Monday, July 9, 2012

Either/Or; More/Less

For any given criteria, all things in the universe will either fulfill or not fulfill the given criteria. Either/or. There is a binary value assigned to everything in the universe with regard to that criteria. Present or absent. + or -. Yes or no.

The repetition of these categories in the universe may be what causes us to see the world through a binary category: Good/Evil. We cannot get our criteria to agree in this case, though. We cannot agree what criteria makes up “Good,” and without the criteria for one the other remains undefined. But we still have the binary categories, we use them in the course of speaking, and we understand one another because we all seem to share these two categories. We simply disagree about their content.

But, then, if in the case of Good and Evil we share the categories, but lack the criteria, perhaps Good and Evil is not the exception but the rule. Perhaps we have binary categories in our minds, but we do not know what the criteria for the binary categories are? Maybe we have our Positive and Negative, but the definition of “positive” remains to be seen?

This, however, is nonsense. Definitions are not discovered, definitions are made. The binary categories provide mental slots for us and we can plug in numerous definitions into the Positive category. Whatever we plug into the Positive category colors the entire world, because it can be asked of everything “does this fulfill the criteria?”

Through these binary categories we divide up the world. Either/or.

What about situations where the grammar doesn't make sense? Like asking “is this triangle spicy?” Is there a third category for these situations? Or do all these nonsense questions fall into the Negative category, since all triangles would necessarily not be spicy because spiciness is not a property of geometric shapes?

What about the shade or the gradient? What about situations where the binaries are just extremes and the things do not fulfill or not-fulfill the criteria, but rather less-fulfill and more-fulfill the criteria? What is an example of this? Are rabbits fast or not-fast? This question can only be answered vaguely, not precisely, and this is because of the nature of “fastness.” Things are not fast or non-fast, but are more fast or less fast. A cheetah is most fast, a slug is least fast; although a rocket is faster than a cheetah and a tree on an incline is slower than a slug. If you just ask if a rabbit is fast or non-fast, most likely you would answer whether he is in the upper or lower half of whatever the context of the conversation says he is being compared to.

Through these shades we divide up the world. More/less.

What about situations where the grammar doesn't make sense? Like asking “is this rock more or less sexually aroused?” The rock must be relegated to a binary Either/Or. Rocks are incapable of sexual arousal. They are all under the Negative category and therefore cannot fall anywhere on the gradient.

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