throwing out the baby

In my personal experience, truth never lies at the extremes, only ever in the middle. Here's a bad example: It's never true that person X is a "horrible person" but rather that person X is horrible in some ways, wonderful in others, or horrible to some people, wonderful to others, or horrible at some times, wonderful at others, etc

It's a bad example because whether there is such a thing as "a horrible person" in the first place, is debatable. But bad or not, the example does illustrate the principle that more things are seen in shades of grey, than in pure black and white.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is among those hair-splitters who came up with the so-called Law of the Excluded Middle (who made it a law?), which crudely stated means that for any statement, either the statement is true or its opposite is true. In turn the Law implies that if something is true, its opposite is false; and if something is false, its opposite is true. The Law does not acknowledge any middle ground, but rather sees only the opposing extremes. (Which kind of describes the state of human culture today!).

The Law of the Excluded Middle is well-suited to Newtonian, deterministic, reductionist physics. In contrast, modern (Quantum/Einsteinian) physics deals mainly with probabilities, not unbreakable laws. And then there's quantum physicist Niels Bohr's "complementarity principle" in terms of which apparently contradictory things may both be true (eg light comes in waves; light comes in particles) depending on context, perspective and intention.

Just as Euclidean geometry has come to be recognised as one of many domains in a meta-geometry, so too is the Law's black and white logic just a small territory within a broader, meta-logic.

The above in relation to a FaceBook comment by James Quirk:

... the law of the excluded middle. And I think it's basically a false law. When we exclude the middle, we exclude everything that actually matters. As we all know, in the real world, life is never only A or only B. Aristotle's bifurcated logic disconnects itself from the ambiguity of reality, and lays the foundation for the creation of falsely-based cultures (like our current one). Even computers do not operate on strictly Aristotelian dualistic logic. There are three possible states for each circuit - on, off, and null. The null state is where "on" or "off" are meaningless because there is no power to the device at all.


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Antares said...

As a kid I took one look at Aristotle and decided Aristotalitarianism wasn't my idea of fun. I'm stubbornly Socratic, rarely Platonic. Despise Confusionism, embrace Laotze and the Tao! Thus far I've never once regretted trusting my gut feelings.

masterymistery said...

Hi Antares, thanks for your comment. I don't know much about Aristotle, but I do know his ideas were meat and potatoes for the Christian Church for hundreds of years --- and that's bad enough for me! A plague on all of their houses! All schools are for fools!

mgeorge said...

Now, where did I hear of this great Law before? "Either you are with us or you are against us." Either you are a good sheep or a bad goat. It sounds so terribly sophisticated when you use the right learned or ingroup-branded words.

"What is sacred among one people may be ridiculous in another; and what is despised or rejected by one cultural group, may in a different environment become the cornerstone for a great edifice of strange grandeur and beauty. - Hu Shih (philosoher)

"Self-contempt, however vague, sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others." - Eric Hoffer, True Believer, 1951

"A 2007 review of 4 studies of criminal profiling showed that the profilers did only slightly better than others without experience, and that the predictive abilities of both were very low. In a 2003 study where they were shown fabricated offenders based on cases already resolved, the profiles were couched in such ambiguous terms as to satisfy police officers in more than half the cases." - Laura Spinney, report in New Scientist (adapted), 2010

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, it's all absolutely relative, or relatively absolute. If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. Thanks for your comment. Cheers, MM.

mgeorge said...

By another stroke of syncronicity, I came across this today:

As they say in Redneckland, "you can't make up this stuff."

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, that's excellent, thank you! There's nothing like a good paradox to stir the blood of a slow morning!
Cheers, MM

*!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+ said...

Yesterday I was reading Snow Crash, and I read:
"There's not much more for Hiro to do. Besides, interesting things happen along borders—transitions—not in the middle where everything is the same. There may be something happening along the border of the crowd, back where the lights fade into the shade of the overpass. The fringe crowd looks pretty typical for the wrong side of an L.A. overpass in the middle of the night. There's a good-sized shantytown of hardcore Third World unemployables, plus a scattering of schizophrenic first worlders who have long ago burned their brains to ash in the radiant heat of their own imaginings. A lot of them have emerged from their overturned dumpsters and refrigerator boxes to stand on tiptoe at the edge of the crowd and peer into the noise and light. Some of them look sleepy and awed, and some—stocky Latino men—look amused by the whole thing, passing cigarettes back and forth and shaking their heads in disbelief."

Today I was thinking about a few things while eating some pizza in the kitchen. My first thought was, "most things of human concern are on the surface of the earth and all of the mass on the surface of the earth is much less than the mass in the center." Actually, before this thought, I was thinking, "the human and material density in suburban areas is a bit too high and I would be more comfortable if there were fewer people in earshot."

My next thought would be, "the center of the earth is necessary to support the surface and to make it as large as it is."

Then after that I believe I thought, "most advancement of thought and technique happens on the fringe" and realized too that the compacted center of the human biomass was necessary to support the fringe. However, unlike a sphere, the proportion of "surface area" (generally useful people/ideas/actions) to volume (inertial biomass requirements for homeostasis) doesn't decrease with increasing volume. So then the geometry of this analogy must be more like a web. Which is more optimistic than a sphere of people.

masterymistery said...

Hi *!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+

I don't see the relevance of your comment to the post, but I'm publishing the comment anyway: the quality of the writing is pretty good.