I hope I’m not unidimensional.

I was called a democrat the other day. While I know it is probably true, I hope I legitimately weigh both sides of arguments & the pros & cons of particular stances. I hope I continue to realize there are always pros AND cons.

I encounter so many people with dichotomous views of the world. I often argue the other side of their dichotomy in hope they might glimpse some gray in their black & white world. I’m
exhausted, but the teacher in me desires to help people expand their worldview. Maybe there’s a better way.

Polarized positions have a tendency to grow farther apart. I don’t think polarized is a better way to live. I don’t think polarization is part of God’s nature. I don’t think deep division is part of God’s plan to restore all things.


3 thoughts on “With so much black & white, i’ve come to love gray

  1. Interesting topic. I have some very general thoughts on it if you don’t mind my contribution.

    I suspect that there are epistemological limits in some domains, analogous to the “gestalt” effect in perception. We don’t perceive every gradation of stimuli, we often perceive larger organized units in an all-or-none manner. Effects like the Necker Cube illustrate this tendency to perceive things in meaningful units at a sensory level. I think something similar happens in cognition in some areas as well. Thinking seems to organize around particular ways of defining general concepts regarding big topics like human nature, human potential, moral reasoning, and so on.

    It seems difficult if not impossible in practice to see the complex realities of social and political circumstances without applying the focusing lens of a particular cluster of concepts regarding basic ideas. Since these concepts can have varying shades of meaning, we end up with different organizational clusters of specific concept meanings, providing different distinct lenses for seeing many things. I think these translate to different political preferences or stances. Linguist George Lakoff tried to describe this in terms of different patterns of metaphors. Conservative political thinker Thomas Sowell
    makes a similar argument using different terms. There are also several examples of a similar pattern in philosophy, where thinkers are categorized in terms of their broad dispositions which tend to crystallize into distinctly different kinds of theory.

    The fact that some people can “see gray” between the different kinds of clusters I think indicates that there are higher level metacognitive skills that allow some people to more easily shift between conceptual clusters than others, just as you can learn to deliberatively switch between variations in a shifting Necker Cube style optical illusion, but literally cannot see both variations at once even though you know they are both there.

    The situation seems to me to argue for an epistemic horizon in some areas, and for us to develop the skills to switch perspectives to help negotiate between distinct views.

    That’s a fair amount of effort and not everyone even considers it worth putting the effort in (I think there is a common and _partly_ supportable – that is situationally supportable – bias to the effect that considering opposing viewpoints weakens our resolve to act).

    Also seeing different perspectives is a different matter from finding common ground between them, an additional set of skills and strategies is required for that I think.

    Thanks, and kind regards,


    1. I love that your comments have more detailed insight than my original post. Thanks. I especially like the notion that we can see one perspective & be aware of the other, but we cannot see both simultaneously.

      Also, while you note being aware of the opposing view is not same as finding common ground, it is a start.

  2. I’m a republican. I believe in the republican form of government.

    I’m a democrat. I believe in the will and voice of the people.

    I’m a socialist. I believe that government should be socially-minded and that social issues are important.

    I’m a libertarian. I believe that civil liberties matter and that the right of the individual needs to be balanced with the will of the people.

    I’m a green. I think sustainability is the answer.

    As long as I keep all of those in lower case, I’m doing okay.

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