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The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)

At this point, however, another dimension of the problem of the love of God arises, which must be discussed in order to fathom the complexity of the problem. I refer to a fundamental difference in the religious attitude between the East (China and India) and the West; this difference can be expressed in terms of logical concepts. Since Aristotle, the Western world has followed the logical principles of Aristotelian philosophy. This logic is based on the law of identity which states that A is A, the law of contradiction (A is not non-A) and the law of the excluded middle (A cannot be A and non-A, neither A nor non-A). Aristotle explains his position very clearly in the following sentence: “It is impossible for the same thing at the same time to belong and not to belong to the same thing and in the same respect; and whatever other distinctions we might add to meet dialectical objections, let them be added. This, then, is the most certain of all principles …”[17]

This axiom of Aristotelian logic has so deeply imbued our habits of thought that it is felt to be “natural” and self-evident, while on the other hand the statement that X is A and not A seems to be nonsensical. (Of course, the statement refers to the subject X at a given time, not to X now and X later, or one aspect of X as against another aspect.)

In opposition to Aristotelian logic is what one might call paradoxical logic, which assumes that A and non-A do not exclude each other as predicates of X. Paradoxical logic was predominant in Chinese and Indian thinking, in the philosophy of Heraclitus, and then again, under the name of dialectics, it became the philosophy of Hegel, and of Marx. The general principle of paradoxical logic has been clearly described by Lao-tse. “Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.”[18] And by Chuang-tzu: “That which is one is one. That which is not-one, is also one.” These formulations of paradoxical logic are positive: it is and it is not. Another formulation is negative: it is neither this nor that. The former expression of thought we find in Taoist thought, in Heraclitus and again in Hegelian dialectics; the latter formulation is frequent in Indian philosophy.

Although it would transcend the scope of this book to give a more detailed description of the difference between Aristotelian and paradoxical logic, I shall mention a few illustrations in order to make the principle more understandable. Paradoxical logic in Western thought has its earliest philosophical expression in Heraclitus’ philosophy. He assumes the conflict between opposites is the basis of all existence. “They do not understand,” he says, “that the all-One, conflicting in itself, is identical with itself: conflicting harmony as in the bow and in the lyre.”[19] Or still more clearly: “We go into the same river, and yet not in the same; it is we and it is not we.” (Ibid., p. 132.) Or “One and the same manifests itself in things as living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old.” (Ibid., p. 133.)