positive good - negative bad?
|many people equate positive with good, negative with bad||Our language is one-sided, and so are the stratagems (social, psychological and other) we adopt.|
|but in many situations, the positive is harmful ...||Violence is a "positive" idea - it can be depicted directly (in countless films, TV shows, comics and computer games) and triggers strong feelings - including excitement, anger or fear.|
... yet attractive ...
|Addictions, phobias, obsessions and other unhealthy
behaviour patterns are often based on strong positive images - sometimes
Proponents of positive thinking point out that positive images are much more strongly motivating than negative ones.
|... and the negative is often good||Peace is a "negative" idea - it represents the absence of violence. It can only be depicted indirectly - as the calm before, during or after the storm. You need the storm to make sense of the calm.|
... yet vulnerable ...
|It can sometimes take a lot of energy and courage to maintain/sustain the absence of something harmful. The price of freedom is constant vigilance.|
|so don't confuse arithmetic with ethics|
|strong positive images||weak negative images|
|Violence, Warfare, Social Unrest||Peace, Stability|
|Heavy Drinking (or other addictive behaviour)||Abstaining|
Our language is one-sided, and so are the stratagems (social, psychological
and other) we adopt.
|Energy is a good thing - but not if it’s thermonuclear.
Growth is a good thing - but not if it’s cancerous.
Confidence is a good thing - but not if it’s tricky.
|To a chemist, there’s no difference between adding alkali and subtracting
Or is there?To an accountant, there’s no difference between adding debit and subtracting credit.
Or is there?One country’s emigration is another country’s immigration.
In school, some students discover that subtracting the normal number
4 is equivalent to adding a weird number called minus-4. They are
the ones that pass exams in mathematics. Some of them are attracted
into theoretical physics, where they discover things called anti-particles.
These anti-particles are supposed have the same behaviour as negative numbers,
producing zero when added to their opposite. The ability these students
have - to think of weird things like negative numbers and anti-particles,
and to see symmetries between addition and subtraction - is certainly useful
for playing such intellectual games as mathematics and theoretical physics.
But mathematicians need to remember what the rest of us are in no danger
of forgetting - that these things are weird, and that addition and subtraction
are not really symmetrical. Ordinary language is not symmetrical,
and this reflects the way all of us think - even mathematicians.
Page last updated on January 26th, 2001
Copyright © 2000, 2001 Richard Veryard