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Everywhere and Nowhere:

Are binary oppositions real?

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  • The Debate

    Everywhere and Nowhere

    True or false, male or female, Heaven or Hell. Human thought craves oppositions. Can we transcend this way of thinking or are these oppositions fundamental to human thought, and even wrought within the fabric of the world?

    The Panel

    Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London Barry C Smith, LSE sociologist Hilary Rose, award-winning philosopher of the information age Luciano Floridi and post postmodernist thinker Hilary Lawson investigate new ways of thinking.

  • Find out more about speakers

Jump to what you want to see in the debate
  • Barry C Smith
    The Pitch
    Oppositions are useful but can be misapplied
  • Hilary Rose
    The Pitch
    There is a long history of damaging gender binaries
  • Luciano Floridi
    The Pitch
    Binaries constrain our thinking
  • Hilary Lawson
    The Pitch
    There are no oppositions as there are no things
  • The Debate
    Theme One
    Are binary oppositions real?
  • The Debate
    Theme Two
    The politics of polarities
Want to learn more about our speakers?
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Jeff Bridges on 13/11/2013 3:20pm

Whilst I am sure that many binaries are wrought in the world (Smith mentions positive and negative charge for instance) there are many more ways of understanding reality, which are just as "real" or "true" but which reveal different angles to us. I think Floridi's remarks about synthesis are central here. Binaries are something that we are presented with in many forms, but the work of the philosopher is to take them and create new ways of understanding - a synthesis. Binaries are typically divisive, and so modes of understanding that go beyond them are of course preferable.

Cark on 08/11/2013 3:40pm

No debate about opposities can happen without considering Hegel. Where Kant's antinomies lead to a breaking down in reason, Hegel's view is that to comprehend an object means to be conscious of it as a unity of opposites. Every thing consists of coexisting opposite elements and it's a failure in metaphysics to apply categories without considering these forces.

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