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Many references are made to the problematic consequences of binary logic, polarized thinking, duality and the like. These have been epitomized by the statement of the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell immediately after 9/11:
It's binary -- yes or no. You either respond to this crisis, this tragedy, this horrible thing that was perpetrated by perhaps al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden. And all, all the indications point in that direction. You either respond and rip them up, help us rip them up, get rid of them, or you will suffer consequences. (CNN Interview on Anti-Terrorism Campaign, 16 September 2001)
But the instances and limitations of binary logic are far more subtle, pervasive and insidious than the "with us or against us" attitude promoted by American foreign policy.
The purpose in what follows is to clarify the range of domains in which it may have unforeseen and powerful consequences. The question is then raised regarding the possibilities cultivated in other cultures of other logical modes -- and of how these might reframe many blocked situations currently faced at the global, regional, national, community and individual levels.
In Table 1, a selection of examples of polarities driving psyochosocial dynamics is presented -- in terms of what may be considered potentially "less attractive" and "potentially more attractive". Any "progress" may then be understood as being from the former to the latter. The examples are purely indicative as a prelude to a more systematic discussion. The fundamental importance of the conventional contexts in which such attractiveness is framed are also indicated for such polarities.
However, in the right-hand column is indicated the kinds of "unconventional" attitude that typically undermines the binary simplicity of the polarization. This may notably emerge as a result of the limitations and experience of what is otherwise considered conventionally attractive. This has been exemplified by desires to "leave the rat-race" -- just as others are seeking desperately to enter it.
|Counter-intuitive (unconventional) insight|
|Consensus||"Against us"||"With us"||Response to terrorism; engagement in virtual wars (drugs, etc)||As indicated by the ambiguity of the response of those unsupportive of the Coalition|
|Disagree, Dissent, Dissentors||Agree, Consentor*** Consensus, tor||Fundamental to mobilizing support for any initiative; agreement may be a basic requirement of many belief systems, with dissent justifying extreme actions||Appreciation of disagreement as a source of variety and new thinking; concern about consequences of "yes-men" and "groupthink"|
|Interaction||Loser||Winner||Fundamental to interactions in business, in sport and in argument||Recognition of the problematic outcomes of winning in every situation, and notably with the disadvantaged; appreciation of the learnings from losing|
|Wealth, Rich, Haves, Privileged||Fundamental to assessment of "others" and framing the response to them, even to the point of marginalizing them; poverty may be held to be the ultimate explanation for alienation and may be held to justify any action to remedy that condition||Justifications for leaving the "rat race"; appreciation of simpler lifestyles; efforts by traditional cultures to preserve their lifesyle; questionable correlation between "wealth", "well-being" and "happiness"|
|Fundamental to the range of conflicts over territory and ownership of resources and, by extension, to cultural property and its symbolic implications for a people||Understandings vainly expressed by indigenous peoples regarding their "non-ownership" of the land on which they have lived for generations. Recognition of obligations of stewardship of the land for future generations|
|Status||Disrespect, Dishonour||Respect, Honour||Fundamental driver within any community; its absence may be held to be a basic justification for violence||Recognition of the inappropriateness of some attributions of honour and respect; recognition of importance of self-esteem|
|Fundamental to the dynamics of any group with those weakest subject to various forms of exploitation and marginalization||Recognition of typical abuse of power and the neglected values represented by some minorty or marginalized perspectives|
|Typical of conventional politics||Recognition by the electorate of the limitations of either, or both, reinforcing political apathy|
|"Alternative"||"Mainstream"||Typical of opposition to conventional politics||**|
|Knowledge||Stupid, Ignorant, Uneducated||Intelligent, Informed, Educated||Fundamental explanation for the appropriateness of behaviour in response to circumstances; typically a justification for the marginalization and exploition of the least knowledgeable||Recognition of the inadequacies of what may be held to be knowledgeable, and the value that mayu be fruitfully associated with ignorance and lack of "culture"|
|Fundamental to the dynamics between practitioners and theoreticians of any kind -- each lacking consideration for the other||Recognition of the limitations of each and the advantages of the other|
|Fundamental to the search for stimulation and relationship||Recognition of the limitations of excitement and the exotic --and the value of the ordinary and mundane, especially in human relationships|
|Behaviour||Abnormal, Extremist||Normal||Fundamental to the processes experienced as problematic within any community and triggering measures to ensure cessation of extremist behaviour||Recognition, especially by the arts and the media, of the attractiveness of unusual and inhabitual behaviour|
|Fundamental to the historical dynamic of the Enlightenment, to that between evidence- and faith-based reality, and to both religious and scientific fundamentalism||Recognition of the limits of absolutism, the justification for a variety of beliefs and the challenge of any development in individual or collective understanding|
|Fundamental to the evaluation of people and circumstances -- even to the daily distinction between "bad" and "good weather". May be a basic justification for condemnation and violence||Recognition, notably in the arts, of the limitations associated with conventional understandings of "spiritual", "moral" and "good" (and their manipulation); recognition of more essential values underlying that which is conventionally condemned. The cybenetic requirments for positive and negative are especially relevant.|
It is a characteristic of binary logic that there is a degree of conflation between all the "less attractive" conditions and between all the "more attractive" conditions in the above table.
Whilst polarities such as those indicated in Table 1 are well-recognized as drivers -- towards "attractors" and away from "repulsors" -- their limitations (in the right-hand column) are less widely recognized, and usually only outside any conventional framework. It is the dynamics associated with such unconventional, non-binary, processes which are an experiential reality for many and are the focus of discussion in the next section. Readers may choose to skip the more systematic presentation of polarities that follows, recognizing that the challenge is to elicit the non-binary dynamics. An effort was made in this direction in the original exercise, where aphorisms were cited as a source of wisdom -- popular and otherwise -- in this respect.
The domains in which problematic consequences are likely to follow from restrictive use of binary logic may be identified more systemaically by exploring the set of polarized values. This was done, for different purposes in a previous exercise, within the framework of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.
In that exercise, value polarities were identified
(Section VP) in terms of the relationship between "constructive" and "destructive
values". Table 2 is a modified version of the presentation of those
value polarities -- ordered here in terms of the number of cross-references
to constructive and destructive "value-loaded"
words (Sections VC and VD) -- as systematically identified by selection from
a standard thesaurus. Low order polarities have been omitted here. Polarity
names are only indicative. These words have been used as a basis for relating
values to world
problems (destructive values) and organizational strategies (constructive
values) in the Encyclopedia of
World Problems and Human Potential. These polarities are subsequently
clustered below by "value
type" in Table 3, partiuclarly since the order in Table 1 is no indication
of the importance attached to the dimension indicated by the value
|Table 2: Value Polarities||Number of value-loaded words (in English)|
| (indicative names for
The above value polarities were tentatively clustered as follows in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. Cluster type names are only indicative.
|.||FOCUS IN CONTEXT||CERTAINTY||INTRINSIC CONSTRAINT||NECESSITY||EXTERNAL CONSTRAINT|
Table 1 suggests a variety of settings in which current psychosocial dynamics reinforce binary logic and preclude more complex understandings. Obvious examples include:
The radically threatening implications of binary logic are exemplified in the statement made by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan regarding a threat allegedly made by former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage -- immediately after 9/11 -- to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda. (US 'threatened to bomb' Pakistan, BBC, 22 September 2006). In the interplay of binary logic, it is to be expected that claims could be as true as they are denied to be with no other possibilities to capture the reality of the situation..
It is appropriate to note a number of approaches to moving beyond the absolutism of binary logic:
Does not capture or engage with the reality that is widely experienced
It may be argued that the limitations of binary logic are adequately circumvented by using a multiplicty of polarizations, of which the above tables present many examples. However, fundamentally these are grounded on binary logic and specifically exclude more complex approaches. Given the chaos of the times -- and the exceptional violence of the past century -- "adequately" may not be an appropriate assessment.
Elsewhere (****) the possibility of configuring a set of polarizations was explored -- notably as a means of generating structures analogous to the tensegrity structures well-known to architects. A strong case for this possibility in relation to psychosocial structures was made by management cybernetician Stafford Beer (Beyond Dispute ****).
It is however important to address the challenge resulting from the conflation of attitudes to any polarized situation in terms of binary logic. One end of the "pole" is typically framed as "positive" (and desirable) and the other as "negative" (and undesirable). Although many two-ended "poles" have been basic to habitats construction for millenia, constructing a "house" (whether affective, intellectual or spiritual) with one or more "poles" is inconceivable -- if "bad spirits" are associated with one end of the "pole" and "good spirits" are associated with the other. This is the current situation if any set of the above polarities were to be used in the construction of any form of psychosocial dwelling. It is as ridiculous to hope to construct such a dwelling with "monopoles" as it is to strip out the "negative" wire from a system of electrical wiring in a building -- a challenge explored elsewhwere (***)..
As noted, the Cartesian coordinate system, on which "progress" is typically represented, does imply other conditions -- associated with the negative portions of the two axes. Much use is made of descriptive 4-quadrant models (by academics and management consultants), whether associated with such coordinate axes or not. A set of such models is presented elsewhere (xxxx monster)in Table x
Of special interest however are the situations where attention is specifically given to the importance of movement between the quadrants or a sense of how their respective conditions come into play in a larger system. But a distinction can then usefully be made between:
The concern in what follows is with the third situation. This is typical of the very well understood thermodynamics of "work cycles" fundamental to engines of every kind -- and originally explored in relation to steam engines.
monocycle, 3-wheels, 4-wheels
engaging with nature and with human nature
weather -- whether
not just economic -- a different style -- probably more meaningful to indigenous communities
West has managed 1st gear only -- does not understand cruise mode
music intuitive -- Attali -- in the round
representation / indications: how they are made and represernted attribution of significance: how significance is attached to them -- adequacy of fit
-- explanation and superstition -- does it work
patterns: what patterns are thereby detected
correspondences: what correspondences give rise to attribution of higher significance
laying down connectivity in walking
aesthetic / harmonious / sympathetic magic
eats explanations / beliefs -- "commitment" / "acquisition"
helicopter (psychopter) style of counter-intuitive adjustment via joystick
Feynman diags -- games people play
On some neglected paradoxes of modern logic Schmidt, M.F. Dept. of Philos., San Jose State Univ., CA; This paper appears in: Multiple-Valued Logic, 1990., Proceedings of the Twentieth International Symposium on Publication Date: 23-25 May 1990 On pp. 211-219 Meeting Date: 05/23/1990 - 05/25/1990 Location: Charlotte, NC, USA ISBN: 0-8186-2046-3 Abstract A four-valued truth-functional logic is presented. Among the specific features of the logic is a similarity to PROLOG and also to intuitionism. The logic is machine hardware representable by means of greater and lesser voltages or by means of a two-wire scheme. Without sacrificing truth functionality, without introducing modal operators, without making relevance a precondition for reasoning, without any gimmicks of unorthodoxies, and without any untoward consequences, one can avoid various paradoxes of standard logic. The initial focus is on two paradoxes. The first is that denying a conditional statement implies affirming its antecedent. The second is that ~[p〈=〉q] implies [p x-or q], and that ~[p x-or q] implies [p〈=〉q]. The author shows that the first paradox can be avoided. Then, he develops several different varieties of equivalence and mutual exclusivity, and dispel the second paradox. Finally he considers some new issues, focusing on whether or not [~(p=〉q) and (r=〉q)] implies [~r]. This proposition is a theorem both of standard logic and of his own system. Consequently, his main aim is to show that this proposition is unobjectionable http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=122623
Review of the Range of Virtual Wars a strategic comparison with the global war against terrorism, 2005 [text]
 Veloping: the art of sustaining significance (10k)
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