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From New York City: Letter
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Seminal Concepts of the New Century

On the Virtues of Irony


Union of Opposites


David Peat
Courses in Pari Italy

“Western thought”, since the time of the Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) has been dominated by a particular form of logic that is not necessarily found in other parts of the world. Classical Indian logic, for example, supports ambiguity and even paradox. Aristotelian logic, by contrast, adheres to the maxim that a thing cannot be both A and not A. Such a binary logic simply cannot be carried over in the quantum domain where an electron can be both a particle (a localized entity) and “not a particle” (ie an extended wave). Neils Bohr invoked the notion of Complementarity for this situation – the notion that quantum reality can never be exhausted in any single description but involves a basic ambiguity and even paradoxical alternatives.

This brings us to another aspect of creativity. That is the ability to go beyond Aristotelian logic and hold conflicting and even paradoxical positions within the mind during the creative process. This also involves the “coincidence of opposites” that is often found in mystical thought. ie that the center becomes the circumference.  Coincidence of opposites was explored by Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th century. It is present in Bohm’s notion of the Implicate Order where A is both contained in B while containing B. It is Wolfgang Pauli’s notion of the speculum that reflects one world into the other while belonging to neither. It is operates in Hegel’s notion of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis as a creative movement of thought. It was also an essential step in the alchemical process.

Therefore I’d like you to give some thought to the way in which Aristotelian logic so dominates Western thought. We find it as soon as we begin to think of good versus bad, right versus wrong, freedom versus slavery, etc.  How does such a logic restrict us at the social and political level? How does it restrict our creativity – that is, our ability to hold two paradoxical positions long enough to transcend them?

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