Niels Bohr is reputed to have said, "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." Examining opposites --- seeking to draw contrasts by comparing things with their converses or inverses --- can be a powerful tool for thought.

Consider something commonly regarded as a great idea --- say freedom, or diversity, or disclosure. Think now about the opposites --- regimentation, or uniformity, or concealment. Each of these can, if we study them, prove to be valuable under some circumstances:

So is Bohr's statement about opposites itself a "profound truth"? Perhaps so --- since we can examine the opposite of it and try to find profound truths that don't have comparably strong opposites. Truth, for instance, has as its obvious inverse deceit, falsehood, misdirection ... not a very attractive crowd! Although we may be able to think of times when lies seem necessary, such circumstances (we hope!) are not too common.

Saturday, July 10, 1999 at 12:12:33 (EDT) = 1999-07-10


(correlates: DangerousPhrase, AtTheTime, GreatIdeas, ...)