4th January 1983
Antagonistic Dualities: Polarization and Paradox
- / -
Part 2 of Development
. Augmented version of a paper
originally prepared for Integrative Working Group B of the Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the Human and Social Development
Programme of the United Nations University (UNU). This document was originally
distributed as a separate monograph in 1983. The paper provides a structure
linking reviews of alternation as it emerges in studies from a wide range of
sources. The paper is in 9 separate parts
[searchable PDF version
2.1. Oppositional logic
The philosopher Stephane Lupasco has explored the nature of antagonistic
dualities (147). He shows that knowing is intimately associated with such
duality and takes place by actualizing one of the terms of the duality and
virtualizing the contradictory one. In this way only a monism is knowable,
especially in science, even though it is the dualism which is the "motor"
for this process. That by which we know illuminates a contradictory order
whose contradictory nature is not apparent. In this way the proper object
of scientific knowledge can only be extension - affirmation, permanence,
conservation, and identity. The knowledge is brought about by the negation
of intensity - which is forced out of the cognitive domain (147, p.
"Devant un champ conscientiel et cognitif de plus en plus riche d'identites
exteriorisees, tout ce qui releve de la negation sera rapporte au sujet connaissant,
lequel se connait de moins en moins au fur et a mesure qu'il connait davantage,
puisque precisement il n'apercoit plus que ce sur quoi il opere, que ce
qu'il refoule, nie." (147, p. 15)
For Lupasco all human cognitive and practical efforts oscillate between
extension and intensity:
"De par leur contradiction dynamique constitutive, il y aura toujours
conflit et tentative...de suppression de ce conflit, et, done, choix de 1'un
au detriment de 1'autre, alternativement" (1 47, p. 1 7, emphasis
For the human being, extension is that which one knows more than one feels,
whereas intensity is that which one feels more than one knows (147, p. 22).
The characteristics of each (147, p. 30) recall recent work on right and left
hemispheres of the brain (discussed below).
For Lupasco any emergent third perspective can itself be resolved into mutually
contradictory terms involving an oscillation between identity and non-identity.
This "prison" is the essence of our knowledge (1 47, p. 61) although:
"L'esprit humain fuit ce qui lui est revele le plus infailliblement,
1'opposition pure, 1'oscillation continuelle des contraires" (147, p.
Although his exploration is very valuable in understanding how energy is
engendered by such dualities, it is less useful in understanding how such
energy is to be contained in support of human and social development.
Another philosopher, Archie Bahm, has studied the many characteristics of
polarity as a basis for ordering constrasting theories (148). For him, polarity
involves at least three general categories which he discusses in detail.
These are: oppositeness; complementarity (involving subcategories
of supplementary, interdependence, dimension and reciprocity); and tension
(involving subcategories of tendency, extra-tension, duo-tension, con-tension,
dimensional tension, inter-level tension, polari-tension, rever-tension, rhythmi-tension,
He starts by distinguishing four emphases with which general types of theory
(or "answers") may be associated:
(a) "One-pole-ism", indicating emphasis upon the priority
of one of the poles
(b) "Other-pole-ism", indicating emphasis upon the priority
of the other pole in constituting the polarity
(c) "Dualism", indicating preference for the independence
of the two poles
(d) "Aspectism", indicating the priority of the (shared)
dimension relative to the poles.
For each of these Bahm then identifies more specific types for which he gives
examples from philosophy. In each case he distinguishes between "extreme",
"modified" and "middle" emphases. Combined these constitute
a set of 12 categories which provide him with the framework for his own "answer",
organicism, in the form of "a theory about the nature of polarity but
also about theories of polarity." (148, p. 47)
Organicism is the theory that polarity consists in something "which
is not wholly describable" but such that there is in it some basis for
the positive claims made by each of the 12 preceding theories. Unfortunately,
this creates the impression it is somehow an appropriate compromise between
the 1 2 at some "dead centre". In fact Bahm specifically warns
against this interpretation: "One needs an oscilloscope to depict the
dynamic movements of the ways in which things, and the polar categories of
things, exist; to stop at the center is to destroy movement, and thus, existing
and existence." ( 148, p. 277). He does not explore the nature of this
Nevertheless, just as Lupasco stresses the dynamics between categories, Bahrn
seems to stress the static structural and non-contradictory relations between
categories. In effect the two studies represent complementary approaches.
Additional elements, interrelating such approaches, are required for an ordered
response to the dramatic nature of the conflict between answer domains.
2.3. Paradoxes and antinomies
Another approach to the logical discontinuity between answer domains is through
the study of paradoxes. For Solomon Marcus: "Paradoxes occur when
two different levels of knowledge, of language, of communication, of reality,
of human behaviour, etc. are seen as one level, are mixed, are superposed,
are combined, or are confused." (149) He gives 18 pairs of levels
which demonstrate a variety of paradoxes of which some are well-known to specialists.
To clarify the semiotic difficulties involved, Marcus groups them into four
(a) Semiparadox: A against B, but not necessarily
B against A (e.g. "Mary gave birth to a child and got married")
(b) Paradox: A against B, and B against A.
If "against" is a logical negation, for example, this results in
a logical paradox (e.g. when something is simultaneously good and bad)
(c) Semiantinomy: A against B, and A for B,
where "for" is a binary relation which is inverse with respect to
the relation "against" (e.g. the well-known claim of Epimenides
the Cretan that "All Cretans are always liars")
(d) Antinomy: where (A, B) and (B, A) are both semiantiomies,
such that the first term of a dichotomy both opposes and needs the second
term, with the terms attracting and rejecting each other.
Marcus and Tataram have applied these distinctions in the analysis of 60
interacting global trends noted by the Goals, Processes and Indicators of
Development Project (150). They argue:
"When dealing with the contemporary world, a basic step is to learn
how to progress from a descriptive to an evaluative analysis, from what is
directly perceived to what is scientifically understood, although such an
understanding may sometimes surprise the intuitive perception....Many such
trends are organized in opposite pairs, but their contradictory nature is
much more richer and perfidious than what these binary oppositions reflect."
Of special interest with respect to the later arguments of this paper is
the manner in which they show that antinomic relations emerge when semiparadoxical
and paradoxical pairs of trends are associated as cyclic sequences of trends.
Although they do not explore this feature explicitly in their analysis of
an influence-trends matrix, it highlights an essential feature of the dynamic
associated with paradox. It is especially valuable, given the implications
for comprehension, that they have related this cyclic process to development
The difficulty with any such approach is that the very logic of the method
employed disguises the full force of the paradox and of the hiatus it engenders
in any univocal communication. It effectively prevents the insertion of
the engendering elements into the same framework, unless they are denatured
and converted into symbolic entities, as in the case of the Marcus initiative.