One thing that I have observed in life is that most people see distinctions I do not. They are always dividing us into different groups based on personality traits or modes of thought, but I have a hard time understanding the classification.
Reason and Emotion
One of the most common false dichotomies I hear is that some of us are rational while others are emotional. I am told that reason and emotion are enemies and that it is impossible to use both simultaneously. I have always seen them as complimentary. If I do not know, how can I care? And if I do not care, what difference does it make that I know? In order to escape a burning building, one must both use reason to understand that they are in danger and use emotion to choose to make use of that understanding one way or another. One without reason is as likely to run in place as run out the door, while one without emotions is also as likely to run in place as run out the door.
People are too quick to make assumptions. They assume that the emotional response is to run into a burning building to retrieve objects of value while the rational response is to remain outdoors until the danger passes. Why can’t it be that the emotional response is to flee the flames in fear while the rational response is to carefully analyze the risk and determine it still minimal enough to run back in to rescue the baby? Which individual is risk-averse? The one who does not want to risk burns and suffocation or the one who does not want to risk losing irreplaceable things that are likely salvageable? In every action, there are emotional tradeoffs based on the perceived outcomes – perceptions arrived at through reason.
Left and Right
I am told that the right side of the brain is creative while the left side of the brain is logical. Right-thinkers make great artists but are easily fooled by propaganda while left-thinkers can balance a budget but are unable to invent creative solutions to new issues. I have always seen logic and creativity as complimentary. Creativity feeds on logic. Understanding how things work is a necessary base for extrapolating how they can work differently.
I am told that left-thinkers are better at critical thinking and right-thinkers are better at seeing “the whole picture” at once, but how can one engage in critical thought without seeing the whole picture? A left-thinker might be able to follow a chain of logic left behind by a right-thinker, but they would not be able to create one themselves. I have observed that some people get hung up on symbols while losing track of the underlying reality the symbols represent. This causes them to make comical and sometimes dangerous mistakes. Since it is supposedly left-thinkers that get lost in details, are good with symbols (both language and math), and are sequential in their thinking, it follows that left-thinkers are bad at critical thinking – yet this is the opposite of what I am told.
East and West
In eastern thought things are defined in relationship to other things whereas in western thought things are defined in isolation. Thus, an easterner might define a bird as that which eats seeds and is eaten by cats while a westerner might define a bird as an object with feathers and wings. I have problems with this dichotomy too.
Reductionism is supposedly a western idea. In reductionism, feathers can be described as having vanes and barbs and wings can be described as having bones and skin. Even if the bird is broken all the way down into its constituent subatomic particles, the motion of those particles is meaningless except in relation to other particles. Since mass is nothing but resistance to a change in motion, mass too is meaningless except in relation to other particles. The same goes for spin and charge. Ultimately, all thought is eastern thought.
At the same time, easterners would never be able to understand or communicate about the immensely complex world without imposing some sort of simplifying taxonomy onto it. I assume they have finite minds like everyone else. This requires breaking things down so they will fit in memory. Ultimately, all thought is western thought.
Faces and Vases
I wonder if the propensity of humans to see things as “either-or” has a neurological basis. I am told that in viewing pictures like the one here, people always see either a vase or two faces but never both at the same time. This has been cited as proof of a central consciousness distinct from all the sensory data our brains continually filter through that our subconscious is “aware” of but “we” are not. Oddly, I have never had a problem seeing both faces and vase at the same time. Am I an alien?
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.