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Dualism and dichotomy in a world of plurality Essay

Dualism posits the idea that the universe is comprised of twos, with each element achieving its totality only through the existence of these two. The duality of man (body and soul) is an example of this. Accepting this idea, however, presents an assumption that everything is composed of only two ultimate elements (the Chinese concept of yin and yang). The reduction of a being into two essences that determine his own essence can be seen as rather reductive and deterministic, especially if we factor in an assumption that, in fact, a being is a product of multiple aspects not necessarily its own.

Moreover, the classification of things into opposites abandons the idea that there are ‘middle’ aspects that may not be included the two dualist forces. The yin/yang polarization, for instance, rejects the idea that there is an indefinite ‘middle’ between night and day, a friend and a foe, black and white, woman and man. In fact, this ‘middle’, I think, is not alone for the forces are in a continuum. Hence, putting the indefinite aspects into the periphery and giving the two extremes (black and white, woman and man, day and night, etc) only the deterministic powers give us a reductive glance at looking the totality a being.

The whole system of dichotomization erases and reduces the other potentially important aspects of a thing or person. I believe that the idea of dualism is an effort to systematize our perception of the world (hence the concept of dialectic) through the balancing of the equilibrium between the two primal opposite forces. However, I also believe that dualism is not really a good idea if we put it in the postmodern context.

For instance, the barrage of symbols and illusion that mass media floods in our daily lives since our birth (and most probably even in our death) had already taken a heavy effect on our perception of reality. In a postmodern context, even the idea of what is real and what is true is disputed. On the other hand, dualism posits that equilibrium can be achieved only through the labor of balancing the two opposites. However, since our very perception of our selves is disputed in a postmodern world, achieving stability/ equilibrium for a postmodern being cannot be achieved through a mere balancing act.

In fact, no one is really sure if the totality of a human being has achieved its fullness. Hence, it is not a balancing act but more of a ‘juggling’ act with knives being the juggles. Finally, I believe that dualism imposes certain contradictions as the most important. In doing this, other relatively ‘smaller’ contradictions are singled out or integrated to the so-called prime contradictions. However, the ‘prime’ contradictions present themselves as not really integral, leaving the other supposed contradictions untouched.

This is most prominent in the infamous Cold War where communism and democracy where pitted against each other as dual forces that shape the world. This left the world in an obsession with the said dichotomy and in a constant state of paranoia. Another good example would be the age-old discourse of gender equality, wherein women and men are pitted against each other, while the lesbian, gay and bisexual bloc are caught in the middle. Moreover, the clash of these three views missed the existence of other ‘genders’ in the gender continuum.

Consequently, other issues were left unsaid, leaving the same old problem. Dualism for me then is not a really a practicable idea during these times. I believe what must be accepted is the existence of multiple forces that shape every nation, community and individual, rather than a branding among ourselves in black and white. With this, we can avoid the imposition that others do to their fellow people and foster a world of understanding. Reference OHREEN, DAVID E. INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY. Vancouver: Nelson Education LTD, 2009.


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