“I Am Right You Are Wrong”

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.  




There are experiences that change our thinking. (I include books in this. Reading a book can produce a thinking-changing experience.) Recently, I discovered that sometimes we may not realize the long-term effects an experience, or a book, may end up having produced.

I had already finished my recent mini-series before I realized that, in the series, I had “channeled” a book that I’d read over 30 years ago:I Am Right, You Are Wrong,” by Edward de Bono. Renowned for his work regarding creativity and ‘thinking,’ de Bono powerfully asserts that (what is our traditional thinking, i.e.,) “critical thinking” alone is inadequate to the task of addressing twenty-first century problems and complexity. (The United Methodist Church [UMC], as a microcosm of Western societies, has been demonstrating the veracity of de Bono’s thesis for decades.) I’ll try to explain, using some of de Bono’s own words.



A “New Renaissance”  

So, de Bono is suggesting that our default thinking process (i.e., “critical thinking”) is structured on what we might call “Socratic oppositionalism” (a gift from the ancient Greeks to The Enlightenment through the last Renaissance). Here are a few passages:

Before the last Renaissance the thinking habits of the Western world were derived entirely from dogma and theology.

‘I am right — you are wrong’ is a short-hand crystallization of the thinking habits that both formed the last Renaissance and were further developed by it. The search for truth — as distinct from dogma — was to be made through the exposure of falsity by means of argument, reason and logic. This reason, not dogma, was to decide what was right and what was wrong.

‘I am right — you are wrong’ condenses the essence of our traditional thinking that [was] set by the last Renaissance.

Here we find ‘argument’, which is the basis of our adversarial system in science, law, and politics. Here we have absolutes and finality and judgment —and the confidence (sometimes arrogance) which comes from these. Here we have the mutually exclusive incompatibility which is the very essence of our logic. 



Postmodernism critiques “critical thinking” 

Postmodernism surfaced the fact that subjective perspective vectors reasoning, e.g., social location, confirmation bias, tribal alliance, etc. The inclusion/authority discourse in the UMC has exposed how dramatically this “vectoring” can and does work. 


de Bono continues:

There is a remarkable paradox in how the revival of Greek argument thinking in the last Renaissance served a dual purpose. On the one hand, humanistic thinkers used the system of logic and reason to attack the dogma that suffocated society. On the other hand, Church thinkers[,] led by the genius of Thomas Aquinas of Naples[,] developed the same argument logic into a powerful way of defeating the numerous heresies that were forever surfacing.

What could possibly go wrong with opposing worldviews using the same logics? “Same,” that is, until the reasoning gets vectored; “Same,” until we consider that people frequently live in worldview-bubbles and, so, often don’t even share one set of facts with their opposition any longer.


“a relentless freedom from doubt”

Recently, I’ve argued that our premises create the structure which frames our discourse. de Bono is claiming that the premise of our default thinking pattern is Socratic argumentation, e.g.:

“Here we have absolutes and finality and judgment —and the confidence (sometimes arrogance) which comes from these.” [And,] “Here we have the mutually exclusive incompatibility which is the very essence of our logic.”

It is the “sometimes arrogance” piece that troubles me. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote something in the wake of the Dobbs decision recently taken by the SCOTUS (overturning Roe v. Wade) that really resonates with my concern. “Both the Court’s opinion and the dissent display a relentless freedom from doubt on the legal issue that I cannot share,” Roberts wrote.

I imagine it’s both 1s’ & 5s’ certitude that justifies/animates their control spirit.

Passive and active informational systems 

“Rock-logic” [which is ‘passive’ (requires an outside operator/algorithm)] and “water-logic” [which is ‘active’ (enacts operational information, self-organizing)] are markedly different thinking systems.

I want to suggest that rock-logic [language based, dualistic, oppositional, exclusive] and water-logic [perception based, holistic, paradigm-shifting] are complimentary, not contradictory. Water logic (Ralph) and rock logic (Giorgio):



Note: My ‘holistic take’ project seemed to attract interlocutors who graciously provided illustrations for my thesis. We’ll take that up next week.


In the context of my UMC schism, a holistic take thesis, Edward de Bono’s book tacitly structures my argument. Linear, traditional thinking (“rock logic”), is insufficient to free us from the polarized trap in which we’re caught. Rather, what de Bono calls “water logic” has the generative, innovative, paradigm-shifting capacity that we need right now.


Next week: UMC, Stymied by structure”  [this post ~800 words (3-min. read)] 

Your thoughts? 




20 thoughts on ““I Am Right You Are Wrong”

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