Aristotle          -          Sophocles
Transcendent   -          Immanent
Mono               -          Poly

There is the level of the opposition and the meta-level, of the integration of the opposition. Those who take part in the conflict are necessarily unaware of how their actions form a wider balance.

It is important for us to become fully aware of these pairs of opposites.

Our logical mind does not like them: it generally operates on the either-or or yes-no principle, like a computer. So, at any one time it wishes to give its allegiance to either the one of the other of the pair, and as this exclusiveness inevitably leads to an ever more obvious loss of realism and truth, the mind suddenly changes sides, often without even noticing it.

It swings from one opposite to the other, and every time there is a feeling of ‘making up one's mind afresh'; or else the mind becomes rigid and lifeless, fixing itself on one side of the pair of opposites and feeling that now 'the problem has been solved'.

The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites, which, as it were, permeate everything man does.

Only a higher force - wisdom - can reconcile these opposites. 

The problem cannot be solved; but wisdom can transcend it […] societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation; public interest and private interest; planning and laissez-faire; order and freedom; growth and decay: everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims.

The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, or generally both.

Divergent problems offend the logical mind which wishes to remove tension by coming down on one side or the other; but they provoke, stimulate and sharpen the higher human faculties without which man is nothing but a clever animal. A refusal to accept the divergency of divergent problems causes these higher faculties to remain dormant and to wither away, and when this happens the 'clever animal' is more likely than not to destroy itself.

Man’s life can thus be seen and understood as a succession of divergent problems which are inevitably encountered and have to be coped with in some way. They are refractory to mere logic and discursive reason, and constitute, as it were, a strain-and-stretch apparatus to develop the Whole Man, and that means to develop man's supra-logical faculties.

All traditional cultures have seen life as a school and have recognised, in one way or another, the essentiality of this teaching force.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.146-8

Without the enemy life would be meaningless and shallow.

To have no enemies, to have no power to decide who to include as a member of the body and who to exclude as a member of the body, is to not be political at all. And since man is political, and this is part of his human nature, those who attempt to eliminate conflict and transform enemies into “rational actors” whom one can persuade to not have qualms with, are nihilists out to destroy man’s political nature.

(Schmitt makes it clear that liberalism is one such force that attempts to eliminate all conflict and, in doing so, would destroy human nature and make man’s life miserable for he would not be political at all, which is to say he would cease being human if he ceased being political.)

[Paul Krause]
'Carl Schmitt: The Friend-Enemy Distinction'

Since the most important aspect of self-organisation is the emergence of structure through the activity of microscopic units that do not have access to global patterns, the principles that determine the behaviours of weights and nodes locally are very important.

[One of the preconditions for self-organisation is that there] is competition among the units.

Competing for limited resources is the basic driving force behind the development of structure. Stronger units thrive at the expense of others. If resources were limitless, i.e. if growth could take place unrestricted, no meaningful structure would evolve. Boundaries, limits and constraints are preconditions for structure.

[…] There is also co-operation among at least some units. If only single units won, the resulting structure would be too simple for self-organisation to evolve. Co-operation is also necessary to form associations among patterns. Mutual reinforcement and co-operation are preconditions for a rich, meaningful structure.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.94-5

[…] your autonomic nervous system is divided into two components. There is your sympathetic, and your parasympathetic.

So your sympathetic system is designed […] towards interpreting the world in a way […] it's biased […] the things that make us adoptive also make us susceptible to self-deception — it's biased, because you can't look at all of the evidence! It's biased to looking for and interpreting evidence that […] you should raise your level of arousal.

Your parasympathetic system is biased the other way. These are both heuristic ways of processing; they work in terms of biasing the processing of data. So the parasympathetic system is constantly trying to find evidence that you should reduce your level of arousal.

So they're opposed in their goal, but here's the thing: they're also interdependent in their function. So the sympathetic nervous system is always trying to arouse you […] the parasympathetic system is always trying to pull you down. And as the environment changes that tug of war shifts around your level of arousal.

Opponent Processing is when you have two systems that are opposed, but integrated. [It] means that your level of arousal is constantly evolving to fit the environment.

Is it perfect? No, nothing can be. Any problem solving machine in order to be perfect, would have to explore the complete problem space. That's combinatorially explosive, it can’t! But what is this? Well, you've seen this before!

Opponent Processing is a powerful way to get optimisation. You're optimising between systems that are working different goals, but are integrated in their function. And that way the system constantly self-organises and it then thereby evolves it's fittedness to the environment.

[John Vervaeke]
‘Ep. 30 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Relevance Realization Meets Dynamical Systems Theory’, YouTube

The model can be made more complex networks by imposing certain 'biases' on the nodes.

These will suppress signals below a certain threshold - another example of non-linear interaction. The size of the bias has an important effect: if it is too high, the network will be too stable, if it is too low, the network will be chaotic.

The bias therefore provides a mechanism through which the system can adjust itself to remain at the critical level even when the complexity of the external world fluctuates.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.98

The left has a progressive telos based on a deep-rooted belief in the perfectibility of man. The right — in all its forms — rejects this belief and asserts a constant human nature. Thus, those concepts on the left which depend on their core assumptions are simply unusable for us — not because we are unreflexive, unthoughtful, and kneejerk but because we disagree about what man is.

[…] Capital T Theory is important for the left because of their core belief in the perfectibility of man. All else flows from this. Thus, for structural Marxists the issue with Stalin wasn’t that he killed millions of people or that he was totalitarian, it was that he made mistakes in his Theory. If only they could find the right formula, they’d fix what went wrong with the USSR.

Theory in this sense has no utility for the right because we do not believe that mankind can be fixed. Our task is to describe what is essential and fixed in human nature and to discern what accounts for change and variation.

This was put best by Thomas Sowell […] in A Conflict of Visions:

The issue is not as to whether changes have occurred in human history, but whether these are, in effect, changes of costumes and scenery or changes of the play itself. In the constrained vision, it is mostly the costumes and scenery that have changed; in the unconstrained vision, the play itself has changed, the characters are fundamentally different, and equally sweeping changes are both likely and necessary in the future.

People on the right tend to the former, tragic vision, and people on the left to the latter, utopian vision. The right is built and must be built on essential, perennial truths which are not only fixed but non-negotiable. In such a worldview there is no such thing as ‘progress’.

If you assert a concept that is derived from dialectical materialism, you negate concepts coming from the traditionalist lens and vice versa […] ‘Don’t just reflexively reject left-wing ideas because they are from the left or you’ll fall behind intellectually’. What claptrap is this? And what an insult to the canon of right-wing thought!

[Academic Agent]
‘The Problem with ‘Theory’, The Forbidden Texts, Substack

[…] scientific research is highly competitive, not just in the usual sense that everyone is trying for the same grant money, or racing for priority in a discovery.

Researchers compete with one another to shape the future direction of research and make a significant place for their own work in its unfolding.

This should not be interpreted as a reductive dismissal of scientific work as a kind of egotistical assertion of one's own importance. The same pattern results if scientists are genuinely convinced of the importance of their ideas and methods, and engage in these competitions for the relatively disinterested purpose of pointing the field in a more productive direction, by securing for these ideas or methods their rightful place.

The recycling of scientific results and the consequent reconstruction of their narrative intelligibility are a structural feature of science as an activity, not a consequence of the motives of individual scientists.

If I am right that scientific work only makes sense in the context of an ongoing shared but contested narrative reconstruction of a research field, where is this narrative understanding located? […] the fuller narrative context within which scientific work proceeds is rarely foregrounded at all.

[Joseph Rouse]
‘The Narrative Reconstruction of Science’

The sophists stage an art of argument, a play of astuteness, the point of which is to snare one's opponent. The term 'problem', from the Greek problemata, originally meant the question presented to the opponent for a solution. 'Solving', in this context, should be taken literally. It means to free oneself from ropes and snares.

The agonistic character of philosophy represents the cosmic process, understood as the eternal strife between primordial oppositions.

For Heraclitus, war is father of all, and according to Empedocles, affection (Greek: philia) and strife (Greek: neikos) are the two fundamental principles that determine the course of the world.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.77

In the Gorgias, Socrates and Callicles behave more like two duellers than like two engaged in a dialogue; it is more confrontation than discussion. It resembles a dramatic form of ritual combat.

Indeed, between two incompatible positions on power and justice no mediation is possible: it is only a question of winning or losing. The agonistic character of the dialogue is plain:

And what becomes clear to any reader of the text is not that one interlocutor will convince the other, but that there will be a victor and a vanquished. This is after all what explains why Socrates's methods in this dialogue are hardly fairer than those of Callicles. Wanting the ends means wanting the means, and it is a matter of winning, especially of winning in the eyes of young men who witness the scene.

Plato's dialogues are theatrical, and the 'joys of the theatre' determine the course of the game."

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.78

For male and female alike in The Faerie Queene, the psychological energy of aspiration and achievement is masculine. Life is rigor; no rest is possible.

Seductive Phaedria tries to dissuade her suitor knights from conflict, but it is only by the clashing strife of contraries that Temperance or the temperate golden mean is achieved. The Faerie Queene’s androgyny theme belongs to this classical tradition of the coincidentia oppositorum or fruitful synthesis of opposites.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.184-5

In both the political and the personal realm conflict and virtue are mutually incompatible and exclusive. This is perhaps one source of Plato's view that dramatic art is an enemy of virtue.

But he is also deeply committed to the view that both within the city and within the person virtue cannot be in conflict with virtue. There cannot be rival goods at war with each other. Yet it is just what Plato takes to be impossible which makes tragic drama possible.

Could it then be the case that in certain circumstances at least the possession of one virtue might exclude the possession of some other? Could one virtue be temporarily at least at war with another?

[...] the virtues are not merely compatible with each other, but the presence of each requires the presence of all. This strong thesis concerning the unity of the virtues is reiterated both by Aristotle and by Aquinas, even though they differ from Plato - and from each other - in a number of important ways.

The presupposition which all three share is that there exists a cosmic order which dictates the place of each virtue in a total harmonious scheme of human life. Truth in the moral sphere consists in the conformity of moral judgment to the order of this scheme.

There is a sharply contrasting modern tradition which holds that the variety and heterogeneity of human goods is such that their pursuit cannot be reconciled in any single moral order and that consequently any social order which either attempts such a reconciliation or which enforces the hegemony of one set of goods over all other is bound to turn into [...] a totalitarian straitjacket for the human condition.

This is a view which Sir Isaiah Berlin has urged upon us strenuously, and its ancestry, as we noted earlier, is in Weber's writings. I take it that this view entails a heterogeneity of the virtues as well as of goods in general and that choice between rival claims in respect of the virtues has the same central place in the moral life for such theorists that choice between goods in general does. And where judgments express choices of this kind, we cannot characterize them as either true or false.

The interest of Sophocles lies in his presentation of a view equally difficult for a Platonist or a Weberian  to accept. There are indeed crucial conflicts in which different virtues appear as making rival and incompatible claims upon us. But our situation is tragic in that we have to recognize the authority of both claims. There is an objective moral order, but our perceptions of it are such that we cannot bring rival moral truths into complete harmony with each other and yet the acknowledgment of the moral order and of moral truth makes the kind of choice which a Weber or a Berlin urges upon us out of the question.

[...] the choice between rival goods in a tragic situation differs from the modern choice between incommensurable moral premises [in] that both of the alternative courses of action which confront the individual have to be recognized as leading to some authentic and substantial good.

By choosing one I do nothing to diminish or derogate from the claim upon me of the other; and therefore, whatever I do, I shall have left undone what I ought to have done.

The tragic protagonist, unlike the moral agent as depicted by Sartre or Hare, is not choosing between allegiance to one moral principle rather than another, nor is he or she deciding upon some principle of priority between moral principles.

Hence the 'ought' involved has a different meaning and force from that of the 'ought' in moral principles understood in a modern way. For the tragic protagonist cannot do everything that he or she ought to do.

In the conflicts of Sophoclean tragedy therefore the attempt at resolution unsurprisingly invokes an appeal to and a verdict by some god. But the divine verdict always ends rather than resolves the conflict. It leaves unbridged the gap between the acknowledgment of authority, of a cosmic order and of the claims to truth involved in the recognition of the virtues on the one hand and our particular perceptions and judgments in particular situations on the other.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.165-7, 259

The problem which I am raising is best stated initially in terms of a confrontation between Aristotle and Sophocles.

[...] there are the questions posed by Aristotle's inheritance of Plato's belief in the unity and harmony of both the individual soul and the city-state and Aristotle's consequent perception of conflict as something to be avoided or managed.

For Aristotle, as I have already suggested, the tragic form of narrative is enacted when and only when we have a hero with a flaw, a flaw in practical intelligence which springs from inadequate possession or exercise of some virtue.

In a world in which everyone is good enough therefore there would be no tragic hero to be portrayed.

[...] the conflicts of tragedy certainly may in part take the form that they do because of the flaws in Antigone and Creon, Odysseus and Philoctetes; but what constitutes those individuals' tragic opposition and conflict is the conflict of good with good [...] and to this aspect of tragedy Aristotle in the Poetics is and has to be blind.

The absence of this view of the centrality of opposition and conflict in human life conceals from Aristotle also one important source of human learning about and one important milieu of human practice of the virtues.

The great Australian philosopher John Anderson urged us 'not to ask of a social institution: "What end or purpose does it serve?" but rather, "Of what conflicts is it the scene?" [...] If Aristotle had asked this question both of the polis and of the individual agent, he would have had an additional resource for understanding the teleological character of both the virtues and the social forms which provide them with a context.

For it was Anderson's insight - a Sophoclean insight - that it is through conflict and sometimes only through conflict that we learn what our ends and purposes are.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.190-1

In these traditional societies, except where the English tradition was successfully established, there has been a reluctance to accept majority rule or the organized oppositional structure of the parliamentary system because of the native desire for a unified social context.

Instead of decision by majority rule, which was often unacceptable to native peoples because it seemed to force an alienated situation on the minority, native peoples in many areas preferred to reach decisions by what could be called “reaching a consensus.”

This method, exemplified in the American Indian “powwow” or in American business conferences, achieved agreement and decision, usually unanimously, by comment from each person present in sequence until consensus was reached. The difficulty of using this method in the large assemblies of newly independent governments often led to other mechanisms for achieving unanimity, such as a constitutional provision that any political party that captured a majority of the vote should have all the seats.

To the Western European such a rule seems to be a scandalous refusal to listen to minority opinion; to natives it often seems a most necessary mechanism for preserving solidarity.

Really it is a mechanism for keeping diverse opinions behind the scene, out of public view, and force the reconciliation of differences to take place in some concealed area of backstage intrigue and discussion rather than out in the public arena of the national assembly. The latter body becomes a mechanism for publicly demonstrating national solidarity or for proclaiming public policy, rather than an area of conflict as it had become in the western European parliamentary system.

This tendency to seek a public display of uniformity and national solidarity through political and constitutional processes was evident in Hitler’s Third Reich, as it has been in other recent European authoritarian states, including the Soviet Union, and has also appeared in the more traditionally free governments of western Europe and the United States.

The European tradition to seek a settlement of disputes or differences by force or in battle was evident in the feudal tradition, in the electoral and parliamentary systems, in the contentious (rather than investigatory) nature of English legal procedure, and in the European, and especially English, obsession with sports and athletic contests. It is part of the warlike tradition of Europe that gave it the weapons development and political power to dominate the world.

Such an emphasis on force as a prime factor in human life is rarer in colonial areas, especially in those where peasant traditions are strong and pastoral traditions are weak (such as India, southeast Asia, China, and much of Negro Africa). In these areas force often appeared in a ritual or symbolic way, so that the outcome of a battle was settled by the infliction of a single casualty, which was taken to indicate a religious or magical settlement of the dispute, making further conflict unnecessary.

[Carroll Quigley]
Tragedy and Hope, ‘The New Era,’ p.749

Resurgent religions, ancient ethnic enmities and territorial rivalries, the use of new technologies for purposes of war rather than wealth-creation do not accord well with Enlightenment expectations of secularisation and the propagation of peace through trade. They betoken a reversion to the classical sources of political and military conflict between and within states.

According to the ideologies of the Enlightenment, liberal as well as Marxist, such conflicts are not endemic to the human condition. They are developmental phases in human progress.

Neo-conservaties who maintain that democratic capitalist sates are the only legitimate form of government, and that such governments will never go to war against one another, are as much captivated by the illusion that the historic sources of human conflict can be transcended as the most vulgar Marxist. They thereby repudiate the traditional practice of diplomacy, which aimed to contain and moderate the sources of destructive conflict without imagining that they could be eradicated.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.102

The German legal scholar Carl Schmitt offers an extreme alternative to Locke and all the thinkers of the Enlightenment.

He concedes with the signatories of Westphalia that there never will be any agreement on the most important things, on questions of religion and virtue and the nature of humanity. But where Locke says that it is in humanity’s nature to know nothing about the nature of humanity, Schmitt responds that it is equally a part of the human condition to be divided by such questions and to be forced to take sides.

Politics is the field of battle in which that division takes place, in which humans are forced to choose between friends and enemies. “The high points of politics,” declares Schmitt, “are the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy.” The enemy is the one whose very presence forces us to confront the foundational questions about human nature anew; “the enemy is our own question as a figure.”

Because of the permanence of these always contentious questions, one cannot unilaterally escape from all politics; those who attempt to do so are suffering from moments of supreme self-delusion; these include the signatories of the Kellogg Pact of 1928, which outlawed all war.

Indeed, it is even worse: “[I]f a part of the population declares that it no longer recognizes enemies, then, depending on the circumstance, it joins their side and aids them.” There is no safety in unilateral disarmament. When one chooses not to decide, one still has a made a choice—invariably a mistaken choice, which implicitly assumes that humankind is fundamentally good or unproblematic.

[…] pacifists believe that the political decision can be avoided in this world […]

In this way, politics serves as a constant reminder to a fallen humanity that life is serious and that there are things that truly matter […]

[Peter Thiel]
‘The Straussian Moment’

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