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Should We Give All "Binaries" the Boot?

charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/19/2011 9:14:07 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
In recent times post-structuralist and deconstructionist thinkers have made a critical case against what they call "binaries", against thinking in terms of various dichotomies and opposing principles. And of course most "New Agers" seem to prefer a thoroughly "non-dualistic" philosophy of being. For both of these groups the whole concept of opposing principles of any kind, of "binaries", is anathema. However, there's another metaphysical viewpoint that doesn't at all hearken back to simpleminded black and white thinking. I mean the view that reality is a creatively interdependent gestalt, a gestalt whose creative interdependence includes the complementary relationship and interplay of opposites, the yin-yanging of different manifestations of creative reality. That is, according to this view reality is relational, and sometime this shapes up to mean antithetical principles relating in an oppositional manner. It can even mean black playing off against white, good against evil, truth against falsity, and all of the seemingly cliché and crude "binaries" that modern philosophers proudly look down on. No, "binaries" are not absolutes, but they do play an essential part in the relational modus operandi of existence.

This is all to say that the conflict and counterpointing of contrary values, energies, and actualities is not ruled out by the holism and harmony of the universe; rather, it's one of the ways that everything integrates into the grand integrity of Creation. It's one of the fundamental ways in which the unitive creative process of reality expresses and perpetuates itself. "Mutual origination", as the Buddhists call it, and growth takes place in part through conflict!

Well, without some conflict to spice it up the synergy of existence could become somewhat stagnant. The ole space-time continuum is ever expanding with divine artistic production, with goodness and glory precisely because heterogeneous, not just homogenous impulses factor into its metamorphosing mix. We need to remember that just as manmade art comes out of struggle, so too does the artistry and exquisiteness of the earth we reside on and the heavens above – and there's no struggle without contending and antithetical dynamics. Cosmic beauty, we find, requires a certain amount of dualistic dynamism.

And the world is manifestly a work of beauty, always in progress – the constant elegant combining and recombining of its elements, its forces and particles, its intentions, "information", and ingredients into the purposeful yet freestyle aesthetic self-expression of Transcendence. But, because of this, because of the inherent creative spontaneity of this kaleidoscopic algorithm of change a certain degree of what modern science calls "chaos" is introduced into the equation of eternity. And it's in the chaos that yin and yang can and do come crashing into each other – a dialectical dynamic that produces transformation, and eventually a new synthesis from every yin-yang interaction. The conflict of opposites, it turns out, is just a way that everything forms into the unity of reality.

Chaos, conflict, and cacophony, then, are actually an aspect of the cosmic big picture's greater harmony and evolution. The postmodern intellectuals who assert that we human beings think in terms of clashing opposites merely because we have a simpleminded tendency to reduce everything to black & white categories are quite mistaken, there's more to it than that. Within the oneness of life and existence there really is darkness and light, good and evil, feminine and masculine, joy and pain, and so on. No, these contrasting qualities are not total figments of our dull-wittedly dualistic minds, they crucially help prevent the undividedness of nature from becoming sterile uniformity. Battling and blending binaries help keep the solidarity of being creatively kinetic. There's really no such thing as "being", after all; there's only the ever changing materialization of becoming, which takes place through the conjunction, and sometimes the hostile conjunction, so to speak, of reality's intrinsic potentialities.

How then has it come to pass that seeing life from a "binary" perspective is in disrepute? Well, like most things, binary thinking has its hazards. It can lead people into the error of simplistic ideas and ideologies; it can lead people into the ego-boosting temptation to see themselves as being 100% on the "good" side of the good vs. evil dichotomy, resulting in spiritually ugly attitudes of self-righteousness, infallibility, judgmentalism, intolerance, and absolutism; and it can erase the gray buffer areas in people's worldview to the extreme extent that they can too easily lurch from extreme to extreme, becoming hardliners and fanatics. History teaches that people indeed succumb to these moral hazards all too easily and all too often, with cruel and deadly effects. This has come to dawn on many folks over the course of the last century and has disgraced the very notion of duality.

Of course many mystically-inclined individuals likewise reject the idea of duality, not only for the above reasons, but because they have the metaphysical misconception that duality is incompatible with the transcendental insight that reality is one. The organic unity of the universe, however, is an e pluribus unum proposition, from the many comes to light one – the infinite diversity of reality's creative potential is ceaselessly orchestrating itself into a splendorous symphony, reflecting the ultimate singularity of mystery that grounds the outwardly pluralistic material world. In other words, oneness and manyness, unity and duality are not at all mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite is the case!

The challenge is to remain mindful of the way differences and dualities witness to and advance the underlying affinities, bonds, and integralities that come up from and return into existence's unio mystica. The paradox of how variety and duality stem from and in turn affirm the non-separateness of everything is the ultimate Zen koan, as it were. Contemplating this cosmological conundrum with diligence is a spiritual discipline in and of itself. Of course, as is the case with reaching the resolution of any koan, one does so not by intellectually hammering out a logical, scientific answer to the problem, but rather by coming to peace with it; coming to the realization that resistance to its paradoxicality is futile; by letting go of the obsession with making a square rationalistic peg fit into a round spiritual hole.

Unfortunately though, not everyone can see their way clear to making their discursive mind reign in its obsessive-compulsive efforts to run roughshod over our human intuition, and so many of us never come to that mentally peaceful place where we're able to fully avail ourselves of the inner depth perception that would allow us to see straight through logical puzzlements such as that of duality & unity being merely different sides of the same coin. We remain caught up in perplexity, and eventually let our minds wander back to more mundane and monetary interests. All we get out of our philosophical musings on the universe's "binaries" is a headache, when they could very well be the entrée to a higher plane of understanding.

But we shouldn't despair, the seeming polarization of reality into irreconcilable ambiguities and fundamental antinomies , into binaries and dualities galore, needn't stump our capacity for enlightenment, we need only grasp the true nature of our philosophic dilemma and take the noetic leap from prosaic common sense and literalistic logic into the numinous center of awareness and truth we all have within.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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5/19/2011 10:15:33 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Oh god, who told him that philosophy exists.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Rob1_Billion
Posts: 1,300
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5/19/2011 10:35:13 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/19/2011 10:15:33 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
Oh god, who told him that philosophy exists.

inb4 8,000 character rebuttal from Charles
kfc
Rob1_Billion
Posts: 1,300
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5/19/2011 10:41:49 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Charles I tried twice and couldn't get through it. My attention span was tested by the flickering of a shadow and I could not recover it. Could you summarize your point? It sounded like there was something interesting in there, although it didn't have anything to do with kaliedoscopic metamorphosis of caucophony. Are you saying that we tend to make things into dichotomies too much? So, like, if Ragnar's a capitalist and I'm an anti-capitalist, perhaps we should think outside that box? What is the practical application of this?
kfc
Grape
Posts: 989
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5/19/2011 11:21:39 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
That is actually interesting, though it has not persuaded me to change my position on the issue. As usual your essay is long with verbosity rather than long with substance. It is consequently difficult for most people to read and generally does not warrant the effort.
Grape
Posts: 989
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5/19/2011 11:26:24 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/19/2011 10:41:49 PM, Rob1_Billion wrote:
Charles I tried twice and couldn't get through it. My attention span was tested by the flickering of a shadow and I could not recover it. Could you summarize your point? It sounded like there was something interesting in there, although it didn't have anything to do with kaliedoscopic metamorphosis of caucophony. Are you saying that we tend to make things into dichotomies too much? So, like, if Ragnar's a capitalist and I'm an anti-capitalist, perhaps we should think outside that box? What is the practical application of this?

He is actually defending the idea of making things into dichotomies, but not for the traditional reasons. I would have to give it a more thorough reading, but I believe he is suggesting that such dichotomies play a role in the underlying creative force that he proposes has some role in the universe. I tend to be skeptical of this whole kind of philosophy as blank assertion that almost begs you to draw your own conclusions from it, which is fine for creative work but against my intuition as a result of my having read so much economics, analytic philosophy, and other subjects where the ideas are usually plainly spelled out.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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5/19/2011 11:28:48 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Quick, someone tell him that Logic and Succinctness exist.

Or at least finding some sort of evidence for his claims.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Thaddeus
Posts: 6,985
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5/20/2011 5:00:01 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I read it all. Some interesting points I'm not sure whether I agree. I believe that dichotomies certainly exist, but not all things typically perceived to be dichotomies are necessarily dichotomies.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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5/20/2011 7:12:44 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
If I've understood you correctly, I agree with your sentiment about conflict being an integral and enriching component of existence; however, this is an attitude that I posit as an entirely subjective aesthetic judgment, rather than as a metaphysical judgment about the nature of existence qua existence. I echo the criticism I brought up in our previous dialogue: that you seem to be excessively personifying and romanticizing the universe--perhaps existence in its own right--which in turn leads you to wrongly classify a subjective aesthetic judgment as some kind of transcendental truth.

I should wonder though, Charles--with all of the talk of Zen koans and the emphasis on what I take to, in some ways, be a unitary metaphysics (which uses duality and conflict to emphasize universal oneness), are you trying to integrate Buddhist metaphysics into your conception of existence and its categories, or are you simply using those to draw an analogy? You clearly have Buddhist influences, but I'm curious as to the degree of influence.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/20/2011 4:55:02 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/20/2011 5:00:01 AM, Thaddeus wrote:
I read it all. Some interesting points I'm not sure whether I agree. I believe that dichotomies certainly exist, but not all things typically perceived to be dichotomies are necessarily dichotomies.

Thank you for your reply. I agree with you that not all binaries are always legitimate templates for our thinking, and that dualistic thinking is not always and in every instance the apropos way of perceiving a problem or situation. I'm not an absolutist and recognize that in addition to dichotomous binaries reality also includes its gray zones, ethically, spiritually, socially, politically, etc.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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5/20/2011 5:34:57 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/20/2011 7:12:44 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If I've understood you correctly, I agree with your sentiment about conflict being an integral and enriching component of existence;

Yes, your understanding is precisely correct, my view is that conflict is, as you say, "an integral and enriching component of existence"

however, this is an attitude that I posit as an entirely subjective aesthetic judgment, rather than as a metaphysical judgment about the nature of existence qua existence. I echo the criticism I brought up in our previous dialogue: that you seem to be excessively personifying and romanticizing the universe--perhaps existence in its own right--which in turn leads you to wrongly classify a subjective aesthetic judgment as some kind of transcendental truth.

Yes, I realize that this criticism is bound to come the way of anyone espousing the sort of teleological ontology that I subscribe to. It's not a criticism unique to people committed to logic, such as yourself, nor to nihilists, atheistic existentialists, materialists, and relativists. Rather, it's the natural intellectual reaction of and is common to modern minds that have imbibed the scientistic worldview, according to which reality is devoid of purposefulness & values and to think otherwise is fancifully subjective. But then just as folks with the scientistic mind-set staunchly reject my ontology as a pack of teleological and mystical whimsies that I lack "hard" proof to support, so too do I and others, including eminently logical and tough minds such as Anthony Flew (I suggest that you give his book There is a God a read), reject the too-often unchallenged notion that science has proven the materialistic view of reality, and that logic demands we concede this. Well, I suppose what I'm doing is a bit of tit for tat, I'm essentially saying that the supposed evidence of folks of the anti-teleological point of view are just a collection of biased interpretations of data and assumptions. Neither of us has the kind of absolute evidence that can really convince a tenaciously resistant mind. That is, we're more on a level than you might wish to concede.

I should wonder though, Charles--with all of the talk of Zen koans and the emphasis on what I take to, in some ways, be a unitary metaphysics (which uses duality and conflict to emphasize universal oneness), are you trying to integrate Buddhist metaphysics into your conception of existence and its categories, or are you simply using those to draw an analogy? You clearly have Buddhist influences, but I'm curious as to the degree of influence.

No, I'm not mixing Buddhist doctrines into a syncretistic personal philosophy, rather I find certain Buddhist doctrines to be sufficiently compatible and serviceable, and since they're quite familiar to many people nowadays, I will sometimes utilize them to explain my ideas. A greater influence on my thinking, vis–à–vis the intrinsic nature of values in reality, would be the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (I would also suggest that you read his classic Process and Reality – reading my writing will seem like a cakewalk in comparison).

Thanks again for an intelligent reply.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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5/20/2011 7:54:42 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/20/2011 5:34:57 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 5/20/2011 7:12:44 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If I've understood you correctly, I agree with your sentiment about conflict being an integral and enriching component of existence;

Yes, your understanding is precisely correct, my view is that conflict is, as you say, "an integral and enriching component of existence"

however, this is an attitude that I posit as an entirely subjective aesthetic judgment, rather than as a metaphysical judgment about the nature of existence qua existence. I echo the criticism I brought up in our previous dialogue: that you seem to be excessively personifying and romanticizing the universe--perhaps existence in its own right--which in turn leads you to wrongly classify a subjective aesthetic judgment as some kind of transcendental truth.

Yes, I realize that this criticism is bound to come the way of anyone espousing the sort of teleological ontology that I subscribe to. It's not a criticism unique to people committed to logic, such as yourself, nor to nihilists, atheistic existentialists, materialists, and relativists. Rather, it's the natural intellectual reaction of and is common to modern minds that have imbibed the scientistic worldview, according to which reality is devoid of purposefulness & values and to think otherwise is fancifully subjective. But then just as folks with the scientistic mind-set staunchly reject my ontology as a pack of teleological and mystical whimsies that I lack "hard" proof to support, so too do I and others, including eminently logical and tough minds such as Anthony Flew (I suggest that you give his book There is a God a read), reject the too-often unchallenged notion that science has proven the materialistic view of reality, and that logic demands we concede this. Well, I suppose what I'm doing is a bit of tit for tat, I'm essentially saying that the supposed evidence of folks of the anti-teleological point of view are just a collection of biased interpretations of data and assumptions. Neither of us has the kind of absolute evidence that can really convince a tenaciously resistant mind. That is, we're more on a level than you might wish to concede.

The way I see it, we have competing metaphysical theories. On the one hand, I subscribe to a worldview based on logical justification and fairly stringent empirical standards (more in the case of the natural sciences, at let). On the other hand, you subscribe to a teleological metaphysics which not only seeks to make descriptive claims about existence, but also seeks to attach a sense of purpose that organizes those descriptive statements into something which you, at least, find more palatable.

We can argue back and forth about our different theories, but, at some point, we end up simply talking past one another. I think the question is which theory makes more sense. Theories, at least in the sense we're talking of them, are just ways of interpreting data which would otherwise be meaningless. By excluding your theory even partially from the realm of the logical, however, it becomes impossible to verify, and therefore suspicious when posited as a legitimate epistemic tool.

I think you'll have to do more than make claims about biased interpretation to dismiss my theory, however. Calling into question the motives of a theory are irrelevant to considerations of that theory's legitimacy.

I should wonder though, Charles--with all of the talk of Zen koans and the emphasis on what I take to, in some ways, be a unitary metaphysics (which uses duality and conflict to emphasize universal oneness), are you trying to integrate Buddhist metaphysics into your conception of existence and its categories, or are you simply using those to draw an analogy? You clearly have Buddhist influences, but I'm curious as to the degree of influence.

No, I'm not mixing Buddhist doctrines into a syncretistic personal philosophy, rather I find certain Buddhist doctrines to be sufficiently compatible and serviceable, and since they're quite familiar to many people nowadays, I will sometimes utilize them to explain my ideas. A greater influence on my thinking, vis–à–vis the intrinsic nature of values in reality, would be the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (I would also suggest that you read his classic Process and Reality – reading my writing will seem like a cakewalk in comparison).

Fair enough. Curiosity satisfied.

Thanks again for an intelligent reply.

It's the least I can do.