Nondual Logic

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By Andrew Lohrey

In first year philosophy I was never taught there was more than one kind of logic. Such an idea would have seemed absurd to correct reasoning. Yet there is a growing body of evidence today that says there is more than one logical way to arrive at a correct conclusion. In his 2017 paper, “Complexity, Complementarity, Consciousness” Vasileios Basios identified three systems of logic and named them: i) symmetric logic, ii) classical Boolean/Aristotelian logic and iii) quantum logic. Basios was interested in describing some of the traditional features of these three systems of logic as they relate to science, but I intend to show they can also map an ideal evolution in our meaning making that ends with empathic/nondual patterns of thought.

If we were to place Basios’ three systems of logic within a psychological context it would be that they represent three modes of thought. A mode of thought is produced from a set of dispositions used to make meaning and/or perceive the world. Hence, Basios’ three systems of logic have something to tell us about the way we are disposed to make meaning by thinking and using language. The most important aspect for these three systems of logic is meaning because it underpins our dispositions, our thinking as well as the language we use.   

Language is the vehicle that conveys meaning and it is always distinct from the meaning-cargo it carries. If they were the same, we would immediately know the meanings of every foreign language. In fact, there would not be such a thing as a ‘foreign language’ for once a language was seen or heard we would automatically know its meanings. As this is not the case, we can say that a system of logic is not produced by some kind of extra-rational or idealized language that somehow contains an objective truth. Rather, a system of logic is produced by a set of implications contained in the manner in which we are disposed to make meaning through the use of language.

In The Evolution of Consciousness: A New Science I suggest that humans have a learning cycle that has three distinct steps: identification, differentiation and integration. These three integrated steps are innate to the human mind, and they create our general dispositions for making meaning. As a consequence, each of these learning steps entails a disposition that in turn produces its own mode of thought and language and, hence, each step produces a recognizable system of logic.

The first learning step of identification for example, produces symmetric logic, while the second step of differentiation can create binary or dualistic separations that are reflected in Aristotelian/Boolean logic. The final learning step of integration produces what Basios calls quantum, but which I call empathic or nondualist logic. The most trustworthy logic comes from the final step of learning, which involves a disposition for integrated thought, and which produces quantum/empathic/nondualist logic. The reason why nondualist logic is the most reliable form of logic is that the meanings made by this integrated mode of thought more closely mirror the interconnecting structure of meaning itself.

Symmetric logic is the logic associated with the formation of the ego and our desires, but it also represents the first learning step of identification. In general, identification patterns occur in the associated relationship between sense perceptions and conceptual thought, which normally involves the use and development of language. The first learning step of identification involves the practice of recognition, so it is absolutely necessary for learning anything. However, this first step becomes a problem if the processes of identification are not challenged in some way by further learning involving increasing the number of distinctions and differentiations related to the many identifications of our ego and desires. This means that if learning does not progress much beyond the first step of identification then the practice of learning itself will be inhibited and truncated. For such people this suppression of learning will lead to the construction of large knots of feelings, emotions and reactions. Such knots have many hidden emotional implications that can turn our normal learning disposition for identification and recognition into a pre-disposition against leaning.  

Hence, while the first learning step of identification is an essential part of all human growth and development, it nevertheless carries with it the problem seeds of symmetric logic. Symmetric logic says that A = B, that is, in this logic there is no conscious distinction made between A and B. What is constructed, however, is an undifferentiated unity (an identification set) that has both A and B features. Symmetric logic will often involve symbolic representations in so far as a set of non-verbal perceptions and feelings (A) are transformed by a symbolic form to become a concept (B) used as a symbol with feelings. For instance, for an infant the set of non-verbal visual images together with feelings of unity and connection (A) can become the linguistic expression ‘Mum’: (B), while other images and feeling (A) become the signified ‘Dad’: (B). Hence, the speech patterns ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ will come to represent the symmetric logic of what is a closed unity that contains the one hand, a set of non-verbal meanings and feelings together with the sound of social symbols.

This simple developmental example of symmetric logic tends to hide a more complex weaving of relationships in those situations when claims about identity are added into this mixture. When this happens, symmetric logic increases in thickness and depth. This occurs when the body of the individual, together with a name, a location and a country become ‘my’ identity. Then I have become A and B and C and D in a complex unity of meanings where these individual distinctions are fused together into an identification pattern that cannot be expressed in any meaningful way except as the unity of ‘me’. Thus, the symmetric logic of ‘me’ predisposes me to think that I am my male or female body, name, location and nation and these four distinctions stand as the identity that is ‘me’.

However, there are a great variety of features that can be added to these four basic distinctions (A, B, C, D) of me. Such additions usually have something to do with childhood trust or mistrust, parental love or lack of it, and a history involving the negatives of pain and anxiety. Taking these into account the symmetric structure of ‘me’ can be as complex as A, B, C, D, E, F and G, where E, F and G may be a sense of insecurity, mistrust and failure associated with parents, school or society. Such is the basic symmetric logic that builds a complex ego with its desires, and which grow out of negative childhood experiences that can remain unquestioned until we have a crisis or breakdown.

In his book The Unconscious as Infinite Sets (1975), the Chilean psychiatrist I. Matte Blanco describes symmetric logic as the logic of the Freudian unconscious. I agree but while symmetric logic represents the metaphysical framework of all identification patterns, and while that includes the Freudian repressed unconscious it also includes the construction of the ego and its desires along with the initial learning processes involved in all human development and maturation. In addition, as symmetric logic is the logic behind fear and blame it can be extremely influential when used to influence public perceptions and responses. Symmetric logic thus forms the basis of much advertising and underpins stories of romance, sentimentality and patriotic fervor.  

The important point about symmetric logic is its depth, complexity and degree of hiddenness. We cannot do without symmetric logic as long as we use language. However, when my identity has developed so as to include childhood traumas, or forms of social manipulation or even from the obsessional desires it become an unconscious complexity of A, B, C, D, E, F, G and perhaps much more. Under these conditions I will at times exhibit some pathological behavior that is intense and neurotic or even psychotic. As a general rule, these large knots of symmetric logic we carry around with us are always associated with the idea of identity; of how we see ourselves, and how we see and understand ourselves is usually a territory that we are predisposed to hide from.  

How do we avoid symmetric logic? We can’t. It is part of human learning and development, but as such we should try and put aside our predisposition to hide its implications by embracing further learning with the step of differentiation.

The second learning step of differentiation may give rise to the dualism of Aristotelian logic. Such a logic is associated with the separating metaphysics that underlies much of Western culture. This is the metaphysics of dualistic divisions, often expressed by patriarchal norms of behavior and the rationality of Aristotelian logic and more recently, Boolean logic. In our contemporary culture this kind of dualistic logic has helped sustain a divided, unequal and mechanical society where symbols often become worshipped as idols. The predisposition that drives this separating view comes from an intellectual fondness that values explicit differences to the degree that they become barriers or exclusions. Here again there is a natural disposition that can change into an energetic pre-disposition, but this time we are dealing with the meaning of differences that arise through the use of the symbols of language or money. When these symbols are over-valued they automatically establish in us a predisposition for separation, usually in the form of a binary or dualistic thoughts and responses.  

The three laws of classic Aristotelian logic hold unconditionally. As defined by Bertrand Russell these three laws are: the law of identity, the law of contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle. Aristotelian logic goes something like this: an identity is nothing but an identity (A = A) and an identity is either one or not, while contradictions always exclude each other (A ≠ B). With the strict application of this logic there is no middle ground, no shades of grey, and everything is ordered in black/white, either/or terms. While Aristotelian logic is a step away from the wholesale identifications of symmetric logic this system nevertheless retains the basic symmetric logic of identity (A = A). The results of using a dualistic logic in the worlds of government, finance or mainstream science results in inequalities, limited perspectives and the promotion of self-interest above truth or empathic responses.  

The dualism of Aristotelian/Boolean logic tend to focus the mind on formal, explicit differences while ignoring links, connections and unities. This is the common strategy employed by those materialists who focus on a physical world while ignoring their own mind. This is also the scientific story of local realists who separate the objective physical world from the subjective mental world. This is a strategy based on the disposition to ignore, erase or devalue contextual meaning. Contextual meaning is always implicit meaning, and implicit meaning connects, links and unifies situations and events. When we ignore connective implicit meaning we narrow and separate our world and destroy any possibility of having a larger view. Such deletions also mean that we miss the inherent purposes of larger views.

The social effects that are produced by this classic logic of separation is a Tower of Babel world where gaps, splits, doubt and alienation are its most common features. How do we avoid the dualistic cul-de-sacs of Aristotelian logic? We can circumvent them by learning to deal with differences not as separate identities but as distinctions within larger systems.

Non-dual/Quantum/empathic logic comes naturally from the final learning step of integration. This is a learning that pays attention to contexts and wholes and in this manner broader, nondualistic perspective are produced. A broad social perspective comes from reducing the importance of the notion of identity by paying attention to them as distinct subjects that are always part of larger contexts, unities and wholes.

In contrast to the dualistic certainty that comes to an outward-looking individual who can blame others for their bad-luck or misfortunes, empathetic logic takes a non-separating and non-oppositional stance, one in which outer details are always compromised by inner contexts and vice versa. Empathy is integrated thought and action. It is a nondualistic mode of thought that avoids egos and identities by integrating the distinctions of subjects (and systems) into larger contextual frameworks and wholes. The logical order that provides the context to an empathic response is love where distinctions are recognized as such but do not become enlarged into identities, barriers, or separations. This is a logic where contradictions of various kinds can be accommodated into larger pictures.  

The logic of empathy is akin to the complementarity principle of quantum physics that was first enunciated during the early part of last century by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885–1962). Quantum logic tells us that opposites are complementary and that they fit within larger wholes. For example, when we use the terms ‘particle’ and ‘wave’ in exclusive dualistic ways we become convinced that it is impossible for an event to exhibit both of them at the same time. This impossibility comes from a dualistic way of seeing and the rationality of Aristotelian logic.

However, when we begin to understand that opposites can be complementary, a particle and a wave simply become distinctions within a large framework. That larger context represents infinite consciousness, and which is entirely relevant to the question of what kind of measuring device scientists decide to use in quantum physics. This is a crucial question for quantum physics because it has been confirmed time and again that the kind of measurements used by scientists determine the results of the experiment; in other words, the mental capacities of the participating scientist becomes part of the experimental quantum equipment. In other words, for quantum physics as well as for empathy the larger whole represents infinite consciousness of which the individual’s mind is a part.

The love of empathy is a generous and giving kind, unlike the love of desire that is driven by wants that take and consume. An ancient example of nondual/quantum/empathic logic is found in the biblical story of King Solomon who ruled on the claim by two women who said each was the mother of the same child. The King called for a sword to cut the baby in half, in order that each woman could have half the child. One woman did not argue with this dual logic, saying if she could not have the baby then neither of them could. The other pleaded for the child’s life saying, ‘give him to her’. Solomon the wise pronounced that this was the true mother. The contradictory logic of a mother who wants her child but is willing to give him up, so he can live displays how opposite feelings can be complementary when seen within a larger whole of a mother’s love.  

The Aristotelian dualism that limits the practices of mechanical science is the outer versus the inner view. But the complementary logic of empathy tells us there is no such thing as a purely outer independent world or a truly objective viewpoint. All practices and ways of seeing have a combination of outer and inner features. This complementary mixture of opposites attends all observations. Hence, the differences between our ways of observing the world will depend on which set of inner or outer features we are disposed to value and emphasize.

If we compare the three systems of logic we will try and compare the three steps of learning. Such an attempt is wrong-headed because the first two steps of learning (identification and differentiation) do not stand on their own as if they are separate entities. Likewise, symmetric and Aristotelian logic do not represent two separate systems of thought, even though they are often seen as the binary pair of irrational thought versus rational logic. Rather, identification and differentiation are simply the functional precursors in a cycle of learning that comes to its fullness in an integrated empathic nondualist understanding. In the same manner, symmetric and dual logic are simply the underdeveloped antecedents of non-dual/empathic/quantum logic, for it is this last system of logic which represents the most fully comprehensive and developed way of thinking, making meaning and responding to the world.

References & Notes:

1 Being and Biology: Is Consciousness the Life Force? (2017) Ed., Brenda Dunn & Robert Jahn, Princeton: ICRL Press.Matte Blanco, I. (1975) The Unconscious as Infinite Sets: An Essay on Bi-logic, London: Duckworth.

Lohrey, A. (2018) The Evolution of Consciousness: A New Science, Princeton: ICRL Press.  


Andrew Lohrey gained his PhD in Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney, in 1993. He has written papers on consciousness and meaning for a range of journals, and in 1997 the University of Michigan Press published his book, The Meaning of Consciousness. His latest book, The Evolution of Consciousness: A New Science, is available online.


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