"The quantum physicists found that, on a deep level, reality has to be understood as inherently paradoxical. This has huge implications. It means we can’t think about the deep mysteries of life using normal logic, because normal logic treats paradox as … well … illogical. We need a way of thinking that can embrace paradox. We need to think paralogically.
Logical thinking says that light is either a wave or particles. It can’t be both. Paralogical thinking says that light can be both a wave and particles, because life is inherently paradoxical. Niels Bohr explains: "There are trivial truths and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true."
This is a wonderful statement of the difference between logical thinking and paralogical thinking. Niels Bohr says that we need to think in different ways, depending on whether we are looking for ‘trivial truths’ or ‘great truths’. If we want to understand the surface of life, logical thinking works perfectly. But to understand the depths of things we need to think paralogically.
Logical thinking is based on the principle that something is either true or it isn’t true, so the opposite of a logical truth is plainly false.
Paralogical thinking is based on the realization that on a deep level life is paradoxical, so the opposite of a paralogical truth is also true.
We reach the conclusion of our logical deliberations when we decide that either this or that is true.
We reach the conclusion of our paralogical deliberations when we grasp the ‘paradoxity’ of the situation, by seeing that opposite perspectives are both true.
Paralogical thinking allows us to embrace paradox. Indeed, rather than try and avoid paradoxes, we seek to understand the paradoxity of whatever we are thinking about. Niels Bohr once said: "How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress."
A Simple Analogy
"I want to suggest a simple analogy to help you understand the value of paralogical thinking. It’s an interesting fact that we look at the world with two eyes, rather than one big eye in the middle of the forehead like a cyclops. The reason for this is that if we had only one eye we’d perceive a flat world. Looking at things with two eyes is what gives us depth perception.
Logical either/or thinking is like looking out of one eye or the other.
Paralogical both/and thinking is like looking out of both eyes.
When we think paralogically we see things from two complementary perspectives at once and this gives depth to our understanding of life.
When we look at the world, what each eye sees is different, but they combine to create a single vision of reality that has depth. In the same way, when we think paralogically we see things in different ways that complement each other to create a single vision of reality that has depth.
When I discuss philosophy with people who adopt an either/or approach to understanding the depths of life, I often find myself in the paradoxical position of agreeing with what they’re saying, but also feeling they’re missing half the truth. So I sometimes quote the cheeky words of the great Niels Bohr who once remarked: No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.
Yin and Yang, The Primal Paradox:
"Unity and complementarity constitute reality."
The taijitu is a symbolic representation of the essential paradoxity of reality. It encodes the ancient Taoist understanding that reality is characterized by the primal polarity of yin and yang, represented by black and white tadpoles. Yin and yang are opposites which paradoxically coexist and complement each other. This is why there’s a dot of white in the black tadpole and vice versa. This is an idea that has been important to many of the greatest philosophers, who often referred to it as the coincidentia oppositorum or ‘union of opposites’. The essential idea is that existence is a primal oneness that is arising as complementary opposites.