Making Sense of Hate—Why People Don’t Understand You

Things are good or bad, black or white, hot or cold, right?

Um, no. But if you’ve looked back over your worst arguments, you’ll likely find that was precisely the way of thinking that kept you and whomever you were arguing with miles apart.

Two faces in opposite directions
Image by Jiris/

Whether you knew you were doing it or not, in that explosive conversation you were employing an ancient mode of reasoning known as “two-valued logic.” It dates back to Aristotle and before. And although it works very well in the world of digits, cyberspace and binary systems, it doesn’t work very well in the real flesh-and-blood world where there are degrees and shadings of everything and where nothing is absolute. Two-valued logic, mixed in with religion or politics or anything we mortals consider important, causes more harm than good, makes us mark anyone who disagrees with us “a fool” and, since it’s impossible to win an argument with a fool, we BOTH lose.

Consider the weather. Step outside and experience the temperature. Is it cold? How cold? As cold as the Arctic on the coldest day of the year? Or briskly cold like Boston in April? Is it hot? How hot? Hot as the core of the sun? Or just hot like a bad mosquito-packed July day in the Everglades? There is no way you can simply say “hot” or “cold” without needing a qualification for it. Hence, there is an invention, the thermometer, which gives us GRADES of hot and cold.

Two-valued logic, mixed in with religion or politics or anything we mortals consider important, causes more harm than good.

Hence, too, we have a justice system which, haphazard though it is, doesn’t hand out the same punishment for multiple homicide as it does for jaywalking. These are examples of what L. Ron Hubbard calls “infinity-valued logic,” a mode of reasoning that allows us to pinpoint our positions, discern shades of meaning, and arrive at accurate conclusions on things, while at the same time forcing those we discourse with to be just as precise. It makes for rich, productive discussions rather than screaming matches. The weather is cool, tepid, warmer, warmer, warmer, somewhat hot, a bit hotter, a bit hotter, and so on. A person’s actions can be somewhat okay, okay, pretty good, better, really good, truly amazing, sainthood-level, and so on. The variances of life and the real world can be taken into account with infinity-valued logic. And so, too, can facts.

“She kissed him.” Two-valued logic will either tell us this is good or evil, period, without taking into account any other facts, extenuating circumstances or frames of reference.

“I don’t like him/her! He/she is bad. Period. End of argument. And you’re bad, too, if you disagree. You are OFF my Christmas gift list!”

Black to white spectrum
Image by Artist Elizaveta/

Two-valued logic makes bigots of us all by assigning Yes or No, Right or Wrong, Bad or Good with no in-between to everything, everyone and every group. And to people who are already bigots, this brand of logic is their oxygen, their indisputable, uncontestable, irrefutable system which makes them right, no matter what lunacy they subscribe to.

Two-valued logic makes bigots of us all.

Why? Because two-valued logic allows one to pretend to observe people and things while not doing so, allows one to be in a passionate fever about one’s beliefs without really understanding them, and reduces one’s reflections on life and the world to what can easily fit on a bumper sticker or be screamed as a slogan.

Think of any prejudice or unswervable extreme opinion you hold on to, and you will find two-valued logic at the root of it. Mine was eggplants—I hated all eggplants, regardless of size, color or origin, as well as everything made with eggplants, until my wife showed me that you can ruin a perfectly good eggplant by overcooking it. In other words, she countered my two-valued logic by introducing me to further data. I am the saner for it.

Discourage your remaining friends from engaging in the emotional, no-win, take-no-prisoners black-and-white habit of two-valued thinking, and urge them into the wondrous, full-dimensioned technicolor world of infinity-valued logic. Their blood pressure will go down, their breathing will become more even, and their (and your) appreciation of and love for the miraculous diversity of life will itself grow and grow— approaching, well, infinity.

John Evans
John Evans has written for theater and the big screen. His essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in several publications on the East and West Coasts.