Development through Alternation

2.2 Polarity

Anthony Judge

Another philosopher, Archie Bahm, has studied the many characteristics of polarity as a basis for ordering constrasting theories (148). For him, polarity involves at least three general categories which he discusses in detail. These are: oppositeness; complementarity (involving subcategories of supplementary, interdependence, dimension and reciprocity); and tension (involving subcategories of tendency, extra-tension, duo-tension, con-tension, dimensional tension, inter-level tension, polari-tension, rever-tension, rhythmi-tension, and organi-tension).

He starts by distinguishing four emphases with which general types of theory (or "answers") may be associated:

(a) "One-pole-ism", indicating emphasis upon the priority of one of the poles (b) "Other-pole-ism", indicating emphasis upon the priority of the other pole in constituting the polarity (c) "Dualism", indicating preference for the independence of the two poles (d) "Aspectism", indicating the priority of the (shared) dimension relative to the poles.

For each of these Bahm then identifies more specific types for which he gives examples from philosophy. In each case he distinguishes between "extreme", "modified" and "middle" emphases. Combined these constitute a set of 12 categories which provide him with the framework for his own "answer", organicism, in the form of "a theory about the nature of polarity but also about theories of polarity." (148, p. 47)

Organicism is the theory that polarity consists in something "which is not wholly describable" but such that there is in it some basis for the positive claims made by each of the 12 preceding theories. Unfortunately, this creates the impression it is somehow an appropriate compromise between the 1 2 at some "dead centre". In fact Bahm specifically warns against this interpretation: "One needs an oscilloscope to depict the dynamic movements of the ways in which things, and the polar categories of things, exist; to stop at the center is to destroy movement, and thus, existing and existence." ( 148, p. 277). He does not explore the nature of this movement.

Nevertheless, just as Lupasco stresses the dynamics between categories, Bahrn seems to stress the static structural and non-contradictory relations between categories. In effect the two studies represent complementary approaches. Additional elements, interrelating such approaches, are required for an ordered response to the dramatic nature of the conflict between answer domains.