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The philosophy of Flexitarianism and the Third Way

Are you watching the most recent debates about the U.S. debt ceiling with popcorn and baited breath? I sure as hell am not doing any such thing. Why is that the case? It's because the arguments for each side remain the same and they feel so flaccid in comparison to what I know to be viable Third Way alternatives. Republicans want to stay below the debt ceiling (although they didn't care during the 8 Bush years) by cutting social welfare programs. Democrats don't want to cut social welfare programs but wouldn't mind cleaning up some government waste and a little inflationary taxes to make up for the difference of increasing the debt ceiling. Since they are the only two apparent “choices”, and the can keeps getting kicked down the road, this is a boring proposition to put my mind towards solving. Particularly when we take into account the fact that there are hidden dimensions about this problem of “debt” and “money” that are not even taken into account by this left/right political perspective.

What did I say, dimensions? Yes, the perspective presented to us on how to handle our debt is very one dimensional. This article is a prelude to the more dimensional, in depth perspective that actually get's my pants a'rising about the debt debate, but hopefully the example is strong enough to make a point and to introduce a new philosophy known as the Third Way. There will be many articles written herein that will be born out of the Third Way, but first it's important to understand the philosophy at it's foundation.

An End To The False Dichotomy Fallacy In Politics Once And For All

We all know of situations in our life, many times represented in the political arena, as an Either/Or choice. To have or not have health insurance. To have or not have welfare. To be in a religion or to be against religion. To believe in evolution or to believe in creationism. The philosophy of the Third Way proposes a new thought wherein the only two choices are almost always put aside for the consideration of a more nuanced third position. Typically the third position does not ignore the first two positions but finds a way to incorporate elements of each into a totally new third position. You could call this philosophy flexitarianism (and some do 1) ) because it provides a flexibility of choices that otherwise weren't there previously.

Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis was by developed Fichte first

The late 18th and early 19th century German philosophers were known to develop this thought and it is memorialized in the phrase, “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis”. Johan Fichte actually appears to be the main German source of the idea and Georg Hegel used it sparingly but got the bulk of the credit for it. Hegel believed that any thesis or idea had an internal contradiction within it and history would naturally progress and pull it out into the open. The mirroring of this internal contradiction would supposedly lead consciousness (currently majority represented by humans) to creating a synthesis that doesn't subsume one pole into the other but rather creates a connecting, novel third position. 2) The Third Way fits into this system of thought.

It Is Possible To Only Have Two Choices

Granted, it should be clearly stated that there are times, however few (and we do mean FEW), where there only two choices and you should stick to one or the other. Flexitarianism is chiefly invoked when it becomes apparent that the two sides of an argument presented are polarizing around one another and losing the sight of the bigger picture, which is an advancement in human thought and life. There is no reason to rally behind one side or another when both sides are rallying against human progress.

It Is More Likely To Have Many More Choices

It should also be noted that if there are indeed more than two choices, very rarely will you only have three choices but in fact four choices and a lot more. So the significance of the Third Way is to actually point out there are a plethora of choices, and there is complexity to these choices, not just one extra choice to the first two. A mathematical metaphor is the most reasonable explanation for this phenomenon.

The Third Way Explained By Geometry

In math we can see very clearly that adding dimensions to a geometric object is very advantageous. For sake of explanation of geometrical shapes, we start with its so called building block, the dot or one point. It simply exists in our mind but since we conceive of it, apparently it exists. It has no width or height (our pencil dot represent does not do the idea justice but it will have to do). Because we define a “dimension” by something that creates a measurable polarity, e.g. left/right, this has zero dimensions. But if we create another point and connect those two points, we now have a one dimensional line. By definition, since points have no width, you can fit an infinite number of points on a one dimensional line.

A line segment can be drawn to represent one dimension. A dimension represents a spectrum, and in the case of a line that spectrum is as simple as up/down or left/right BUT NOT BOTH. By doing the same creative act above and adding one line anywhere not on the current line and connecting the two poles to this new line, we have a geometric shape, the rectangle (and let's assume we drew it parallel so we have a square). Now we have the ability to move both up/own and left/right. This is a two dimensional shape (and still mostly exists in our head. Do you anything that has NO depth? even the piece of paper you are drawing on has a 3 dimensions; up/down, left/right, and that miniscule thickness of the paper).

Also worthy of notice is the space inside the square. Remember when we could add an infinite amount of one dimensional “dots” to our two dimensional line? Well the same upgrade exists for the two dimensional square. Because a line is one dimensional and only has measurement in the direction of its poles and no where else, we can fit an infinite number of lines parallel to each side.

A simple two dimensional shape such as a square can be further expanded. Let us take a copy of the square and place it behind or in front of the current square and connect each corner to its respective copy corner. Voila! We have a three dimensional object of the cube. Look at how the image jumps out at you in comparison to the square. Indeed, now that our shape has reached the third dimension we are finally describing reality. This is important to consider because as this Third Way theory suggests, many human arguments are boiled down to the either/or fallacy. Either you choose this Pole or that Pole, but you must choose between two. The Third Way attempts to get people to move arguments well beyond the false dichotomy of only two choices to realize that human lives and conflicts are complex and require the consideration of many dimensions before making the best decision.

Again, we see the same benefit of jumping a dimension as the previous two dimensional jumps. Because a square only measures up/down and left/right, and we have created a new polarity of front/back, we can fit an infinite number of squares into our cube.

For explanation's sake we will enter the fourth dimension. I only describe this “hypothetical”dimension for an important linking point between all of these jumps in dimension. So we have left/right, up/down, and front/back covered in terms of dimensions. What's next? Inside/outside. We can picture what is known as a tesseract or a hypercube, although our existence in 3D makes this object seem a little far out. See here 3)

There a couple things the Third Way highlight as a philosophy from this metaphor. One, as we add complexity to the typically fallacious either/or discussions by introducing a Third Way, we are adding more nuanced positions that take into account the very complex and nuanced human existence. Two, the new positions do not have to rival the original positions but grow upon them in another direction. This is the key of the Third Way. All Third Way positions have considered what the first two choices are and moved in an unforseen direction that puts each of the first two choices into a new perspective. Sometimes that perspective nullifies what the first polarity was discussing, sometimes it incorporates both sides of the polarity. But the end result is a third position who has incorporated a new dimension and thus is closer to the reality of the 3 macro spatial dimensions that we live in.

Did you also notice the increase in dimension allowed an infinite amount of new polarities to exist? Whether we were adding lines or squares, becoming aware of another dimensional aspect of the shape in question opened the door for literally an infinite amount of “other” shapes to stand next to the original shape. In application to the Third Way, we interpret this to mean that the awareness of a third way in a two sided argument can open the door to a myriad of choices previously unforeseen. Not only that, but all of these choices can fill in the shape (or idea in question) so that it becomes more clear and closer to reality than before.

So the debt ceiling debate? Both sides of the current dimension being presented are quite weak, in my opinion, when one considers there are reasonable methods by which we could erase the concept of a debt ceiling discussion altogether. Curious to know more? The next article will explore a real Flexitarian position that blows out of the water the false dichotomy of choices presented today.


Political Philosophy | politics


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