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Transcending the Fallacy of the Binary Through Ambivalence

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  1. Introduction
  2. Bauman claims: 'The gift of God was, so to speak, the knowledge of ambivalence and the skill of living in this knowledge'
  3. Equating the flesh of humanity with sin
  4. The Divine and the anti-Divine
  5. The poetic language of the entire Confessions
  6. Totem and taboo
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

A thought process that appears to be common to all humans is that of setting up binaries. It is a tendency that exists across cultures and since ?the beginning of time.? This may be because it is easier to define what something is not than what it actually is. The opposition of a binary also contains the fundamental fear of the Other, the unknown, which ultimately is a fear of death. Plato famously addresses this unknowability of death in the Phaedo and attempts to use the Argument from Opposites to show that life comes from death and death comes from life, a step in his argument for the immortality of the soul, or a transcendence of life and death. Ultimately, however, he only succeeds in reproducing a binary of body and soul in which he attempts to suppress the bodily half. Also in Greek thought, and later taken up by Nietzsche, is the divide between Apollonian and Dionysian drives. Indeed this clash between order and chaos can be seen as one of the fundamental characteristics of modernity, or rather the accepted Western paradigm of modernity which stemmed from the Enlightenment desire to define, categorize and clearly delineate or illuminate, with the scientific method as its exemplar and ideal toward which to strive. However, the order/chaos split is itself a description of the binary system.

[...] London: Tavistock Publications Augustine. Confessions. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin. London : Penguin [397]. Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and Ambivalence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press Cole, Susan Letzler. The Absent One: Mourning Ritual, Tragedy and the Performance of Ambivalence. University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press Crawford, J.R. Witchcraft and Sorcery in Rhodesia. London: International African Institute (Oxford University Press) Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press [1937]. Freud, Sigmund. Taboo upon the Dead.? Totem and Taboo. [...]


[...] ?Even after leaving the Manichees Augustine remained convinced that in this, at least, the Manichees were right: our lives ?here,' in bodies whose mortality and corruptibility ?weighed down the soul,' those lives were one long journey through a desert of misery? (O'Connell 12). It is humanity's free will which gives us the possibility of choosing evil over good. In this light, God does not expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; term Genesis uses is dimisit, a term which expresses that perfect coincidence between our voluntary choice and the working of God's Eternal (O'Connell 14). [...]


[...] Theresa to John Donne's poem, Ecstasy.? This may appear to be a better solution than the repression of the will to flesh, but it in truth takes the other end of the binary to the extreme; as Lyotard says himself, it is not dialectical, but one-sided, and as such still avoids ambivalence. In Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, Freud discusses the emotional ambivalence found in the mourning rituals of several ?primitive tribes? and compares them to the behavior and thought processes (conscious or unconscious) of obsessional neurotics. [...]

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