Duality, dualism, duelling and Brexit – Ray Ison and Ed Straw

Taking this opportunity to rethink a part of government crucial to a fair and dynamic society would be good politics. Whitehall is no more capable of doing this than Brussels.

Light can be treated as both a wave and a particle depending on the experiment we, as observers, use to examine its behaviour. This apparent paradox was described for many years as the ‘wave–particle dualism’, implying that they were incompatible and irreconcilable phenomena.

Dualism describes antagonistic or negating opposites: mind/matter, objective/subjective, Brexit/Remain. Two concepts form a dualism when they belong to the same logical level and at that level are perceived as opposites. The logic behind this dialectic is negation. Negation takes a proposition p to another proposition not-p. Not-p is interpreted intuitively as being true when p is false, and false when p is true. This fuels pugilistic media interviews and adversarial politics. Modern duels are fought with dualisms.This fuels pugilistic media interviews and adversarial politics. Modern duels are fought with dualisms.

Such dualistic thinking is a product of the prevailing objectivist Cartesian world view, with its orthodox logic, under which we are still brought up. In science, it was not until it was recognized that phenomena we observe in ‘nature’ are not independent of our acts of observing them, that this wave/particle paradox was resolved by appreciating that their behaviours are in fact complementary and constitute a duality rather than a dualism. Taken together they do not negate each other but create a unity or a coherent whole.

‘It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.’ Albert Einstein

Reframing conceptual pairs as dualities rather than dualisms stimulates relational thinking and practice. Following this logic the following pairs need not be understood as self-negating but expressions of key elements or concepts in a relational dynamic in which the whole is different to the parts: control – autonomy; constraint – freedom; environment – system; social world – biophysical world; yin – yang. When recognized as pairs participating in a relational dynamic, the operational possibilities open up and may be greater,  more rewarding and exciting.

[Continues… and delves into “Brexit” at headline link]