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Old 07-29-2005, 12:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Opposites and Duality

Much of our thought and culture contains the idea of opposites, from Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Heaven and Hell, Newton's action-reaction and the laws of Thermodynamics - Whatever example you choose to illustrate it, the notion of things having opposing attributes is a powerful and ancient one.

I remember as a child going crazy over trying to catalogue the opposite of all the things I could think of. (Try working out the opposite of 'door', 'brown', or 'cat' and you'll see what I mean!) Yet despite these obvious difficulties, it was something I felt was important to do.

It may be that we find it easier to describe the world in terms of binary parameters, or perhaps there is something deeper about the universe in which we live. There are some schools of thought that teach us to be careful of looking too far down the path of duality, suggesting that it is a dead-end of sorts.

So which is it, this twoness? A manifestation of the way we perceive the universe, or something deeply rooted in the universe's structure? Something to be trusted, or something to be wary of?
 
Old 07-29-2005, 12:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, I think opposites are the simplest function of a system. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to divide people and are often exagerrated, in my opinion. I don't think there's anything inherently dualistic about the universe. The extent of our binary philosophies is probably rooted in the duality of our genders -- another typically human-centric way of looking at the universe (starting with Earth being the center of it, humans being created by God to go forth and lay claim to it, et cetera).
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Old 07-29-2005, 12:39 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I've had a long drawn out conversation along this same line. I argue that it is imposible to describe or know of anything until you have encountered it's opposite.

You'd never know what it meant to be full, unless you understood hunger. We could be experiencing/holding onto several unique sensations but are unaware of them because we've never been without them, or had them change form at all.

Physical matter is easy, you know of it's existance because we are fully capable of understanding it's opposite, emptyness. Emotions have it as well, if you never felt hate would you understand love?

So, I challenge you to prove me wrong, can you think of something that has no opposite?

BTW: The opposite of brown, is blue
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Old 07-29-2005, 01:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Well, my first thought is, if you must experience an opposite before you can know something, can someone discover what it is like to be hungry, by eating a tray of bigmacs?

Or, to be facetious, what is the opposite of pencilcase?

To be less facetious, what is the opposite of electricity? No electricity?

On emotions, what is the opposite of curiosity, jealousy or friendship?

And I'm not sure I accept that brown is the opposite of blue - we have red, green and blue receptors in our eyes. Blue will excite the blue receptors, while brown will excite the red and green ones. This means we have to accept a 'context' in which something is the opposite of something else (in the way that we have to see blue as being the prescence of blue light, but not red or green, while brown is the presence of red and green light, without any blue - not to mention forgetting ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes are unable to register - i.e. the context allows a duality to exist)

Does this open up the idea further? - by which I mean, can this contextual road be dualised? Is it something that creates the dualism, or is it something created by the dualism?
 
Old 07-29-2005, 02:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Context is everything.

The reason I chose blue is because my contextual frame was limited to the colour spectrum. If you add blue to brown you will either get black (subtractive colours) or white (additive colours). The opposite of brown (dead plants) could be green. It could be white (no tan). Or it could be uncooked (Not browned).

The opposite of electricity soley depends on what your reference is. In some contexts it would be 'no electricity' or simply not having it. It could be a collection of positivly charged particles (assuming we are thinging that electricity is a buildup of electrons). Hell, if we are talking lightning it could just be a blue sunny day.

I do believe that one can learn what it is to be hungry by eating a tray of big macs. hungry and full are just tags or labels that we have attached to certain feelings we have. If you know what it is to be full/stuffed/greased up with big macs, then you will know when that feeling is gone. The absence of the full feeling, in some contexts, is hungry.

You always need to know what context people are observing their world from.
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Old 07-29-2005, 02:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think duality is an extreme oversimplification of the human experience. For me such a perspective is often useless when it comes to making actual decisions in actual reality. Black and white are interesting concepts, but in reality most things consist of shades of gray.

It's just one more example of one of the infinite ways in which humans tend to classify and organize information. Noting two opposing extremes is sometimes useful, but often it isn't at all. Furthermore, the more complex something is, the more difficult it is to determine it's opposite. A circle is a relatively simple construction. How would one find the opposite of a circle? An anticircle? What does the equation of an anticircle look like? A circle encloses an area, would an anticircle have to enclose some sort of negative area, or would it simply not enclose an area at all? I don't know. I do know that i know and understand circles well enough, yet i have no clue what composes its opposite.

I guess i find little use for such a limited perspective.
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Old 07-29-2005, 03:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think a key part of our perception and understanding is rooted in our physical structure. We are a duality in that we have a front and back side. And we are a mirror in our bilateral symmetry. This would run our world view on such a basic level that it probably takes some pretty sophisticated mental exercise to step aside from that and see things in another way. I would be interested in hearing about these alternate world views, the exercise or dicipline it takes to truly experience them, and what it communicates to the mainstream understandings we usually use to deal with life.
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Old 07-30-2005, 08:51 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I think it is often rather easy to find opposing motivations and characteristics in various mechanisms and concepts. Love vs. Hate, Pro Life vs. Pro Choice, etc. I think doing so often can cause one to miss out on any sort of nuance or detail. Though sometimes a look at the extrema can give one a fuller picture of the object or concept under consideration. Even so, in most cases such divisions don't apply across the board. I can love someone and hate them. I can be pro choice in certain circumstances and pro life in others. The concepts of masculine and feminine are often useful in abstract, but are completely useless when dealing with actual people because most people are a complex mixture of both.

Being aware of opposites can be useful, but i don't think it is in most situations, because there is so much meaningful information that exists in the gray area between the poles. It's kind've like the false dichotomy presented by the patrick swayze's character in donnie darko. According to him one can only act out of love or fear. Perhaps such a vast oversimplification is useful for a very few, but for most people the range of emotional motivation is much more colorful. Boiling something so complex as emotion down to two poles isn't very useful to anyone.
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Old 07-30-2005, 08:22 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Would not the concept of duality only be useful as a frame of reference. The two opposing factors at each end of a spectrum with quite a full range between. In this context it is useful as a form of conscious understanding. A tool we utilise as we try to make sense of the world we live in. Perhaps the extremes presented in duality allows us to find a balance as to live on either end of such a spectrum would not be conducive to every situation we find ourselves in. Do we not strive to find happy mediums?
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Old 07-30-2005, 10:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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filtherton got it right in my opinion.

In order to function in this world we have to devide it into pieces. Duality is a very basic process of calsification. We use this over simplified process to this day (even when we have access to so much knowledge) because our capacity for information is limited thus it often becomes necessary to simplify concepts based on dual properties.

Sometimes it helps to see things in black and white; when quick reaction is necessary for example. At other times an over simplified view of the situation may lead to poor judgement.

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Old 07-30-2005, 11:04 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Duality doesn't apply to situations where there is a spectrum inbetween.

The reason duality is so important is because at the most basic level, things only exist in contrast to other things. It's not the conventional idea of opposites.

For instance, light only exists in contrast to the absence of light (darkness...). If there was no absense of light then there would be no way to know that there was light. It's defined only by its contrast with darkness.

The same can be said about existence vs. non-existence, emotion vs. lack of emotion, thing vs. nothing. If the negative concepts didn't exist, neither would the positive concepts.

But as for the tricky opposites, you have to remember that it isn't a matter of true opposites. It's not love vs. hate. It's love vs. the absence of love. Passion vs. the absense of passion. Door vs. the absense of a door. Brown vs. the absense of brown.

It's entirely possible that everything in existence and non-existence is in a state of "torofkik". But as there is no absence of torofkik the concept never enters into our mind. We have absolutely no reason to think about it, because it's a true constant. Just as if there was a universe where there was no death, the people would not have the concept of death in their vocabulary.
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Old 08-01-2005, 10:44 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I think braindamage is right there, opposites cannot really exist without one anouther. id even go as far to say that each opposite is in its on way the just anouther part of its own opposite so that there are no opposites simply contrasts.
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Old 08-01-2005, 12:48 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I disagree somewhat brain. It only seems that way because of our human bias. Even if there was absence of dark, we could still determine that there was light because of its photonic energy and as far as all the concepts go, we make those up ourselves, so they have their own rules based on our bias. But as far as the objective universe goes, one cannot break it down into dualities.

Now if you were just talking about from our own perspective, then never mind. Dualities could probably lead to some insight in psychology.
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Old 08-21-2005, 05:35 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I've been mulling this over for a while...

It would seem that the first responses are looking at duality from a human perspective, however if we step away from that and look at it in the context of life, existance, consciousness, whatever, then wouldn't it be somthing like without one, the other wouldn't exist... a bit like braindamage351 mentioned, however with the existance of these opposing things, the opposing traits both attract and repel each other, giving birth to the constant activity of life?

Looking at it in that context, I would say that it is something deeply rooted in the structure of the universe and in essence, life is created by the dualism... or life happens because of the interaction between opposites.

(Heh... this perspective doesn't do much for my ideas about free will however... )
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Old 08-27-2005, 05:55 AM   #15 (permalink)
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From birth, our way of experiencing our universe has been to distinguish ourselves and various aspects of it from other persons and things in it. Opposites is simply a reflection of the level of distinction observed between two things which are different. I don't think it is necessarily an inherent part of the structure of the universe, or at least it doesn't need to be. That we experience something a certain way doesn't make it so, other than subjectively to us. As for "trusting" this duality, it just is what it is, so I don't see trust as relevant.
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Old 08-28-2005, 12:07 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I'd say binary thought is definitely just a way people think in order to make our perceptions and decisions more simple. It's easier to make a decision if one is deciding between "this or that" rather than "this, or maybe more of this, some of that, slightly futher to the other end of the spectrum..." and so dichotomous thought becomes useful, especially for people who aren't concerned with more academic ventures.

Dichotomous thought is dangerous, as many dichotomies are quite false, and I avoid it unless I feel it absolutely applies to the situation (which it rarely does). One such example of the dangers is that of "us or them", or "for or against", both of which have been prominent features of GW's war propoganda.
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Old 08-28-2005, 06:02 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I agree that dichotomies can be useful in defining surface principles of our existence, especially thoughout childhood. I find that it helps me understand an unfamiliar concept if someone provides me with a familiar "opposite" to base my knowledge upon.

People often define themselves by what they are not, and to do this most clearly they must define their opposites. On the surface this appears beneficial, but when looked at closer it is not so. For instance:

I am a female. Female is opposite of male. What is a male? A male is strong, intelligent and brave. If female is opposite of male, then female cannot be strong intelligent and brave.

I know that this is facetious, but it's hard to look at history and try to defend this not happening. It is easier to say "they are unlike me" than to consider that you are the same. It seems that the more similar people are, the more likely they are to call eachother opposites. (take a look at Ireland!)

I'm not even sure if I believe in opposites outside of just a method of human classification. There is no universal black and white.
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Old 08-31-2005, 04:58 PM   #18 (permalink)
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It is interesting isn't it - how much has been invested in this sort of classification.

Good/evil. Yin/Yang. My mother, who is into alternative medicine, always calls supposidly bad foods 'acidic' and good foods 'alkaline'.

The structure of logic is based around true/false and somehow this seems to be elemental somehow, however we know that many things in life can be partially true. Hence fuzzy logic in mathematics. In electronics we have tri-state circuits - and in IT (databases) people have problems with the introduction of a third value (NULL) in what appear to be binary (two state) statements.

In physics though (and my physics is rusty) there are three colours of quarks. Each has 1/3 of the previous basic unit of charge. We have two key particle families (I think) but six particles in each. We have antimatter and matter... but there is more matter than antimatter - then there is asymettry in other interactions. Hopefully somebody else knows this stuff better...

I believe then as others have said, that binary parameters are just the first classification scheme that humans learn to use within higher order thinking. The simplest symbol set or concept set that we learn to manipulate (face is parent... vs is not parent...).

Even if we register more complex sensations (colour, hunger, pain) in shades or levels -I believe that we most commonly use the concepts, within our conscious thoughts, in a binary manner...

So overall - I reckon that this is a simplification. A useful one and the most basic one available... We like it because it is smallest and simplest to handle mentally. Maybe it requires less neurons to implement...

There is no reason to expect though that the universe or situations around us will be based on this... or stick to this pattern.
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Old 09-04-2005, 12:23 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Just a thought: Mao (yeah, the Chinese guy) apparently had the idea that opposites will be reconciled by a greater truth.

...but do go on.
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Old 09-04-2005, 08:59 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suave
I'd say binary thought is definitely just a way people think in order to make our perceptions and decisions more simple. It's easier to make a decision if one is deciding between "this or that" rather than "this, or maybe more of this, some of that, slightly futher to the other end of the spectrum..." and so dichotomous thought becomes useful, especially for people who aren't concerned with more academic ventures.

Dichotomous thought is dangerous, as many dichotomies are quite false, and I avoid it unless I feel it absolutely applies to the situation (which it rarely does). One such example of the dangers is that of "us or them", or "for or against", both of which have been prominent features of GW's war propoganda.


Dangerous use of Terminology... especially considering the lack of understanding. DANGEROUS!
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Old 09-13-2005, 04:43 PM   #21 (permalink)
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systems are just man's way of interpreting the world, an attempt to place things in some semblance of order. Many times we find our systems to be inaccurate or inadequate. Definitions change as the centuries of knowledge build.

Opposition is one of these human interpretations of reality. A wall does not choose to be the opposite of a door any more than a dog chooses to be the opposite of a cat. These are definitions that we give them out of convenience. It helps us to put our world into context by giving such classifications.

Opposites are not so much an ultimate reality as our interpretation. "To every action there is an equal or opposite reaction" is just a fancy way of saying that all things are reliant upon one another. Movement does not happen by mistake. Good is not always good, bad is not always bad. There are few to no absolutes, situation dictates all definitions that human minds place upon the world.

As the knowledge we have of the world increases, we find fewer contradictions and more coorelations. Thinking along the lines of how we interact is much more effective than thinking of how all things oppose.
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Old 10-10-2005, 07:50 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Howdy!

How come I haven't heard anybody say anything about non-dualism yet?

The concept of non-dualism has been around a lot longer than any western philosophies!

See also: yoga, maya, categorical framework, Indian philosophy.

BTW: I'm a non-dualist myself.
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Old 10-10-2005, 08:04 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I think it has to do with attempting to categorize/understand something fundamentally new to your experience. You don't have the terminlogy to describe what this new something IS... but you may have a whole wealth of prior experience to decribe what this new thing IS NOT. It's a primitive form of deduction, I guess.
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Old 10-11-2005, 12:15 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdevauld
I've had a long drawn out conversation along this same line. I argue that it is imposible to describe or know of anything until you have encountered it's opposite.

You'd never know what it meant to be full, unless you understood hunger. We could be experiencing/holding onto several unique sensations but are unaware of them because we've never been without them, or had them change form at all.

Physical matter is easy, you know of it's existance because we are fully capable of understanding it's opposite, emptyness. Emotions have it as well, if you never felt hate would you understand love?

So, I challenge you to prove me wrong, can you think of something that has no opposite?

BTW: The opposite of brown, is blue

If I've never seen blue, but only brown and green... can I not then understand brown? *sad panda*
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Old 10-11-2005, 12:18 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filtherton
A circle is a relatively simple construction. How would one find the opposite of a circle? An anticircle? What does the equation of an anticircle look like? A circle encloses an area, would an anticircle have to enclose some sort of negative area, or would it simply not enclose an area at all? I don't know. I do know that i know and understand circles well enough, yet i have no clue what composes its opposite.

I guess i find little use for such a limited perspective.

I would think, in it's context, that an anti-circle would, in fact, be all area not encompassed by said circle. It's equation would take all of existance and subtract from it the area of the known circle.
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Old 10-11-2005, 12:23 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by kramus
I think a key part of our perception and understanding is rooted in our physical structure. We are a duality in that we have a front and back side. And we are a mirror in our bilateral symmetry. This would run our world view on such a basic level that it probably takes some pretty sophisticated mental exercise to step aside from that and see things in another way. I would be interested in hearing about these alternate world views, the exercise or dicipline it takes to truly experience them, and what it communicates to the mainstream understandings we usually use to deal with life.

I think part of that would be understanding that there truly is no duality. Between black and white lies grey. Between day and night lie dusk and dawn. There is something between your backside and frontside. There are neutrons that have no charge to go along with electrons and protons. The binary digit system for computers is not natural. It is a creation. Therefore it suffers only the duality we impose upon it. There is a middle ground between male and female. There is hermaphroditic and androgynous (both at varying levels). What is the opposite of a mountain? A valley? Well, then there are the plains. And hills. And dips. Lots of middle ground to play in. Even if there IS a distinct opposite, those "dualities" are almost never the only options on the field.


Quote:
Originally Posted by genuinegirly
systems are just man's way of interpreting the world, an attempt to place things in some semblance of order. Many times we find our systems to be inaccurate or inadequate. Definitions change as the centuries of knowledge build.

Opposition is one of these human interpretations of reality. A wall does not choose to be the opposite of a door any more than a dog chooses to be the opposite of a cat. These are definitions that we give them out of convenience. It helps us to put our world into context by giving such classifications.

Opposites are not so much an ultimate reality as our interpretation. "To every action there is an equal or opposite reaction" is just a fancy way of saying that all things are reliant upon one another. Movement does not happen by mistake. Good is not always good, bad is not always bad. There are few to no absolutes, situation dictates all definitions that human minds place upon the world.

As the knowledge we have of the world increases, we find fewer contradictions and more coorelations. Thinking along the lines of how we interact is much more effective than thinking of how all things oppose.
This applies to the above from another angle. How can black and white be opposites when they are, in fact, both colors? Dogs and cats? Both animals. For something to be coined as an opposite, it must have some similarity. Doesn't this, then, negate the effective of true dualism?

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Old 10-11-2005, 12:40 PM   #27 (permalink)
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I've always thought the opposite of blue is red. My life became a little more complete yesterday when I finally saw a red 1969 Ford station wagon similar to the blue one my parents had when I was 5.

Wouldn't opposite totally depend on personal concept? The Cowboy was the opposite of the "Indian" back in the days of movie westerns. However, they both lived off the land, killed to eat, and rode horses. Nowadays, I don't hink you'll see a movie depicting Ute's or Awhaga's as a murderous, scalping clan.

If we talk about opposites according to personal concept, there are plenty of things with no opposite (radio, nerf balls), but if braindamage is right, then there is nothing without an opposite. The opposite would be for that to simply not exist. In which case, the opposite would also be moot because if something doesn't exist, neither does its opposite.

I think the black v. white thing works, though, if I've been told right. White is the absence of all colors. Black is the presence of all colors.
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Old 10-11-2005, 02:46 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Poppinjay
I've always thought the opposite of blue is red.
If you don't already know, the true 'opposite' (or complement) of blue is orange. The opposite of red is green.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementary_color

Dualism is indeed a pervading fact of the universe--I don't think there's anything subjective about it. It's not just the human desire to categorize ideas and their opposites--it's much more intrinsic than that. To wit, here are the fundamental associations associated with the supreme science of the cosmos, physics:

significance of ones: Ones in physics are a little tentative. if you don't count anti-gravity, then gravity is a one-way force (attraction). One cosmos that we're aware of. Hopefully, there's one set of laws that describe every physical phenomena.

Significance of twos: We have particles and anti-particles, positive and negative charges and magnets. Quarks have either positive or negative spin, and one of two possible electric charges.

Significance of threes: quarks combine in triplets to form protons and neutrons. There are three dimensions, if you don't count time. Can't think of anything else.

Significance of values beyond three aren't particularly interesting. So two (dualism) is the clear winner. Every particle type has one, and only one complement--the anti-particle.
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Old 10-11-2005, 03:56 PM   #29 (permalink)
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There is also the significance of fours, as in four dimensional timespace. Some string theorists believe that string theory can be accurately described in four dimensions.

Every number has as much significance as can be subscribed to it. Two is just easier to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xepherys
I would think, in it's context, that an anti-circle would, in fact, be all area not encompassed by said circle. It's equation would take all of existance and subtract from it the area of the known circle.
But if a circle has area, wouldn't an anti-circle necessarily have no area? The point is that when it comes to opposites one must pick and choose which characteristics to focus on. What makes a circle a circle? Roundness? Pi? Area? What is the opposite of round? Pi? Area?

Duality can perhaps be interesting, but as a means of organizing the world i find it to be woefully inadequate.
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Old 10-11-2005, 04:23 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by xepherys
I would think, in it's context, that an anti-circle would, in fact, be all area not encompassed by said circle. It's equation would take all of existance and subtract from it the area of the known circle.
To nitpick... a circle is defined as as set of points in a plane equidistant from a point. So an "anti-circle" would not necessarily have anything to do with the area inside a circle.
Running with the assumption of a circular area, though... what about non-cartesian geometry? A circle drawn on a spherical plane divides the surface into two areas... but both are circular.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xepherys
For something to be coined as an opposite, it must have some similarity.
The best opposites are similar in all respects except for the characteristics you wish to illustrate. It's a way of saying "All these similarities are not significant." So Cat/Dog is a good set of opposites because they're both furry animals, that live on earth, eat meat, are kept as pets, have tails, bear live young, have four feet, etc. If, however, you oppose platypus and freedom... it's not really clear what the hell you're trying to get at with the comparison (or the contrast, rather).
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Old 10-11-2005, 04:34 PM   #31 (permalink)
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The best opposites are similar in all respects except for the characteristics you wish to illustrate. It's a way of saying "All these similarities are not significant." So Cat/Dog is a good set of opposites because they're both furry animals, that live on earth, eat meat, are kept as pets, have tails, bear live young, have four feet, etc. If, however, you oppose platypus and freedom... it's not really clear what the hell you're trying to get at with the comparison (or the contrast, rather).
I think this is interesting - especially the way that choosing a pair of opposites can be used as a way of defining this contextual thing we were talking about. e.g. Someone could go on for a long time about furry animals, or different wavelengths of light, or whatever, but if they pick two examples of things that are opposite, we can quickly understand what the continuum is (i.e. this contextual thing that's otherwise quite hard to nail down) that lies between the two extremes being demonstrated.
In this way, the opposing things act as signposts or markers, helping to define the thing around which they've been placed.
 
Old 10-12-2005, 09:11 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1010011010
The best opposites are similar in all respects except for the characteristics you wish to illustrate. It's a way of saying "All these similarities are not significant." So Cat/Dog is a good set of opposites because they're both furry animals, that live on earth, eat meat, are kept as pets, have tails, bear live young, have four feet, etc. If, however, you oppose platypus and freedom... it's not really clear what the hell you're trying to get at with the comparison (or the contrast, rather).
But then anything can be opposite in a given context. i.e. - Horses and giraffes (neck length). How does the line get drawn? Opposites has to have a definition (it's a word) and therefore there must be a line of sorts. What is it?
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Old 10-14-2005, 05:30 AM   #33 (permalink)
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There is also the significance of fours, as in four dimensional timespace. Some string theorists believe that string theory can be accurately described in four dimensions.

Every number has as much significance as can be subscribed to it. Two is just easier to see.
I disagree--there are too many dualities in physics that are really fundamental, compared to the trialities (?) or quadralities. Even the examples I gave for one-ness and three-ness were pretty tentative--the grouping of three quarks is not really a triality--each of the three quarks grouped together is not the opposite of the other two (2 of one type, one of another). In contrast, a positive electric charge is the opposite of a negative one, a wave can be considered the opposite of a particle, energy can be considered the opposite of time. A particle's opposite is the antiparticle.

At the moment, I can't think of any examples of true triality, quadrality, etc in physics (i.e., where each item can be considered an 'opposite' of the other items in the grouping) other than 3-dimensional space (without time) or 4-dimensional space (with time) or 5-dimensional space (with Kaluza-Klein theory) or even higher (with superstring theories--I've seen no superstring theory currently being considered that has less than 11 dimensions?). The question of the # of dimensions in the universe is still being debated--it's not that all of these are examples of opposition are fundamental--only one of these is bound to be correct.

In nature and chemistry, it's more commonplace to see this sort of thing happening--a chemical flip between different configurations (cyclohexane flips between about 3 of these), a flower may have pentalateral symmetry. Because of the ways our eyes work, there are three primary colors (red green blue or cyan magenta yellow) But as has already been mentioned, even in nature and chemisty, the overwhelming majority of structures show duality (or bilateral symmetry), if they show any such symmetry at all.
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Old 10-14-2005, 08:46 AM   #34 (permalink)
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I disagree--there are too many dualities in physics that are really fundamental, compared to the trialities (?) or quadralities. Even the examples I gave for one-ness and three-ness were pretty tentative--the grouping of three quarks is not really a triality--each of the three quarks grouped together is not the opposite of the other two (2 of one type, one of another). In contrast, a positive electric charge is the opposite of a negative one, a wave can be considered the opposite of a particle, energy can be considered the opposite of time. A particle's opposite is the antiparticle.

At the moment, I can't think of any examples of true triality, quadrality, etc in physics (i.e., where each item can be considered an 'opposite' of the other items in the grouping) other than 3-dimensional space (without time) or 4-dimensional space (with time) or 5-dimensional space (with Kaluza-Klein theory) or even higher (with superstring theories--I've seen no superstring theory currently being considered that has less than 11 dimensions?). The question of the # of dimensions in the universe is still being debated--it's not that all of these are examples of opposition are fundamental--only one of these is bound to be correct.

In nature and chemistry, it's more commonplace to see this sort of thing happening--a chemical flip between different configurations (cyclohexane flips between about 3 of these), a flower may have pentalateral symmetry. Because of the ways our eyes work, there are three primary colors (red green blue or cyan magenta yellow) But as has already been mentioned, even in nature and chemisty, the overwhelming majority of structures show duality (or bilateral symmetry), if they show any such symmetry at all.
I know what you're saying, but what i'm saying is that there is an infinite number of groupings that can be considered significant if one is willing to consider them significant. Each quadratic equation is defined by three variables, a, b and c. Each cubic can be defined by four numbers. Any plane can be broken up into four quadrants, just like any map can be broken up into four directions. A three dimensional euclidean space needs to be, at least implicitily, broken up into eight different areas in order to use it for anything, throw time into the mix and you then have sixteen different areas. Sure these areas are very unintuitive and impossible to visualize in the context of three dimensional space, but they are incredibly significant in the physics of ordinary objects. In any area not simply divided by a line, a dichotomy just won't do. The real numbers have as many different subsets as stars in the sky.
How many forces are there in the universe now? I'm not sure exactly, i want to say four, but i kind of feel like maybe they figured out how to merge a couple of them. In any case, if there just happens to be a way to express all the forces in the universe as one unified force, would this in fact destroy any kind of notion of duality?

There are a great many things whose characteristics can be broken down into opposites, but there are a great many things whose characteristics can't be broken down into two opposites. Certainly there are many things made significant by their opposites, but most things don't have opposites, and perhaps only a fraction of the sum of their characteristics that can be isolated and contrasted with other things.

If you're wondering about four dimensional superstring theories, look up a man named sylvester gates. He's at the university of maryland. I saw him speak on superstrings a few weeks ago. Much of it was over my head, but i do remember him mentioning the fact that he was a proponent of four dimensional string theory.
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Old 10-14-2005, 09:12 AM   #35 (permalink)
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I guess it's my turn to say I know what you're saying, but...

If you have a quadratic equation with only a 1st order term (i.e., y=mx+b), you would never consider the 'm' and the 'b' to be opposites of each other. X and Y maybe, depending on the circumstance, but not m and b. Similarly, if you were to divide 3 dimensional space into 8 congruent slices of pie, pie piece #1 would not have, as its opposites all other 7 pieces--it would just be the piece katty korner that could be considered the opposite. Having a group of many parameters is different from having a group of parameters that are all orthogonal or opposite to each other.

I do agree, however, that there are plenty of things in the universe that don't have any opposites, and that, in those situations, people sometimes apply a categorization scheme just to make things easier to understand. And while categorization is often easier when you just have two bins into which you're sorting, I don't think the number 2 is in any way fundamental to human nature. It's more like, if you only need one bin, why go through the trouble of trying to use two? If you only need two bins, why go through the trouble of trying to use three?
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Old 10-14-2005, 09:19 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by xepherys
But then anything can be opposite in a given context. i.e. - Horses and giraffes (neck length). How does the line get drawn? Opposites has to have a definition (it's a word) and therefore there must be a line of sorts. What is it?
I think zen_tom's post immediately before yours expands on the idea fairly well... better than I could, in any event. The idea is that a function of a pair of opposites is to provide context... not that for a given context you can find a pair of opposites.
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Old 10-15-2005, 05:35 PM   #37 (permalink)
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I think the universe is too chaotic for actual opposites to exist. It's easy to take basic negation to an extreme and that the opposite of A is not A. it sounds good, but it doesn't necessarily hold up. The opposite of black is not black? Well yes, but yellow is not black and it's not the case that the opposite of black is yellow.

Of course colors make a bad example because they do have mathematical opposites. Every color is defined by it's wavelength and can be broken down to numbers.
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Old 10-16-2005, 12:46 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Of course colors make a bad example because they do have mathematical opposites. Every color is defined by it's wavelength and can be broken down to numbers.
What's the opposite of 420nm radiation (blue)? 580nm radiation (yellow).
I'm not sure I follow you.
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Old 03-01-2006, 04:57 PM   #39 (permalink)
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You say that each particle has one and only one complement. To some extent this is circular logic.

By definition - an item will only have one opposite. If therefore, we later find that X has only one opposite, we cannot claim that this is evidence of dualism.

In the case of higher order groups. My recallection of particule physics is one of many larger groupings. For example, I seem to recall that there are

6 lepton types
6 neutrino types
6 quark types, or "flavours" (each with 3 colours etc..)
n gluon types (I don't recall... 9 I think though)

(... and there's a lot of stuff about higher order symmetry groups that I
never quite figured out to be honest, lazy student that I am)


I maintain that the significance of the number two, is that it is the largest value greater than 1. ie, that 2, opposites, and IS/NOTIS are just the simplest/cleanest form of classification that we have.

... or to put it another way... after you make your first cut to a cake/pizza, it goes from having one piece to having two pieces...

I can't see any significance above that, but I agree that this is significant of itself.
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