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Tetralemmic logic is one aspect of the twelve-stage chain of interdependent origination, a fundamental underpinning of Buddhist philosophy.

Under-construction for ©-infringement.

The tetralemmic model which has been developed in oriental logic stipulates the existence of four lemmas:

Here (a) and (b) both belong to formal logic, whereas (c) and (d) are unacceptable to it, although they are acceptable in theoretical physics. Only an acceptance of the third and fourth lemmas can allow a full representation of the contemporary world problematique in its totality since contemporary world reality is full of cases where a mere affirmation or negation does not make sense.

The four lemmas lend themselves to an action-oriented interpretation as the basis for a more general "action logic":

The conventional western-based logic of international actions uses modes (a) and (b) consciously, although some groups promote strategies based on one or the other only. For example, those in favour of "positive thinking" claim not to use (b), despite the positive value of closure. Whereas those who fear "contamination" by a system gone wrong claim not to use (a).

The strength of the tetralemmic perspective is that it draws attention to the complementary role of the two other modes (c) and (d), which are outside the framework of action explicitly (consciously) accepted by the international community, although they are evident in its interstices. The (a) and (b) modes are embodied in formal agreements and procedures and are the focus of academic study of international action. The existence of other modes can only be publicly "recognized" as scandalous illegality meriting no serious attention, except as the spice of informal discussion.

The (c) and (d) modes are the tools of wily, world-wise actors, as well as of those they are trying to manoeuvre, both being aware that there are degrees of freedom of action which the (a) and (b) modes are unable to reveal. In contrast to the "cut and dried", overt (a) and (b) modes are unable to reveal. In contrast to the "cut and dried", overt (a) and (b) modes, in the essentially covert (c) and (d) modes what is not done is as significant as what is. Many valuable illustrations of the importance of the (c) and (d) modes are given in Douglas Hofstadter's justly acclaimed Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979). The authors cited provide conceptual, visual and auditory indications of the opportunities for transcending the limitations of the (a) and (b) modes.

Most of the examples given suggest the questionable value of the (c) and (d) modes because until recently they have been largely embedded in the collective unconscious at least for the Western mind. These are the kafkaesque worlds of double dealing ("crime"), influence ("old boy networks"), double standards ("hypocritical leadership"), and collective resistance ("bureaucratic stonewalling"). Other possibilities are however suggested by the oriental approach to action, by their extensive literature on non-action, and by the recent innovative use of "non-violent" strategies. All the modes are significant for development, as well as being vulnerable to misuse.


For more information check the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential from the Union of International Associations

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