascism too. The 'riff-raff' have to be kept of the street to keep 'decent people' safe - but there is no such thing as 'decent people' and no such thing as 'riff-raff' - we are all humans, treading the same path through the world, between birth and death. Some are more, some less, honest or virtuous, or sane - but the binary division of people into 'law abiding' vs 'criminal' or 'sane' vs 'insane' or any of the manifold dichotomies favoured in 'western thinking' is wrong, inaccurate, unjust.

Dialethism is only a point of logic, but, in undermining the ubiquitous dichotomy, it enables people to grasp reality more closely and understand that the shades in-between matter, particularly in understanding other people - and the greater reality.

Robert Frost was meaning to be inspirational with his contribution to the ubiquitous dichotomy: " ... Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—. I took the one less traveled by, ... "

The thought should be; 'Roads?.. Roads, Robert?.. We should be making our own way through the woods, but following somebody else's road?'

The other thought that comes to the dialetheist is - 'two roads'? Why only two? Isn't the walk through the woods, or going back the way you came also an option? Isn't deciding to stay where you are an option? Might not the road more travelled lead to another, more valuable, fork later on, where the decision to take the road less travelled makes more sense?

The more you think about it, the less sense the dichotomy makes and the more valuable it becomes to understand all the options, even those that appear not to fit the p or not p model.

A poor, but compelling argument for dialethism

We accept dialethia every day. We see so many thing as being neither true, nor not true, but both, that we hardly see that we see the world that way.

In fact, for most of us, it requires a formal course in logic to see the 'error' of our ways.

We have evolved to be highly successful creatures. Our mental apparatus is finely tuned to the business of understanding the world, particularly the world we find ourselves in.

That is a world filled with intelligent, competitive, collaborative, aggressive and peaceful creatures, just like ourselves. A very complex world to navigate unless we are, as we are, evolved as part of the evolutionary race to adapt to precisely this situation.

So, if there is a common error of thought that we all share, then that error is more likely to have adaptive significance than to be irrelevant, an epiphenomenon or something that renders us less competitive.

The question isn't, really, why we find it difficult to understand dialethism - after all, despite having a brain that makes complex mathematical calculations every second, we, ourselves, as conscious beings, tend to be very bad at simple arithmetic. The question is, rather, why we find it so easy to be convinced of the rationality of the 'law of the excluded middle'. Part of it must be the argument from authority, because we're certainly prey to that. However, that would not be enough to explain the ubiquity of the belief, because not all authorities are working so hard to exclude the unexcluded middle.

It is, I think, rather, that we, being Westerners, find the universal dichotomy attractive. We'd like to believe that the world is just black & white, we don't like the gray, because we're lazy and disinclined to thought.

That's why dialetheism causes such unexpected and strong rejection. Those who reject it do it because, though they don't understand all the implications, they can feel that it's an attack on certitude.