What is UNITY OF OPPOSITES? What does UNITY OF OPPOSITES mean? UNITY OF OPPOSITES meaning - UNITY OF OPPOSITES definition - UNITY OF OPPOSITES explanation.
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The unity of opposites is the central category of dialectics, said to be related to the notion of non-duality in a deep sense. It is viewed sometimes as either a metaphysical concept, a philosophical concept or a scientific concept. It defines a situation in which the existence or identity of a thing (or situation) depends on the co-existence of at least two conditions which are opposite to each other, yet dependent on each other and presupposing each other, within a field of tension.
First suggested by Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, philosophers had for some time been contemplating the notion of opposites. Anaximander posited that every element was an opposite, or connected to an opposite (water is cold, fire is hot). Thus, the material world was composed by some indefinite, boundless apeiron from which arose the elements (earth, air, fire, water) and pairs of opposites (hot/cold, wet/dry). There was, according to Anaximander, a continual war of opposites. Anaximenes of Miletus, a student and successor of Anaximander, replaced this indefinite, boundless arche with air, a known element with neutral properties. According to Anaximenes, there was not so much a war of opposites, as a continuum of change. Heraclitus, however, did not accept the milesian monism and replaced their underlying material arche with a single, divine law of the universe, which he called Logos. The universe of Heraclitus is in constant change, but also remaining the same. That is to say, an object moves from point A to point B, thus creating a change, but the underlying law remains the same. Thus, a unity of opposites is present in the universe as difference and sameness. This is a rather broad example though. For a more detailed example we may turn to an aphorism of Heraclitus:
The road up and the road down are the same thing. (Hippolytus, Refutations 9.10.3)
This is an example of a compresent unity of opposites. For, at the same time, this slanted road has the opposite qualities of ascent and descent. According to Heraclitus, everything is in constant flux, and every changing object co-instantiates at least one pair of opposites (though not necessarily simultaneously) and every pair of opposites is co-instantiated in at least one object. Heraclitus also uses the succession of opposites as a base for change:
Cold things grow hot, a hot thing cold, a moist thing withers, a parched thing is wetted. (DK B126)
As a single object persists through opposite properties, this object undergoes change.
Dialecticians claim that unity or identity of opposites can exist in reality or in thought. If the opposites were completely balanced, the result would be stasis, but often it is implied that one of the pairs of opposites is larger, stronger or more powerful than the other, such that over time, one of the opposed conditions prevails over the other. Yet rather than 'stasis' the identity of opposites, there being unity within their duality, is taken to be the instance of their very manifestation, the unity between them being the essential principle of making any particular opposite in question extant as either opposing force. For example 'upward' cannot exist unless there is a 'downward', they are opposites but they co-substantiate one another, their unity is that either one exists because the opposite is necessary for the existence of the other, one manifests immediately with the other. Hot would not be hot without cold, due to there being no contrast by which to define it as 'hot' relative to any other condition, it would not and could not have identity whatsoever if not for its very opposite that makes the necessary prerequisite existence for the opposing condition to be. This is the oneness, unity, principle to the very existence of any opposite. Either one's identity is the contra-posing principle itself, necessitating the other. The criteria for what is opposite is therefore something a priori. In his criticism of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher Hegel who tried to systematise dialectical understandings thus wrote:
The principles of the metaphysical philosophy gave rise to the belief that, when cognition lapsed into contradictions, it was a mere accidental aberration, due to some subjective mistake in argument and inference. ....