Dualism and Binary opposition in idealist Philosophy

Before started reading, we need to understand the dialectics. The dialectic is the contradiction of two opposites. In every matter, there are contradiction between two opposite sides. In Marxist philosophy, synthesis emerges from the contradictions of thesis and antithesis. But the idealist thinkers such as Plato, Rousseau, Saussure, and Levi-Strauss, are anti-dialectical. The reactionary ideas of Saussure, Levi-Strauss and Derrida, the three anti-Marxists make haphazard ideas on dialectics. We will read this essay to understand the uniqueness and perfectness of Marxist dialectical materialism.

Sankhya school of thought is strongly dualist. In the time of commencement, the word dualism created to express co-eternal binary opposition. That specific word dualism is carried on in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse. Dualism has been more grabbed an extensive outlook in other usages to indicate a system which contains two indispensable parts. Sānkhya discoures esteems the universe as comprising of two realities; puruṣa (consciousness) and prakṛti (matter). Jiva (a living being) is that condition in which puruṣa is connected to prakṛti in some structure. This blending, state the Samkhya scholars, led to the emergence of buddhi (“intellect”) and ahaṅkāra (ego consciousness). The universe is defined by this school of thought as one constructed by purusa-prakṛti entities prepared with various permutations and combinations of countlessly enumerated components, senses, feelings, activity and mind. During the state of imbalance, one of more components overthrough the others, creating a form of bondage, predominantly of the mind. The end of this imbalance, bondage is called liberation, or kaivalya, by the Sankhya School of thought.

We can find out the Body-soul Dualism in Plato. The scientific study of psychology emerged rather recently, at the close of the nineteenth-century. However, philosophers from Pre-Socratic times onward have speculated about the nature of the human mind—or soul as it was called in Greek times. Plato’s account of the soul is undoubtedly one of the most influential in the history of philosophy, and its impact is felt even today. One of the four components to his theory is body-soul dualism.

Let’s begin with his body-soul dualism. Theory of the Forms depicted by Plato presented that the universe have two dissimilar levels of reality. These two different types of reality is the physical realm and the realm of the Forms. This two types or reality is called matter-spirit dualism. This matter realm expresses the material component of the universe as the changing physical realm of appearances, and the spirit realm expresses the unchanging realm of the Forms. When Plato turns to his analysis of human nature, we observed a similar type of dualism. According to Plato’s idea, we are created by both of a physical body and of an immaterial spirit. Although the soul is the vastly superior component within us, our human bodies and all the desires that the bodies produce are hindrances to knowledge and immortality.

আরো পড়ুন:  বিশেষ হচ্ছে বস্তু জগৎকে জানার জন্য মানুষের তৈরি একটি দার্শনিক সূত্র

So in Greece body soul dualism is comparable to the puruṣa (consciousness) and prakṛti (matter) dualism in Indian philosophy.

Dualism in classical philosophy is comparable to the Binary opposition of Modern Time. Binary opposition originated in Saussurean structuralist theory. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, the binary opposition is the means by which the units of language have value or meaning; each unit is defined in reciprocal resoluteness with another term, as in binary code. It is not a contradictory relation but a structural, complementary one. Ferdinand de Saussure clarified that meaning of sign is extracted from its context and the group to which it belongs. Here context is syntagmatic dimension and the group is paradigm.  An example of this is that who cannot conceive of ‘good’ also does not understand ‘evil’.

Stereotypically, one of the two contrasting’s assumes a role of dominance over the other. The labelling of binary oppositions is every so often “value-laden and ethnocentric”, with an imagined order and apparent connotation. Additionally, Pieter Fourie ascertained that binary oppositions have a multilayered or second level of binaries that support to reinforce connotation. The common example of binary opposition is the concepts of hero and villain. Other examples of secondary binaries are good and bad, handsome and ugly, liked and disliked, and so on.

Try to understand the Binary opposition, we need to deconstruct the western binaries. The analytical or theoretical politics does not express the idea of Binary opposition. But the political assessment of binary oppositions is a significant idea in the third wave feminism, post-colonialism, post-anarchism, and critical race theory. These school of thought claim that the recognized binary dichotomy between man/woman, civilized/uncivilised, and white/black have perpetuated and legitimized western power structures favoring “civilized white men.” In the last twenty five years it has become repetitive work for many social and/or historical analyses to speak the variables of gender, class, sexuality, race and ethnicity. Surrounded by each of these classifications there is usually an unequal binary opposition in our surroundings such as bourgeoisie and working class man; white and black people of colour; men and women; heterosexual and homosexual.

আরো পড়ুন:  বাহ্যিক চেহারা ও সারমর্ম হচ্ছে কোনো বস্তু বা অস্তিত্বের সামগ্রিক রূপ

Derrida has presented that an opposition of metaphysical conceptions such as speech and writing, presence and absence, etc. are never the confrontational of two terms, but a chain of command and an order of the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else. Deconstruction cannot limit itself or proceed immediately to neutralization: it must, by means of a double gesture, a double science, a double writing, practice an overturning of the classical opposition, and a general displacement of the system. It is on that condition alone that deconstruction will provide the means of intervening in the field of oppositions it criticizes.

Post-structural approach of binary oppositions is not basically the reversal of the opposition, but its deconstruction, which is described as apolitical—that is, not intrinsically favoring one arm of a binary opposition over the other. Deconstruction is the “event” or “moment” at which a binary opposition is thought to contradict itself, and undermine its own authority.

Deconstruction carry outs totally binary oppositions need to be scrutinized and complained in total their expressions; the performance of both logical and axiological oppositions must be studied in all thoughts provide meaning and values. But deconstruction does not only reveal how oppositions work and how meaning and values are produced in a nihilistic or cynic position, “thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively”. Effectiveness of deconstruction, and basically as its means of exercise, it generates new accepted wisdom or concepts, not to integrate the terms in opposition but to characterize their difference, undecidability, and eternal interplay.

Dualism is also the deconstruction of the idea of methodology because dualism no longer believes in the possibility of an observer who can be absolutely exterior to the object or text s/he examined.

If we deconstruct speech or writing, we can get the example of dualism. The most prominent opposition with which Derrida’s earlier work is concerned is that between speech and writing. Plato, Rousseau, Saussure, and Levi-Strauss are the thinkers who have depreciated the written word and valourised speech, by contrast, as some type of pure channel of meaning. According to Derrida, these thinkers’ arguments are that while spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, written words are the signs of that already existing symbol. As representations of speech, they are doubly derivative and doubly far from a unity with one’s own thought.

আরো পড়ুন:  বিশ্লেষণ এবং সংশ্লেষণ কাকে বলে?

We need to discuss binary opposition in relation to logocentrism. The concept of logocentrism is related to binary opposition.  Logocentrism recommends certain listeners to favor one part of a binary opposition pair over the other. Readers’ cultural background strongly influenced this type of favouritism. We may say that an Amharic folktale, ‘The Women and the Pot’ is a strong patriarchal themes is one remarkable example of logocentrism. The story tells us two women’s diminished role in society. These two women were upset for their role and they consequently go to their King for help. The king commendably transfers the meaning that women cannot be relied upon to take on a major role in society. The moral of the tale is that men are the major role player of society. Prasad explains this idea; “The logocentric value is seen through the ‘Eternal Knowledge’. Actually, the naturalness of male superiority is conveyed through this folktale. The hidden a priori of binary opposition is that women are inferior to man. In relation to the cultural heritage of an audience having an influence on their unconscious preference for one part of a binary opposition, Prasad says; “By way of studying a selection of Ethiopian folktales, the paper uncovers the presence of logocentrism and a priori binary opposition being at work in Ethiopian folktales. These two elements attempt to endorse and validate the ‘given’ subservient position of women in society”.

Thus the modality of binary opposition is one of the examples of logo centric attitude, for instance, in Nature/Culture binary opposition where the first is privileged upon the second. The Dualism also depicts the privileged attitude to purusa and soul. This is also comparable in philosophic world.*

N.B.: The essay was presented in a class presentation on a college course of philosophy on the date of 09 June, 2017.

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