Shades of gray

Thesis                     Synthesis                Antithesis
Birth                           Life                       Death
Being                       Becoming                Nothing
Positive                  Ambivalent              Negative
Excessive                 Balanced                Deficient
Hot                          Warm                      Cold
Acid                        Neutral                    Alkali
Red                           Purple                    Blue
White                         Gray                      Black

Inferiority shows itself in our thinking style. Because of feelings of inferiority and insecurity we devise mental constructs to keep these feelings at bay. These constructs act as guiding fictions, governing fantasies, by means of which we apperceive the world.

The most basic of these neurotic protections, perhaps the one to which all others can be reduced, Adler calls "antithetical thinking," "which works according to the principle of opposites".

The mind sets up opposite poles: strong/weak, up/down, male/female - and these guiding fictions determine how we experience. Antitheses divide the world sharply, giving opportunity for exerting power in forceful actions, saving us from feeling weak and incapacitated.

More important even than these pairs is that oppositional thinking itself is a pampering safeguard against the true reality of the world, which in Adler's view is one of shaded differentiations and not oppositions.

For him, to think that abstract opposites reflect reality is to think neurotically, since all antitheses ultimately refer to the power construct of superior/inferior embodied in society as male and female.

The ultimate ground of thinking in opposites is the male/female pair, "the only real antithesis", which in turn can be pushed back to its early childhood experience in "psychic hermaphroditism."

"The psyche partakes of both feminine and masculine traits", and from childhood on we identify not only weakness and inferiority with female, but also the ambivalence caused by the weakness.

Moreover, hermaphroditic ambivalence itself indicates inferiority and is "apperceived in a strongly antithetical manner," which safeguards us from it.

We are convinced by society that "there are only two sex roles possible," and a "dissection" occurs. Uncertainty is met with a clear-cut either/or, that same either/or thinking which Jung connected both with ego-consciousness and with the one-sidedness of neurosis.

If restoring psychic hermaphroditism in one way or another is essential to the notion of cure in all three depth therapies [Freud, Jung, and Adler], then any disjunctive move is contra-indicated. We may not look to the ego as modelled on the hero, with his sword of decision, to lead us to healing. He is but one more divisive form of the masculine protest against inferiority, and his Oedipus foot, Achilles heel, and Hercules dress are signs of his innate hermaphroditism.

Psychic hermaphroditism holds juxtapositions without feeling them as oppositions.

Oppositions between conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, positive and negative, private soul and public world sever the ambivalence natural to the hermaphrodite.

For Hermaphroditus presents an image in which what is natural is the unnatural, a primordial image of contra naturam. The physical attitude of natural bodies and biological sexes is revalued by the configuration of non-natural fantasy. Nature is transformed by imaginative deformation, physis by poiesis.

This tells us what kind of fictions heal: preposterous, unrealizable, non-literal, from which singleness of meaning is organically banned.

If Asclepius is archetypal figure of the healer, Hermaphroditus is the archetypal figure of healing, the psychic healing of imagination, the healing fiction, the fictional healer for whom no personal pronoun fits, impossible in life and necessary in imagination.

So when we meet antithetical thinking, our question will no longer be how to conjunct, transcend, find a synthetic third, or breed an androgyne. For such moves take the antithesis literally, preventing the mind from moving from its neurotic constructs, from moving from Freudian facts to Adlerian fictions.

Instead our question will be: what have we already done to lose our twin who was given with the soul: the ambivalent, inferior, even shameful feeling of our psychic hermaphrodite.

That figure, concealed in 'the opposites' (which are used as a defense against it), is also the figure embodied as goal by therapy in its own work - an odd, most unnatural and fantastic, even shameful, work indeed.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.100-3

Research into women's thought patterns is substantiating the assertion that the feminine point of view places greater emphasis on relationship and connections, both in terms of empathy and abstract thinking.

Such a perspective is obviously not the exclusive property of women, and in recent years men have begun to value more consciously the feminine side of themselves. But for hundreds of years, this more contextual way of thinking and being has been not only neglected, but undermined by industrial culture.

The dominant perspective of our society is now out of balance. A shift toward the feminine is long overdue.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.189


Adolf Guggenb├╝hl-Craig in a brief and fundamental work has developed the idea of antithetical thinking along the lines that also can be called Adlerian.

His focus too is Adlerian: power, the move towards superiority in all helping professions and the polarization into weak and strong (patient and doctor, pupil and teacher, etc). This destructive antithesis occurs, he says, when the doctor loses touch with his own vulnerability, the teacher with his own ignorance, and the social worker with his own asocial immorality.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.114

Rudolf Ritsema's examinations of the I Ching have furthered psychological insight even into our Western language habits, where the literalist fiction is most invisibly embedded.

Ritsema shows how to stick to the image when using words. His "syntax of the imaginal" defeats those mental habits which rely on causality and linear thinking, positivity of statement, dogmas - the very progress to insanity that Adler warned of.

Ritsema's scrutiny of the I Ching also implies that those two totem poles which guard the approaches to psychotherapy like dumb stone giants from Easter Island - I mean The Masculine and The Feminine - are modern monolithic concretisms, a pair of substantiated neurotic antithesis that can draw no support from the flowing play of Yin/Yang images, always subtle, differentiated, and precise.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.116

Unlike a notion of the transcendent, the plane of the transcendental is an absolute immanence, complete in itself, neither "in something" nor belonging to someone (say some notion of a universal subject). "It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence".

Pure or absolute immanence is what Deleuze calls "A LIFE," defined as a paradoxical experience/duration in which individuality fades and becomes "a singular essence," an empty time of singularities or virtualities existing in between what we take to be the defining moments of an individual's life.

A LIFE unfolds according to a different logic than the life of an individual. It can never be grasped fully; it is always yet "in the making," in potentia, and flashes into conscious existence only occasionally.

Deleuze gives two striking examples to illustrate this enigmatic state/space/time, the first from Dickens's Our Mutual Friend:

A disreputable man, a rogue, held in contempt by everyone, is found as he lies dying. Suddenly, those taking care of him manifest an eagerness, respect, even love, for his slightest sign of life. Everybody bustles about to save him, to the point where, in his deepest coma, this wicked man himself senses something soft and sweet penetrating him. But to the degree that he comes back to life, his saviors turn colder, and he becomes once again mean and crude. Between his life and his death, there is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death.

In another example, Deleuze calls attention to very small children, as yet unformed as individuals, who all tend to resemble one another except in their singularities -- a smile, a gesture.

As Rajchman points out, one would need a new conception of society in order to understand Deleuze's notion of a life. It would be one in which we recognize that what we share is our singularities and not our individualities, that "what is common is impersonal and what is impersonal is common".

From this perspective, society is viewed not as a social contract between individuals but as an experiment with what in life precedes both individuals and collectivities. Relations with others would be based not in identification or recognition but in encounter and new compositions formed by saying "yes" to what is singular yet impersonal in living.

[Ellen E. Berry]
Summary of Pure Immanence (Deleuze)

One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also.

The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.

When we look at Michael Jackson, I believe we're looking at the future of our species. Michael is a creature from a future in which we've all become more feminine, more consumerist, more postmodern, more artificial, more self-constructed and self-mediating, more playful, caring and talented than we are today.

But it's hard to use those adjectives, because they're Either-Or adjectives and he's from the world of Yet-Also, a world I believe we will all come to live in if we're lucky, a world where there is no more authenticity-by-default-through-brute-necessity and no more "human nature". A world of pure synthesis, pure self-creation.

Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we'll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean.

By attacking Jackson and what he stands for -- the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous -- we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided.

When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy -- war, waste, and the things we do en masse are the things that threaten us -- we end up deriding dandyism and deviance. And Jackson is the ultimate dandy and the ultimate deviant. He can fly across our Either-Or binaries, and never land.

And so our creature of Never-Land will be judged by the creatures of Never-Fly. They will almost certainly throw him into jail. Their desire to see him as grounded, categorised and unfree as they themselves are is overwhelming. The grounded, situated, unfree creatures of Either-Or are baying for the clipping of fairy wings. Knives, hatchets and scissors glint in Neverland. There's an assembly of torch-bearing witchfinders.

Peter Pan must be ushered back from fiction to reality, from the air to the ground. Back into a race, back into a gender, back into a confined clarity.

Assuming he doesn't commit suicide, as he threatens in Martin Bashir's documentary, by jumping from a balcony, Jackson will be ushered away from the fuzzy subtle flicker states of our future, back to the solid states of our past and present. Either-Or will have its triumph over Yet-Also. Yet it will also, unknowingly, "triumph" over its own better future.

"Never land" from Click Opera

The paradox of this pure becoming, with its capacity to elude the present, is the paradox of infinite identity (the infinite identity of both directions or senses at the same time - of future and past, of the day before and the day after, of more and less, of too much and not enough, of active and passive, and of cause and effect).

Paradox is initially that which destroys good sense as the only direction, but it is also that which destroys common sense as the assignation of fixed identities.

Events are like crystals, they become and grow only out of the edges, or on the edge. This is, indeed, the first secret of the stammerer or of the left-handed person: no longer to sink, but to slide the whole length in such a way that the old depth no longer exists at all, having been reduced to the opposite side of the surface.

In Sylvie and Bruno, it is the little boy who has the inventive role, learning his lessons in all manners, inside-out, outside-in, above and below, but never "in depth."

[Gilles Deleuze]
The Logic of Sense, p. 4-5, 12-13

The notion of the possible, Bergson holds in Creative Evolution, is derived from a false problem that confuses the “more” with the “less” and ignores differences in kind; there is not less but more in the idea of the possible than in the real, just as there is more in the idea of nonbeing than in that of being, or more in the idea of disorder than in that of order.

When we think of the possible as somehow “pre-existing” the real, we think of the real, then we add to it the negation of its existence, and then we project the “image” of the possible into the past. We then reverse the procedure and think of the real as something more than possible, that is, as the possible with existence added to it. We then say that the possible has been “realized” in the real.

By contrast, Deleuze will reject the notion of the possible in favor of that of the virtual. Rather than awaiting realization, the virtual is fully real; what happens in genesis is that the virtual is actualized.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Gilles Deleuze

American Indian cultures, through the berdache tradition, do provide alternative gender roles.

Indians have options not it terms of either/or, opposite categories, but in terms of various degrees along a continuum between masculine and feminine.

[...] With such wide variation of both homosexual and heterosexual desire among many people, the Western view, that every person is either a homosexual or a heterosexual, does not hold up under cross cultural analysis.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 8, 271

I'm more interested in the dialectic as something much more radical -- the possibility of the collapse of every binary into a new unit which dissolves its constituent terms.

We have generated meaning by setting the terms of binaries against each other (hot / cold, man / women, weird / normal and so on). But we know that these divisions -- and these hierarchies -- are arbitrary and may collapse if hot / cold, man / woman etc recognize an essential truth: their complete dependence on one another.

The synthesis thus looms for every binary as a kind of end of war which is also an end of all identity and all meaning.

It's a peace every binary is terrified of, like a soldier terrified of a world without enemies. "What will I do there? Who will I be? What will I fight?"

'Binary hopping' 

Peterson: It seems to me that its in the interest of people who do not fit easily into categories to not destabilise the main culture too badly […] the main culture right now is actually pretty tolerant. If you destabilise a culture enough it will become rapidly intolerant, and […] those who are identifiably different are the first targets of an intolerant culture.

So it seems to me that its incumbent upon [those who don’t fit in to the main culture] - if they want to request inclusion - then they also have to figure out how that can be done in a way that doesn’t destabilise the entire category structure, because it risks doing that.

If you’re born a man and you wish to be treated as a woman, what are the minimal obligations that you have to undertake in order to be granted that privilege?

You’re making a case that the most straightforward thing is to include you […] so what do you think [are] your obligations [and] responsibilities to the social compact in order to be given that […] privilege?

Meyer: To be regarded as the gender that you identify as [..] within your culture?

Peterson: That seems to be reasonable, because at least then you don’t make it any more awkward for people to interact with you than it has to be […]

There’s a very strong tradition of hospitality in most cultures and if a stranger shows up you’re to welcome them into your house - but they’re supposed to behave when they’re in your house. So they’re not supposed to steal, and rape your women and so forth.

So there’s an obligation on both sides.

Meyer: […] if you’re going to go [and live in Japan] then you need to speak their language […] adopt their customs […] that’s what a stranger does if they don’t want to be considered a stranger anymore

Peterson: […] it seems to me that there needs to be a discussion about responsibilities. If the excluded other wants to be included isn’t to blow apart the category structure, its to behave nicely when you’re welcomed into the house.

[...] discrimination and judgement and categorisation aren’t that easy to tell apart, and you have to be discriminating or you’ll do anything all the time. So you have to make choices and you have to exclude.

I think we’ve gone far too far in the anti-discriminatory direction. Its very difficult for people on campus to aggregate themselves in gender uniform groups, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea; it seems to me that men should be allowed to hang around with men if they want to, and that women should be able to hang around with women when they want to; and that actually that right might be necessary for the proper development of masculinity and femininity.

[Jordan B. Peterson ]
'I discuss chaos and order with Theryn Meyer, reasonable transperson'

Keene draws attention to the place of mist, haze, fog and moonlight in Japanese poetry.

The Romantics, too, had a predilection for whatever can be only partly discerned – for unfinished sketches, for the half-light of dawn, for scenes by twilight or moonlight, for music heard afar off, for mountains whose tops are obscured by mist that comes and goes.

In terms of the hemispheres, half-light and transitional states have a multitude of affinities with complexity, transience, emotional weight, dream states, the implicit and the unconscious, rather than clarity, simplicity, fixity, detachment, the explicit and full consciousness.

The light of day is associated with full consciousness, and therefore has an affinity with the more conscious explicit processes of the left hemisphere: hence Diderot's praise of Richardson, that in the psychological subtlety of his novels he ‘lights the depths of the cavern with his torch’, through his willingness to explore the less explicit reaches of the affective, unconscious mind.

The Romantics perceived that one might learn more from half-light than light.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 361, 368-9

An interobject is a phenomenon of dreams, in which there is a perception of something that is "between" two objects [...] Interobjects differ from typical dream condensations in which two objects are fused into one. Instead the condensation is incomplete. 

Most adults tend to regularize interobjects when discussing them in waking life. Children are better able to sustain interobjects in their original form.

A child told his father a dream in which he was in trouble at sea and "a seal swam up to them. They thought it was just a seal, but then they looked and under the water it was a whole boat, it was huge, so they climbed onto the seal/boat, and it brought them to the shore of the mainland."

When the boy told his father the dream in the morning, the father, speaking like an adult who cannot tolerate contradictions, said to him: "So really, it was a boat, a big, safe boat." The child, holding fast to the integrity of his dream, said, "It was a boat, but it was still a big, friendly seal."

This child had not yet learned to regularize his perceptions to fit the way the world works. Adults may learn to reject interobjects in waking life, but still retain them in their dreams.

Interobjects may have an elementary function in human thought. By transgressing the normal mental categories described by Eleanor Rosch, interobjects may be the origin of new ideas that would be harder to come by using only fully formed, secondary process formations.

They may be one example of "Oneiric Darwinism" in which new thought-mutations are created during dream-life and rejected or retained in waking life depending on their usefulness.

Interobjects show the ability of the dreaming mind to notice how things that are very different nevertheless have features in common. The mind then creates a new category, which we might never have noticed in our waking life.


Fuzzy logic is an approach to computing based on "degrees of truth" rather than the usual "true or false" (1 or 0) Boolean logic on which the modern computer is based. 

The idea of fuzzy logic was first advanced by Dr. Lotfi Zadeh of the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s. Dr. Zadeh was working on the problem of computer understanding of natural language. Natural language (like most other activities in life and indeed the universe) is not easily translated into the absolute terms of 0 and 1 [...] It may help to see fuzzy logic as the way reasoning really works and binary or Boolean logic is simply a special case of it.

Fuzzy logic is a technique for representing and manipulating uncertain information. In the more traditional propositional logic, each fact or proposition, such as 'it will rain tomorrow,' must be either true or false.

Yet much of the information that people use about the world involves some degree of uncertainty. 

Like probability theory, fuzzy logic attaches numeric values between 0 and 1 to each proposition in order to represent uncertainty [...] for example, the result of a comparison between two things could be not "tall" or "short" but ".38 of tallness.

Fuzzy logic includes 0 and 1 as extreme cases of truth (or "the state of matters" or "fact") [...]

Fuzzy logic can be used for situations in which conventional logic technologies are not effective, such as systems and devices that cannot be precisely described by mathematical models, those that have significant uncertainties or contradictory conditions, and linguistically controlled devices or systems.

Fuzzy logic seems closer to the way our brains work. We aggregate data and form a number of partial truths which we aggregate further into higher truths which in turn, when certain thresholds are exceeded, cause certain further results such as motor reaction.

Extracts from 'fuzzy logic' and 'What is 'fuzzy logic'? Are there computers that are inherently fuzzy and do not apply the usual binary logic?'

American philosopher Charles Peirce (1934, 1935) disagreed with Cantor's method of classifying everything as either in the set or not in the set.

He believed that all things existed on a continuum. Whether an object belonged to a set or not depended on where it fell on the continuum. At some points on the continuum, it is clearly part of the set. At other points, a vagueness exists making it difficult to determine membership. 

Bertrand Russell (1945) proposed that this vagueness was a function of language, not reality.

[David S. Walonick]
'General Systems Theory'

When thinking of a category we normally visualise the clear cases, not the vague ones. Chair evokes a dining room chair, not a beanbag chair. 

Why do we focus on prototypes? In 1978, looking back on her work Rosch suggested that the purpose of classes was “to provide maximum information with the least cognitive effort.” There is a trade-off: information versus labour. And prototypes ease the burden. For instance, the eye can discriminate 7.5 million colours. If definitions were sharp, if blue ended at a single hue, people would need a pointless acuity of perception.

Cognitive economy also likely increases the speed of the brain, enabling it to work with essences rather than time-consuming fringe items […] words summarise, and prototypes summarise further. They catch the gist of the fuzzy set.

[…] the mirage of words is one of the deepest and most pervasive in Western history. It helps explain why Plato thought his Ideals were possible, why Aristotle devised the Law of the Excluded Middle, why biologists fell victim to essentialism, why so many philosophers and scientists over the centuries have assumed that categories are crisp, even while acknowledging the pesky problem of vagueness.

It also partly explains the hostility to fuzzy logic, since if people naturally round classes off to their core, they will tend to ignore the ever-present nimbus of gray.

[Daniel McNeill & Paul Freiberger]
Fuzzy Logic, p.88-9