There were two articles on the comment page of the Financial Times today which proposed contradictory premises. In the first article the contradictory premises were: 1) “China is the world’s emerging superpower” and 2) “China is an intrinsically unstable country, at risk of an economic and political crisis.” The conclusion was that “In fact, both ideas are true.” In the second article it was declared that “George Osborne and Ed Balls are both right about the fiscal deficit.” George Osborne is the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain and Ed Balls is the shadow chancellor. Osborne has led the Tory assault on public spending while “the shadow chancellor has been nothing if not consistent in opposing the fiscal orthodoxy of the times.” What is going on here? Has bi-valence been totally thrown over?
Another example is thrown up by the lead article in the May edition of the American Marxist Monthly Review. Here the debate between Joseph Schumpeter, the conservative Austrian Economist, and Paul Sweezy, the founder of the Monthly Review, which took place at Harvard during the winter of the 1947-48 term is remembered. Key premises by the two contestants were as contradictory as one could find. Shumpeter maintained that “the entrepreneur is the source of all economic development and the business cycle” and that “Profits result from the innovating process, and hence accumulation is a derivative phenomenon” while Sweezy patiently explained the “alternative view . . . that profits exist in a society with a capitalist class structure even in the absence of innovation. From this standpoint, the form of the profit-making process itself produces the pressure to accumulate, and accumulation generates innovation as a means of preserving the profit-making mechanism and the class structure on which it is based.” Well, which is prior: innovation or accumulation? The answer, of course, is “They are both.” Who thinks that Microsoft would exist without Bill Gates? But wasn’t Bill Gates the scion of one of the most influential and well-off families in Seattle?
This is not news. Parmenides proclaimed his Way of Truth and his Way of Opinion (Doxa). And in the Way of Doxa, “They distinguish a form contrary to itself and offer separate proofs for the one and the other; on the one hand, the ethereal fire of the delicate, nimble flame, wholly identical with itself, but not the same as the other; and on the other hand, that which is in itself the opposite, dark night, which is thick and heavy.” In the Way of Doxa, both horns of the dilemma are true. And finding the Way of Truth is a difficult task. May we keep searching.