Wednesday, May 25, 2011


One might say that the definition of dichotomy presents a dichotomy. The simpliest definition says that it is the division into two parts or a subdivision into pairs or halves. But you can sense that this is not how we use the term. Looking further we find additional constraints - the division into two mutually exclusive, opposed even contradictory groups. Such as a dichotomy between motion and stillness.

One definition suggests an original whole which is cut in two; the other a divide that can never be a whole and never was. Still something is missing.

Our use of the term dichotomy is heavily influenced by the notion of a false dichotomy. Also known as black & white thinking, a false dichotomy draws a bipolar comparison that is not necessarily true. For example:

We had a lot of rain this spring. The crime rate was higher this spring. Rain is conducive to crime.
Guns and hammers are made of metal and both can be used to harm someone. It makes no sense to regulate the sale of hammers, so it makes no sense to regulate gun sales either.

There is something in the examples of the false dichotomy that creeps into our understanding and use of dichotomy. The oppositional definition seems to be dominant.

There is something to be extrapolated about separate but equal logic mixed in here somewhere, but sometimes my brain hurts and nothing will do but another cat picture.

You might have wondered at some point - where do the ideas for a blog post originate? Well this one came from a picture. No, not the kittens. The photograph below of an art work titled: Dichotomy by Eric Franklin.

I didn't say I understood it.

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