Beyond Binary

by Peter Saint-Andre


As political polarization proliferates, it's beneficial to explore realms of thought that are not limited to left vs. right and us vs. them. Personally, I'm partial to philosophy: it's impossible to reduce all of philosophical thinking to, say, Epicureans vs. Stoics without ignoring the deep and unique contributions of Platonists, Aristotelians, Taoists, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus, Christians, humanists, skeptics, existentialists, and many more.

Matters are similar in psychology, populated as it is by Freudians, Jungians, Adlerians, behaviorists, cognitivists, humanists, and adherents of more recent trends like evolutionary psychology and positive psychology.

Or consider music, with its many genres, sub-genres, and practitioners. Even in, say, jazz music you can experience ragtime, dixieland, stride, swing, bebop, hard bop, free jazz, chamber jazz, Latin jazz, gypsy jazz, bossa nova, and many more. The landscape is similar in literature, film, painting, sculpture, and other art-forms.

Yet in the world of politics - especially American politics with its two-party system - we are experiencing what Lee Drutman recently identified as a partisan death spiral. Although his recommended remedies are worth trying, I'd like to suggest something even deeper: ignore politics and immerse yourself in human phenomena that aren't merely two-sided. Philosophy, psychology, and the arts are fine places to start, especially because each one has its own kind of healing powers and yields its own kind of wisdom. Perhaps if we all became more attuned to finer shades of difference in these domains we'd be less likely to tolerate polarization in politics, too. Or so we can hope.

(Cross-posted at


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal