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Dualism


murmsk
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Is there ever a time where the overall effect of any type of dualism is positive?

 

another way of asking ... Will history ever look back on any dualism, looking at the good and bad it produces and see that the good outweighs the bad?

 

This came up at a discussion group I participate in and we couldn't come up with any situation where after the dust settles the bad directed to those on the outside outweighs any good that might have come.

 

steve

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In Phillip Gulleys book " If God Is Love" he makes the point that time and time again throughout christian history injustices have been condoned and even encouraged by the dualism if us and them. Christian-Nonchristian, saved-unsaved, clean-unclean, rich-poor, our tribe- their tribe. gay-straight.... in the secular world democrat-republican , american-asian. He is making the case that the concept of sending some people to hell and the separative dualism is the cause of most of the injustices supported and encouraged by the church over the years. Since the outcome of dualism is always negative the everyone must go to heaven.

 

Sometimes this can produce short term gains at lease for the winner and sometimes the loser but looking at the big picture we could not think of a single instance where history would look back and think the overall effect was good.

 

If this is true we should work to combat any sort of dualism.

 

steve

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Steve,

 

Thanks for clarifying the definition. One example would then be the White-man and the Indian. Did any good come out of it? ... is your question. I can't say whether it is good or bad in the big picture of the evolution of man's consciousness. It definitely qualifies as social injustice by most peoples present definitions. What i would say is that it happened in the scheme of things and here we are today. I think many of us now at our present level of consciousness would not want to repeat such as what happened but at the time that was where mentality and education was at for many. We can't change what happened. Did some good come of it for mankind? I think so in the big picture. Hopefully many of us have advanced beyond such dualism through our inevitable mistakes and the suffering we caused of others that we now can empathize with.

 

Joseph

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Ah, I follow now.

 

Binary oppositions inevitably link up with power & domination, and reality always needs a bit of coercion to fit into the two clean boxes a duality offers. On the other hand... they're unavoidable. Humanity creates hierarchies in a near infinite number of ways, most of them illegitimate and hidden. So, yeah, I think you're basically correct (as an aside, I highly recommend Jeffrey Alexander's The Civil Sphere, which empirically studies how people try to fit the world into the duality of sacred-profane, often with... interesting results).

 

That said, I can see value in using dualities, binaries, or dialectics if one is making a philosophical or rhetorical point: let us see how these two incredibly important ideas or concepts play off each other. However, the caveat of all linguistic categories must be states in capslock for this point: your categories are not reality. At best, linguistic categories are a tool to make sense of the world. And just like one must change a drill bit for different screws, one should drop a linguistic tool when it no longer serves the task at hand.

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reality always needs a bit of coercion to fit into the two clean boxes a duality offers.
your categories are not reality

 

I agree especially linguistically but this is more about ones attitudes . How do we consider ourselves. For example do we consider ourselves Americans or humans? The answer as you have pointed out is both depending on the situation. In those situations where we think of ourselves as Americans is that universally repressive to those that aren't? I am leaning toward thinking that it is.

 

steve

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I think I'm with Nick on this. Dualism is fine as a philosophical consideration because we all seem to know, instinctively, that good and evil exist. We, hopefully, want to be good and move away from evil. But the philosophies of good and evil can become dangerous (or maybe evil) in themselves when we try to make them incarnational, when we think that people or what they do is entirely good or entirely evil. Imo, the more we think of people in dualistic terms, the more prone we are to treat them like objects. Probably everyone agrees that what Hitler did was evil. But he did what he did because he was so dualistic towards people. Even in our own day, we have had leaders that stand up and say, "You are either with us or against us." As a result, we had an unjustified war on our hands where thousands of our children have died to, supposedly, rid the world of evil-doers. Once we label people as evil, we can easily find justification for doing evil against them. But someone once said that evil should not be responded to with evil, that evil can only be conquered through love. Who was that masked man?

Edited by Wayseeker
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I agree especially linguistically but this is more about ones attitudes . How do we consider ourselves. For example do we consider ourselves Americans or humans? The answer as you have pointed out is both depending on the situation. In those situations where we think of ourselves as Americans is that universally repressive to those that aren't? I am leaning toward thinking that it is.

 

Oh, certainly. My point is only that claims to universality are not innocent either, and "We are all human" can be used to deny difference, and by extension inequality. To re-use an example from another thread, color-blindness ("race doesn't matter; we're all human") does not necessarily help fight institutionalized racism. Now, that's kind of a general comment. (EDIT: I generally like arguments from places like "3rd wave" feminism and queer theory that take the tact that all cultural categories - universal or particular - may need to be problematized or subverted depending on the situation). In my current situation, living in the US where I get to watch Christian tribalism every time there's a Republican primary debate, I absolute agree that the binaries of us/them, good/bad, etc. need to be broken down a bit, and more universal or inclusive language/attitudes can be used to do so. However, I don't trust those claims to "behave" in and of themselves. To put it in Foucault's terms, we are always inside power & language. (Proof that I am strange #423: critical theory and Foucault made my brain fertile ground for accepting original sin, but that's a very different thread).

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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I am not clear where pure universalism fits with ethnic diversity, religious diversity, linguistic diversity, ideological diversity, etc. Do we deny that differences exist? Do we try to eliminate diversity?

 

It seems to me that were we to somehow eliminate diversity that minorities would lose and be subsumed into the majority. Is this desirable?

 

I don't think a human world in which there is no diversity (distinctions) is possible or even desirable. I am more inclined to acknowledge, respect and appreciate diversity.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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George, that is a really good point. By universalism, aren't be just trying to get all the boxes stacked together neatly rather than eliminating the box walls between contents (people, individuals) within the boxes? That doesn't eliminate dualism at all, it just stacks dualisms next to each other.

 

Jenell

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Perhaps the only way out of dualism is elimination of independent individualism, in a way that still allows for diversity and individuality.

I'd suggest something of a symbiotic synthesis, or eco-system type idea? Where diverse individuals are so interconnected and interdependent that all becomes one whole organism?

 

Jenell

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As Abraham Maslow said "To dichotomize is to pathologize." This is also known as the labeling effect and is similar to the hypothesis that the Devil was invented to demonize "the other". The process works at both the individual and group levels and is usually related, consciously or unconsciously, to competition being valued over cooperation. Competition carries with it the implication of superiority which, in the negative, fosters prejudice. This is why Bishop Spong has said that prejudice degrades our very humanity. To engage in prejudice is not only to degrade "the other", but also one's self. Progressive Christians have the opportunity (and, I hope the will) to present a different model to the 'outside' ... and there is the problem. How, exactly, do we present an image of humanity belonging to one massive category of "one"? What symbols would be use? What examples from the teachings of Jesus?

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This is why Bishop Spong has said that prejudice degrades our very humanity. To engage in prejudice is not only to degrade "the other", but also one's self. Progressive Christians have the opportunity (and, I hope the will) to present a different model to the 'outside' ... and there is the problem. How, exactly, do we present an image of humanity belonging to one massive category of "one"? What symbols would be use? What examples from the teachings of Jesus?

Myron,

 

Are you suggesting that we erase or ignore distinctions?

 

If so, I don't think this is possible. What I think is possible is addressing the attitudes about those who are 'them.' It seems to me that 'prejudice has two aspects: a distinction and our attitude about the distinction. I don't think that it is possible to eliminate distinctions. But, it is possible to make progress on our attitudes toward 'them' and, as you suggest, seeing others as more than just one narrow category. In addition to real differences there is also much commonality.

 

George

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One aspect of the fictional Star Trek universe that appeals to me is that the Federation of Planets, rather than erasing or ignoring distinctions, actually respects, celebrates, and creates environments where those distinctions can flourish. Spock called this IDIC - Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations and it was the notion that "humanity" (which in ST was always larger than just humans) was better for all of the differences. The goal in exploring the universe was not to make everyone into humans, but to learn everything learnable from all kinds of species and cultures that would make us, in that nebulous term, "better."

 

At the same time, dualism was a strong theme in ST because the shows (and movies) always dealt with some form of what we would call "good and evil." But the goal was usually not to kill the "evil", but to understand it and try to find a way to redeem it. This is way you see a reoccuring pattern in ST where, in The Next Generation, there was a Klingon on the bridge (and it made the Federation better for it). In Voyager, there was a Borg in the bridge (and it made the Federation better for it). Enemies were "defeated" by understanding them and turning them into friends...a notion that did not originate with Gene Roddenberry. :) And as one scifi author said, "We will certainly not be ready to meet alien lifeforms in all their diversity until we can accept and respect our own race in all of its diversity."

 

Imo, though ST is fiction, this notion of Diversity is key toward the furthering of human growth and maturation. Dualism may serve as a safety mechanism for the very young (this is good, this is bad, they are good, they are bad), but I think it fails miserably for full-grown adults (or those who want to grow). Those of us who have lived long enough know that life is seldom black-and-white, that there are a zillion shades of gray. Wisdom is found, imo, not in categorizing "good and bad", but in transforming bad into good.

 

ws

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Excellent, WS! Yes, ST was definitely far ahead of its time, and even still ahead of our times!

 

George, I don't think doing away with distinctions is either a positive thing, and even counter to eliminating the problems of dichotomies and prejudice. To 'do away with distinctions' creates an even greater dichotomy and dulaism, those that conform to whatever the uniform ideal standard and those that don't.

 

The problem with labels, as I mentioned previously, is that labels are applied according to one single or small cluster of traits and characteristics that disregard the rest of what any persons so labeled are.

The problem with categories is not in categorization itself, but in stereotyping a category, making it a label, to which elements not at all present in the actual distinction that identifies the category. What I mean by that...nothing can be assumed to any particualr member of a category NOT delineated in the qualifications for the category to begin with.

 

Example, in category of race, only characterisitics that specifically define distinct traits of race are correctly included for categorization. This would be typical features of negroid, caucasion, asian, etc. Anything further attached to race as a category, stereotypes involving qualities and features NOT a part of the set of traits that define different racial features is mis-use of category. Ie, assumption that "all" negroid people are stupid and lazy, creates a sterotype that then supports assumption--prejudice (pre-judgement)---that any person of negroid features is neccesarily stupid and lazy.

 

It is when sets of qualities, traits, distinctions, that have nothing at all to do with the defining distinctive traits of any particular category get attached to it that we have false dichotomies of sterotyping and prejudice.

 

The ONLY qualities or traits appropriately assumed to ANY category are the actual defining criteria set in determining that category.

 

Jenell

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Myron,

 

Are you suggesting that we erase or ignore distinctions?

 

If so, I don't think this is possible. What I think is possible is addressing the attitudes about those who are 'them.' It seems to me that 'prejudice has two aspects: a distinction and our attitude about the distinction. I don't think that it is possible to eliminate distinctions. But, it is possible to make progress on our attitudes toward 'them' and, as you suggest, seeing others as more than just one narrow category. In addition to real differences there is also much commonality.

 

George

 

George,

 

I am in no way suggesting that we ignore individual differences. I will suggest, however, that the interpretive response in the "either-or" mode is typical of dichotomous thinking. The history of progressive thought focuses on "both-and". Put another way, a progressive perspective tends twoards holism and complex interactionism in which neither the needs of the individual or society are lost. The problem being that this perspective takes a larger investment of time and energy to fully embrace. Dichotomous thinking is sometimes referred to as "lazy thinking" because it is quick and expedient. This is why Kant added emphasis to "top-down" rational thinking which is slower and sometimes more demanding.

 

I would also add that, like Jung, I make a distinction between individual autonomy and individualism.

 

Myron

Edited by minsocal
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Wayseeker

we all seem to know, instinctively, that good and evil exist.

Infants recognize hindrance or harm and help, and they believe in retributive justice. But the sympathy for those harmed and hindered is soon corrupted by their growing sense of an individual identity and action from a tribal centered and ego centered worldview which at once objectifies the other and takes any harm personally. e.g. The family upstairs makes noise to annoy me. We can only overcome these divisions in relationship. My wife's friend would not talk to her for a year after we adopted a child with Down syndrome. She was afraid of the strange, the other. Gradually the walls came down, Annie became one of us and not an object.

 

Could we say that primitively we tend feel that harm to us is done intentionally. Since we want to think that God would not intentionally harm us then there must be another agent - Satan, a souvenir in Israelite folk religion from Babylonian captivity. Satan gets God off the hook and relieves us of part of our responsibility This is the struggle with recognizing that all comes from a transcendent God that we must also have a personal loving relationship with.

 

Joseph offers that we can learn from our sufferings. I just rediscovered a song which is composed of an Ecclesiastes type litany of experiences from which we learn - or at least have the opportunity

 

you suffer you learn

you laugh you learn

you cry you learn

 

etc

 

Does the sum tend toward good or bad?

 

If it tends towards to good do we have hope and if it tends towards bad are we pessimistic?

 

Some in counseling, might arrive at the realization that this moment is good so all that leads to this moment is good. A useful place from which to begin the rest of your life.

 

Or like Job can we live to our own standards whatever happens?

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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This came up at a discussion group I participate in and we couldn't come up with any situation where after the dust settles the bad directed to those on the outside outweighs any good that might have come.

What if the development of democracy depended on the conquest of the coastal tribes of the American continent?

What if the development of monotheism depended on harm being done - on both sides?

What if the best of Taoism depended on on harm being done - on both sides?

What if the development of the human brain depended on a change to a fish and animal diet?

 

Dutch

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