The Concept Of Binary Opposition
The Concept Of Binary OppositionBy:Nigah Shah
Contents:DefinitionHistoryConcept of binaries in IslamTheory of binary opposition in western thoughtIn Relation to Logo centrismBinary Opposition In literatureConclusion
Definition:Abinary opposition(alsobinary system) is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning.
e.g.Positive/ negative Male/ female Hero/ villain Handsome/ ugly Good/ bad
Binary opposition is the system in which;Two theoretical opposites are strictly defined Set off against one another.3
History:Originated in Saussurean structuralist theory; The binary opposition is the means by which the units of language have value or meaning.Each unit is defined in reciprocal determination with another termIt is not a contradictory relation but, a structural, complementary one.
Sign's meaning is derived from its contextExample of it is;one cannot conceive of 'good' if we do not understand 'evil'.
Structuralism; Elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure.Binary opposition- Important concept of structuralism; Fundamental to all language and thought fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language.
History (Cont..):Inpost-structuralism;One of the two opposites assumes a role of dominance over the other.
Pieter Fourie discovers that binary oppositions have a deeper or second level of binaries that help to reinforce meaningAn example; the concepts of heroandvillain good/bad handsome/ugly, liked/disliked,
Concept of binaries in Islam:Originated from the very first day the world was createdCreation of Adam (A.A.S) and Bint-e-Hawa Angle and devilConcept of Heaven and HellObedience and Disobedience
Concept of binaries in Islam (cont):. Other good examples of binaries in Islam; Halal and Haram Reward and PunishmentExistence and non-existence Birth and deathFollowers and non-followers
Theory of binaries in Western thought: Most of the west including the post structuralism think that;
In binary oppositions there is absence and presence concept.Distinguishing between presence and absence, viewed as polar opposites
According to post- structuralism criticisms
Presence occupies a position of dominance in Western thought overabsence.
absenceis traditionally seen as what you get when you take awaypresence. (Hadabsencebeen dominant,presencemight have most naturally been seen as what you get when you take away anabsence.
Theory of binaries in Western thought (cont..):According to Nasser Maleki;People value one part of a binary opposition over anotherFor example; People give superiority to life rather than death.
According toJacques Derrida;Meaning in the West is defined in terms of binary oppositions, a violent hierarchy where one of the two terms governs the other. Example; Within the white/ black binary opposition in the United States.
In Islam people give priority to death because of the concept of here aftre and in west they think all what is exist in the world. People define things according to their cultural setting.
Theory of binaries in Western thought (cont..):Claude Strauss :Anthropologist who originated in France in the early 1900s. Meaning of a word is from our understanding of its opposite.
Example;A protagonist and antagonist or Heroine and villain.
Words depends not so much on any meaning they themselves directly contain but by our understanding of the difference in the word and its opposite.
Examples;Binary opposites are very frequently used in films, especially in the horror genre. Understanding of Villain isby the work of Hero.
In Relation to Logo centrism:Logocentrism: (is an idea related to Binary Opposition)
That says certain audiences will favour one part of a binary opposition pair over the other.
This favoritism is often most strongly influenced by a readers' cultural background.
This favouritism is often most strongly influenced by a readers' cultural background. The strong patriarchal themes in 'The Women and the Pot', an Amharic folktale, would be one such example of logocentrism. This tells the story of two women who are upset at their diminished role in society, and who consequently go to their King for help. He effectively conveys the message that women cannot be relied upon to take on a greater role in society, which becomes the moral of the tale. Prasad explains this idea; The logocentric value is seen through the 'Eternal Knowledge' the naturalness of male superiority that is conveyed through the folktale. The hidden a priori binary opposition is 'Man over Woman'.In relation to the cultural heritage of an audience having an influence on their unconscious preference for one part of a binary opposition, Prasad says; By way of studying a selection of Ethiopian folktales, the paper uncovers the presence of logocentrism and a priori binary opposition being at work in Ethiopian folktales. These two elements attempt to endorse and validate the 'given' subservient position of women in society.12
Logocentrism Example'The Women and the Pot', an Amharic folktale.
Story of two womanDiminished role in the societyThey Asked king for helpMessage of the king ?Moral
Prasad explains this idea; The logocentric value is seen through the 'Eternal Knowledge' the naturalness of male superiority that is conveyed through the folktale. The hidden a priori binary opposition is 'Man over Woman'.In relation to the cultural heritage of an audience having an influence on their unconscious preference for one part of a binary opposition, . These elements attempt to approve and validate the 'given' subservient position of women in society.13
Binary Opposition In literature:The problems with a system of binary opposites;Boundaries between groups of people
Leads to prejudice and discriminationWhite/ BlackIn literature;
Authors use to explore differences between groups of individuals, such as cultural, class or gender differences.
What can result from those perceived differences?
Binary opposition is deeply embedded within literature as language, and paired opposites, rely upon a relation with adjoining words inside a paradigmatic chain. If one of the paired opposites were removed the others precise meaning would be altered.Binary opposites, therefore, are at the foundation of all literature14
Use of Binaries in literature:Example 1;(J. K. Rowlings novel )Harry Potter:There are two major groups: The magical community and non-magical community.The muggle- born and half-bloodsThe evil wizard Lord VoldemortThe use of dark magic
1990s: frommug1+-le2; used in theHarry Potterbooks by J. K. Rowling to mean a person without magical powers.The muggle- borns and half-bloods: two sets of people who don't fit clearly into either categoryThe evil wizard Lord Voldemort believes that the only people who should be a part of the magical community are the pure bloods, who come from a long line of full-blooded witches and wizards with no muggle blooduse dark magic to ostracize, torture and sometimes even kill the individuals out of fear that they would take over the wizarding world.
Example (cont); Through this novel J.K. Rowling; Shows the dangers of creating such categorizations within society.
Consider this image of a poster;'Only one can survive,' reinforcing the idea of binary opposition .
Conclusion: Two word related in terms of opposites are binary oppositions
Structuralism says a word is defined of the basis of its opposite word.
Post-structuralism in addition says one of the two words has a dominant position over the other, e.g. on over off.
Concept of binaries in Islam is begin from the very first day and everything defined on the basics of binaries, e.g. halal and haram.
Binary oppositions are two clearly different terms but are in relation of opposition to each other.Structuralism is a theory that has come up with the concept that a word doesnt keeps any meaning within itself but we can only define it with the understanding of its opposite.Post-st is a concept which is an addition to structuralism theory which says that in binary opposition on of the term has a superior value over the other.Concept of binarism has been part of the human phillosiphy from the very first day in Islam.17
Conclusion (cont): Logo centrism says people prefer anyone part from the opposite terms.
In literature authors haves tried to explain the outcomes of binary opposition in the society.
What we conclude is;Binary oppositions are the backbone of any language, culture and philosophy.
Based on their cultural background people favor either side of the binay terms, this is what logo centrism is.Binary oppositions has a drawback, i.e. its creats discremination between individual and group of people, this is what authers have tried to covey through their writings and we have many examples for this like the Harry Potter series.