Contradiction and Consistency

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.F. Scott Fitzgerald,

One of the keys to clear and fertile thinking rests in the art of balancing consistency and contradiction. Most people collapse in a spasm of cognitive dissonance when attempting to consciously hold contradictory concepts in an analytical balance.

Here are a few example quotes dealing with either contradiction or consistency from goodreads:

“I believe that truth has only one face: that of a violent contradiction.”
Georges Bataille, Violent Silence: Celebrating Georges Bataille

“One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophize With the Hammer

“In art, and maybe just in general, the idea is to be able to be really comfortable with contradictory ideas. In other words, wisdom might be, seem to be, two contradictory ideas both expressed at their highest level and just let to sit in the same cage sort of, vibrating. So, I think as a writer, I’m really never sure of what I really believe.”
George Saunders

“What we agree with leaves us inactive, but contradiction makes us productive.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll

Although contradiction is often an artifact of language, it frequently holds the key to important insight. Contradiction can easily trip up one’s thinking. For thinkers who often stray above the clouds, a strict adherence to apparent consistency — or the servile avoidance of seeming contradiction — can prove fatal.

Our modern bureaucratic institutions teach strict adherence to timid groupthink rather than fertile, original boldthink. Thus regurgitation of ideology is substituted for thought, and infinite and repetitive revisions of “correct thinking” replace expansive and original thought and action.

This ideology of conformity is prominent in government, academia, media, political activist groups and lobbies, labour unions, guilds, long-established religions, conspiracy cabals, and doomer groups.

If one is to find “liberation” or productive “revolution,” one will need to look outside such bureaucratic groupings. But since no generations of people are so poorly prepared for the aftermath of true liberation or revolution as modern westerners, perhaps a slavish conformity is the best that can be expected. It is certainly what we usually see on blogs, internet forums, and comment sections of online articles.

This broadly oppressive pandemic of drab conformity opens the emotional backways to tyrants and violent revolutionaries who have learned to appeal to deep cultural myths and anxieties. By appealing to a level of “cognition” that is below the level of logic or the rational, such “leaders” can collect large and uncritical followings, and do a great deal of mischief.

The generation of such semi-permanent, easily manipulated electorates is made much easier when underlying populations are less intelligent — either innately (SS Africa, Australian Aboriginals, etc) or places such as Russia where the brightest and boldest minds have been out-migrating for decades.

Needless to say, this momentous popular trend toward conformity and political correctness is diametrically opposite to the approach taken at the Al Fin Dangerous Child Institute.

How can a relatively small number of people effectively oppose the servile and conformist masses of the politically correct mob? That is certainly something to think about. But unless one has learned to reconcile apparent but trivial contradictions, and has lost the fear of being judged by mass opinion, he is more likely to fall back into mass thinking, without generating anything new or original.

Everything you think you know, just ain’t so. Once you can see that 8 word sentence as a pronouncement of liberation, rather than of futility, you may be ready to begin.

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