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Wooden Minds and Manicheism

"Manichaean," is an adjective that refers to characterizing a conflict as between opposites. It's generally overly-simplistic. (Manichaeism is named after the Iranian prophet Mani, who held to a dualistic cosmology describing a struggle between the spiritual world of light and the evil material world of darkness.)

An example of Manichaean thinking applied to politics is the division of economic systems between the me of capitalism and the we of socialism. This is not serious thought among economists, but we have few seemingly born yesterday who think of a nation's politics today as either capitalist or socialist, unaware of that called a "mixed economy" — part socialistic but also capitalist. Adam Smith, unknown to maybe a few conservatives, was very interested in the we), but he could see self-interest (me) functioning in a way that served the we. (Nevertheless, when a business abandons a community and their workers by moving their operations out of town or out of country, the "me" of capitalism annoys that community.)

Manichaean thinking also appears among at least a few Christians. Occasionally, if we watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network, we might be told of the righteousness of Jehovah God on one side and on the other side the immorality of those of us who willfully ignore God's wants or laws. The conflict, it is said, is resolved if we give up by choosing to be right with God by accepting Jesus Christ as our savior. There are people, however, who think they can move away from immorality by self-evaluation and evaluating their relationships with others.

The Manichaean thinker believes he is choosing between good and evil. A realist is likely to think he is choosing the best way of dealing with imperfection.

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