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A Dualistic Duck

A Dualistic Duck

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

What does a duck have to do with dualism?

Let me start with a duck, or better, with appearances, and list a few of the dualities that we encounter daily but are not even aware of as dualities.

  • Night and day
  • Men and woman
  • Up and down
  • Left and right
  • Good and bad/evil

There are some other dualities that ordinary people encounter less frequently than some scientists.

  • Wave and particle (wave-particle duality)
  • Gene and meme
  • Up and down quark
  • Energy and matter
  • Past and future

And yet, a third group of dualities is somewhere in between.

  • Inside and outside represent not only our daily situations but also define the boundary of every living system that “understands” its inside as something that must be protected against everything outside. And much more.
  • Ying and yang do not correspond to good and evil but to two equally critical/essential ingredients of our lives.
  • Bits as dualities of 0 and 1.

How Come?

How come that science, from approximately the beginning of the 20th century, desperately strives to reduce everything in the cosmos to matter? Particularly striking are the efforts of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and many others to refute the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter.

The study of the abovementioned great minds drove me closer and closer to seeing that they constantly fail. They fight against Plato, Descartes, and Kant but produce no coherent theory in opposition. The most coherent materialistic theory of mind I can find is Dan Dennett’s multiple-draft scenario that he fully developed in his 1991 book Consciousness Explained. Even Dan recognized deep in himself the barrenness of the multiple draft concept of mind, as proved by his latest book, I’ve Been Thinking (2023)’ There is no mention of the multiple draft scenario of the mind, as it is also rarely mentioned in his work published after 1991.

Their strive to reduce mind and matter to matter fails constantly, but at the same time, it is scientifically incorrect to support dualism. One is not considered a serious scientist if he or she supports dualism.

Let me conclude this introductory sketch, intentionally lacking references, with the assessment that materialists and reductivists fall short, even if they comprehend the theory of emergence. Despite recognizing the intricate nature of emergence, they view it as a mere facade needing a grounding substance. While understanding the concept of the mind’s essence, they strive to label the substance from which it arises: matter. They overlook that at the moment of emergence, it (the emergence) becomes the essence for subsequent occurrences, and concurrently, the initial “substance” mutates into something entirely different.


The appearance is the substance

They fail because they do not understand that appearance is substance.

To explain the nature of dualities further, we have to recognize that dualities do not appear alone. They are ontologically crucial for human existence. David Haig explored this essential aspect of our lives in his book From Darwin to Derrida, examining Derrida’s difference that makes a difference from genetic and evolutionary perspectives. He discovered that even for genes, it is only a difference that constitutes what they do. (David, forgive me for my simplistic transcription of your much richer exploration.)

The smallest possible difference is a distinction between two entities. If there is only one entity, there can be no differentiation. A country often shares borders with many other countries, but it distinguishes itself not universally but individually from each other. When a country borders three other countries, three distinct pairs emerge instead of one universal connection.

John Archibald Wheeler’Wheeler’sconcept, Its form bits, is that everything is made up of bits. He wanted to express ontologically that only bits exist, and matter emerges from these bits. The only real entities are differences (bits), while matter emerges as reality. This comprehension of our world could not be more Platonic. J.A. Wheeler was one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century, seemingly so materialistic! Daniel Dennett was an apparent reductivist, materialist, and monist, yet he was a proponent of memes as replicators of culture in parallel to genes as replicators of the biosphere. Yet this is one of the more exposed dualities in his work that he never tried to reduce to something behind.

Scientists and philosophers want to present themselves as monists for political reasons (it is politically incorrect to be a dualist), while their work speaks a dualistic language. Why? Because it cannot be otherwise. Because language is a difference that makes a difference. Language is a cultural artifact that emerges from a duality of “le signe” and “l’signfié,” yet another duality conceptualized by Ferdinand de Saussure in 1916.

Because if something appears as a duck, it is a duck.

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