Logical Polarity

The Limitations of Symmetry

I remember only a handful of the chess games that I have played throughout my life, and few of them in their entirety. Those ones that I remember in their entirety were (as one might expect) short and peculiar. Among these, a certain subset stands out.

My opponent would meet my king pawn advance with the sporting identical response (I did not allow anyone else to play white, if I could help it, because I had no idea how to properly play black). I would respond by threatening black’s king pawn with my king-side knight, and my opponent would do the same. At this point, I would pause, asking myself whether this was an intentional use of Petroff’s defense. On the third move, I was sure. He was copying my moves.

At some point during childhood, we attempt to wield symmetry as a weapon. Everything that a boy says is mimicked, until he resorts to violence. An insult is parried with “I know you are, but what am I?” A girl’s every movement is imitated, reducing her to tears. The tactic is safe, because any response can be thrown back at the adversary. However, there is a reason why there are few equivalents of this behaviour beyond grade school. It is that eventually, there is a Eureka moment, and the chess player realizes that his tactic will fail, because white moves first.

With this in mind, I set out to support very simple point that often goes unappreciated: ideas and their opposites are rarely symmetrical. An idea and its opposite must be entirely identical—the only discernable difference being that they are, indeed, opposites—before both can be treated the same. Love does not cancel out hate, as if nothing is left behind when the two collide. Death by heat is not the same as death by cold. “Why?” is not equivalent to “why not?”; “Why should something exist?” is not equivalent to “Why should nothing exist?”, and “Who made the universe?” is not equivalent to “Who made God?

It is absurd to think that the questions about God’s existence can be stalemated by such trite responses. We ask who made the universe because it appears that it was not always here. We ask who made us for the same reason. Even if a thing has “always been,” it is an entirely different thing to explain (rather, to accept—I cannot imagine how it might be explained) when this thing is the universe, as opposed to when it is God. Furthermore, it is entirely different to explain existence than to explain nonexistence. There are a great many things that do not exist. There are only some that do.

I wish that people, when addressing higher questions, would not close the matter off with stalemate tactics. These tactics do not cause stalemates, because the symmetry is not there—and they certainly cannot win the game.

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One Response to “Logical Polarity”

  1. Melody Says:

    I found this one particularly insightful. Thanks for that!

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