Dualities and Dichotomies:
Heart and Mind
(Affect and Reason)
(past and future)

". . . the domain of the instincts . . . was considered as eternally hostile and detrimental to reason . . . .
whatever belongs to the sphere of sensuousness, pleasure, impulse has the connotation of
being antagonistic to reason--something that has to be subjugated, constrained."
(Marcuse, Eros and Instinct, 1955:145)

Dualities appear to be a condition of existence: where there is something, there could be nothing. Every thing, every idea, every life, has within it --by virtue of our consciousness of it-- the seed of its negation. And then there is time: a past and future, memory and imagination, and our consciousness of their separation is possibly uniquely human. We exist in a very small place: between a remembered (even imagined) past and an unknown (even imagined) future. And as Kierkegaard said, "It is perfectly true ... , as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards" (1843, Journal). Where there is nature there is nurture. And (art theorist's alert!) where there is a manifest theme, there are latent variations ... "unity in diversity." Then there is the "essential tension" between tradition and innovation (Kuhn), each with their own specialized ensembles of physiological support. (see below: "ARE DICHOTOMIES INEVITABLE?")

So humans dichotomize ... but enough starry-eyed, liberating, re-enchantment of the unities and discontinuities of existence: dichotomizing is simpler: a necessary condition of any behavior: to act or not to act we must sharpen the issues that demand attention! The brain does this (lateral inhibition), and so shall we ... a kind of deconstruction over which we can only take a little control before an "actionable scenario" can be represented in our minds ... before our narrative-constructing skills can give us the least objectionable (most coherently efficient?) alternative.

Arguably, dichotomies are invented, and then remain forever related by the subsequent tension between them - an ESSENTIAL TENSION. AND SEE ideas about DIALECTIC (Glossary) and more on DIALECTIC.

Are these dualities "ignorant armies that clash by night" ?

It was around the fourth century that "Apollo/Dionysus supplanted Apollo/Artemis as the pair personifying the dual nature of the human condition. When Dionysus was admitted to Mount Olympus, the upstart god was seated next to Apollo" (Leonard Shlain 1998:141)
Types of Consciousness

  • More Subcortical
  • Less Computational
  • More Analog
  • Intentions in Action
  • Action to Perception
  • Neuromodulator codes (Neuropeptide)

  • More Neocortical
  • More Computational
  • More Digital
  • Intentions to Act
  • Perception to Action
  • Neurotransmitter Codes (Glutamate, etc)
From Jaak Panksepp
    AFFECT and COGNITION correspond roughly to "Dionysian" and Apollonian" dimensions of personality. Nietzsche believed that both forces were necessarily present in Greek tragedy, and that the true tragedy could only be produced by the tension between them.

  • Abandoning individuality, Will (Schopenhauer)
  • Enthusiasm, ecstasy
  • sexuality, instincts
  • Uniqueness, Individuation (Schopenhauer)
  • Analytic
  • Illusion, decadence
From Steven Kreis’ notes at The History Guide:
  • Earth, id, Eros, Epicurean, heart
  • Emotion, feeling, chaos, excess
  • Female, equality, art, spontaneity
  • Impulsiveness, country, romanticism, nature
  • Sun, ego, psyche, Stoic, mind
  • Reason, thinking, order, restraint
  • Male hierarchy, science, system
  • Compulsive, city, classicism, civilization
From Apollo vs Dionysus: The Only Theme Your Students Will Ever Need in Writing about Literature --  by Michael Thro
  • external locus of control
  • high trust proneness, high absorption levels, focal-peripheral space awareness
  • affective-cognitive belief systems, high susceptibility to hypnotic suggestions
  • high levels of written output of low complexity and suspended critical appraisal

  • internal locus of control
  • low trust proneness, peripheral-focal space awareness
  • cognitive-affective belief systems, low susceptibility to hypnotic suggestions
  • low levels of written output of high complexity, and immediate critical appraisal.

from:  Krus, D.J., et al. (1982) Some characteristics of Apollonian and Dionysian dimensions of economic theories. Psychological Reports, 50, 967-974.

arguably, heroes can either reconcile dualities
or affirm unities


The Complementary Components of TRUTH


    ARE DICHOTOMIES INEVITABLE? Are dichotomies inherent in the human condition?

    We are aware of a past and future (assimilation and habit vs accommodation and growth ... memory and imagination ... roots and wings ... tradition and innovation (Kuhn’s “essential tension”)) Our lives (all memory) and the expectation of death (all imagination)? ... Forrest Church: "Religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die." (from his 2008 Commentary, Love and Death," in the Summer 2008 UU World)

    We have a sense (illusory?) of determinism and chance (in response to the Uncertainty Principle that Werner Heisenberg formulated, Einstein responded that “God does not play dice with the universe” (Hawking)

    AND we are biological, with ambitions beyond our competence. (We have evolved competence in creativity/innovation to reconfigure ourselves and our environments, insofar as we are able, to secure our needs as organisms. And the supreme need of all organisms is continuity – e.g., projecting biologically relevant information (genes, memes) into the future).

      [this dichotomous nature has, in humans, a neurological basis: " of the primitive functions of the inferior parietal lobule is to organize neural data into antinomies based originally upon spatial relationships." Laughlin & d’Aquili (1974: 116) proposed this, inspired by Luria's (1966) observation that lesions in this area compromise "basic logical-grammatical categories" such as "high-low," "over-under," "up-down," among others. ... This would later be known as one of d'Aquili's several "cognitive operators" (relatively discrete analytical functions of the brain). It was termed the "binary operator" that served the initial dichotomous sorting function for rapid management of large amounts of data. This function was seen also as central to the structure of myths such as birth-death, good-evil, above-below. It is also closely related to the sense of self-other, and when quiescent, is associated with spiritual ecstasy (Newberg 2001)]

    We secure our needs by behavior —actions— based on confident beliefs about the consequences of that behavior: these beliefs are secured by correspondence and coherence, reality testing and narrative) and as organisms must endure constraints: we think and believe in an evolved umwelt beyond which we cannot go – our biological structure is not competent in domains that our evolutionary past has never been required to accommodate: “If Kant is right in saying, ‘Human burdened by questions is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer,’ then we are doomed to either illusion or dissatisfaction. Agreeing with Kant, I find this result inescapable. But it is not a result that closes off all inquiry or makes all inquiry dull.” (Fogelin 2004). (This leaves us, Fogelin says, with two alternatives: Kant’s “Metaphysical Illusions” or “Radical Skepticism.” Fogelin goes on: “I have suggested that the only thing - or at least the chief thing - that protects us from falling into incoherence, from being captured by dialectical illusion, and from succumbing to an abject skepticism is becoming engaged in the world in ways that put our thoughts under constraints that are not themselves further thoughts. This is an inherently fallible, risky, and often disappointing activity. It is not, however, an inherently dull activity. It is often fun and, at its best, high adventure.”) (Fogelin quoted in Rbt Cline's review of Fogelin's Walking the Tightrope of Reason: The Precarious Life of a Rational Animal. Oxford University Press)
. . .

    THE ESSENTIAL TENSION that Thomas Kuhn described between tradition and innovation refers to the tension between the two complementary components of thinking: convergent and divergent. In Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn characterized "normal science" (in which a current generally accepted (traditional) narrative is developed and consolidated), and "revolutionary science" (in which a new (innovative) narrative emerges to cope with information that could not be assimilated or accommodated by the traditional one. [more]

. . .

    ARE individual "things" necessarily the outcome of their impicit duality? see: ENANTIODROMIA ... can "things" create their own opposites?

. . .

    CREATIVITY is sometimes regarded as significantly enriched if not fundamentally facilitated by good communications between the functional cerebral modules that cumulatively enable varying types of consciousness -- especially left and right brain functions, or consciousness and subconsciousness, or explicit and implicit knowledge) [more on intuition]

. . .
    Perhaps the place of REASON has been elevated out of context because it is our most distinctive HUMAN characteristic. It is coordinated by the highest cerebral attainments (prefrontal cortex) and has a central role in restraining or selecting between instinctive or automatized patterns organized at "lower" levels of the brain (basal ganglia). But it is impotent and helpless without a reliable sense of reality attained only by experience: "The senses cannot think. The understanding cannot see" (Kant); "The heart has reasons of which reason knows not” (Pascal).
. . . . .

    REALITY. "A short text of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, The Aspiration of Great Power, describes how the inexpressible basic ground of reality, common to all beings, is experienced in two different ways: through the paths of awareness and unawareness." [Francesca Fremantle (2004) "Another Reality." in: Shambala Sun 13(2):52-60, 77-78)]

. . .

is there an optimal balance of reason and habit?

Glossary of terms in A&O

started in 2008 / last tweaked aug 2012