Re: Great Truths and their Contraries

Robert Owen (
Thu, 25 Nov 1999 21:45:44 -0500

Damien Broderick wrote:

> On the other hand, we often find that what we'd supposed to be a neat case
> of A is actually a blend of X, D and 42, so what we'd have supposed to be a
> simple existential opposition with not-A is far more complicated. But that
> would make Bohr's dictum something like `The contrary of a given attempt to
> resolve a great puzzle also sometimes has great effectiveness or apparent
> validity', which I'd readily ascribe to.
> That might sound as if I counsel trading-in a pretty maxim for a clumsy
> paraphrase, but I don't think so. The difference has something to do with
> treating the central issue not as one of `a truth' but rather as `a puzzle'.

A most excellent compromise; and the substitution of "puzzle" for "a truth" is consistent with my own quirky and largely unintelligible epistemology. I think your use of an integer is treading on thin ice, however.

> >On the other hand, "wave-particle duality" (Scroedinger & Heisenberg)
> >and "The Principle of Complementarity" (Bohr) help make life interesting,
> >don't you think?
> I don't, actually, but of course I lack the mathematical expertise to make
> a grounded judgement. Certainly there are many theorists who regard this
> wishy-washy Yin/Yang model as a historical obstacle to clearer
> understanding of QT.

Why is it, after all this time, Occidentals are still Admiral George Dewey steaming into Manilla Bay flying an enormous, tasteless flag announcing "The Doctrine of Manifest Destiny"? The Oriental notion of "T'ai-chi" is a metaphor -- rather like the String or Quantum microcosm:

                            The Way itself is like some thing
                            Seen in a dream, elusive, evading one.
                            In it are images, elusive, evading one.
                            In it are things like shadows in twilight.
                            In it are essences, subtle but real,
                            Embedded in truth.

Metaphors, like analogies in general, perform communications functions of which literal descriptive prose or abstract symbolic notation are incapable. Orientals are masters at the use of ambiguities to evoke complex meanings (c.f. Haiku). This I think, Damien, is the right word-- "ambiguous", not "wishy-washy", in the same sense that "turbulence" is ambiguous with respect to predictability, but not wishy-washy, or the specification of the location of an electron if we measure its momentum is not "wishy-washy", simply ambiguous.

Thanks for writing,


Robert M. Owen
The Orison Institute
57 W. Moorage Street
Braved, NC 28712-3659 USA