ANTONYMICS AND ANTONYMICAL METAPHYSICS
In antonymics (a branch of linguistics) 'antonyms' are words of
so-called 'opposite' meaning. For example, antipathy is the antonym
of sympathy. As words, antonyms form part of a series to which also
belong synonyms (with the same meaning), homonyms (alike but with a
different meaning) and paronyms (with the same stem). Apart from the fact
that antonymics treats of words, it differs considerably from the
catenical approach in that it lacks any
methodical conception of oppositeness. The great discrepancy between
catenical and antonymical theory can be illustrated by means of a few
examples of pairs of antonyms: larger/smaller but also
equal/different, and starting/finishing but
also continuing/finishing (catenically, only
larger/smaller and starting/finishing may be
pairs of opposites); motion/rest (they are not
opposites: rest limits motion); concrete/abstract (the
former term refers to a kind of space-time
catenality, the latter to noncatenality);
yes/no and masculine/feminine and mental
or spiritual/corporeal (there is no
catenary relationship between these
entities); artistic painter/house-painter (either both are
'painters' in the same sense, and then the words are not antonyms, or the
word painter is used in two different senses, but then they are
homonyms and not antonyms either).
If antonymics is to be a scientific study at all, then at most of what the
speakers of a certain speech community believe to be opposites, or
of the different ways in which they employ the term opposite itself,
however whimsically or inconsistently.
But such (social) science is not more than a descriptive or
statistical enterprise which will not lead to conceptual insight by itself.
It may just turn out to be a mere survey of the common lack of insight in
traditional language and thought. (The semantic differential used in
psychological research is an antonymical device of the same nature.)
By far the most famous (if not notorious) pair of antonyms is
or man/woman. In other words: yang and
yin, or lingam and yoni.
In yang-yin cosmology 'yang' is an active principle in nature
which happens to be masculine, and 'yin' a passive principle in
nature which happens to be feminine.
When they combine, they produce all that comes to be: 'the phallic and the
yonic united for both procreation and production' -- and solely for procreation and production.
For some reason, the masculine pillar, represented by the sunny slope of
a mountain, supports the heavenly realm of lightness, heat, dryness,
consciousness and many other commodities (the sunny side of life), whereas
the feminine pillar, represented by the shady slope of a mountain, supports
the 'opposite', earthly realm of darkness, cold, wetness, unconsciousness
and suchlike incommodities (the seamy side of life).
In other antonymical cosmologies there may be a
right side which is associated with the masculine, the civilized
world, culture and heaven, whereas the left side is associated
with the feminine, the uncivilized world, nature and the earth.
The yang, lingam or right side is 'positive'; the yin, yoni or left side is
'negative' in all these beliefs which were, or still are, held by peoples
and people of very different racial or ethnic backgrounds.
All of them may espouse some union of the positive and the negative, but
there is no neutrality as a limit element between
catenated positivities and catenated
negativities. (It should not go unnoticed that we can be quite sure that
what emerges from the juxtaposition of the 'positive lingam' on the right
and the 'negative yoni' on the left in yang-yin and similar, metaphysical
or ideological, systems has been actively assembled and consciously
propagated by masculine figures, albeit on Earth and not in heaven.)
Of course, it is repugnant androcentrism to exclusively
associate being-a-woman or the feminine with what is evil,
uncivilized, passive or emotional and with matter, earth and
death, while associating being-a-man or the masculine with what
is good, civilized, active or rational and with mind, heaven and life.
This is a moral evil of yang-yin-based and similar doctrines; a feature
which seems to be more the result of a vice of men than one of women.
What is objectionable in these doctrines from an
ontological and scientific point of view in particular is,
firstly, that conceptually entirely different relationships
between predicates and between nonpredicative things or propositions
are all lumped together; secondly, that predicates are
created which serve only an exclusivist purpose, while other
predicates or classes are ignored altogether; and thirdly, that
the juxtaposition of the entities collected is arbitrary, both
with respect to the choice of pairs put on the list and with
respect to the side on which the members of these pairs are put.
The predicates hypostatized are attributes like 'masculinity'
and 'femininity' which are linked to 'being-a-man' and 'being-a-woman';
in general all predicates of belonging to a certain
class of things. The things themselves, however, should be
distinguished on the basis of certain component parts or qualities
they necessarily have, and which nonmembers do not have.
Instead of sticking to the (improper) attribute of having these
parts, or to the typical qualities or combination of parts and
qualities every member of the class in question must have in
order to belong to it, an attribute is produced which not only
comprises all aspects with respect to which members of this class are
catenal, but which also determines which
predicate of this aspect these members are supposed to have.
For example, a man may be active or passive, good or bad, 'conscious'
or 'unconscious', and a woman may be active or passive, good or
bad, 'conscious' or 'unconscious'.
There are only a few parts (organs, chromosomes and/or hormones), and
perhaps some proper attributes, a human being must have to be a girl or
woman, to be a boy or man, or to be considered as having a more or less
clear intersex condition.
In spite of this men and the ones forced into that category are harnassed
with an overall property of masculinity in yang-yin and other antonymical
ideologies and must be, or are supposed to be, active, good, 'conscious',
strong, rational and so on, whereas women and the ones forced into that
category are dressed up with an overall property of femininity and 'are'
passive, bad, 'unconscious', weak, emotional and so forth.
(The choice of attributes may vary.) To deny that any such special
connection is assumed or suggested in these metaphysics and
ideologies is tantamount to removing the very pillars which
support the whole sex-based establishment.
The predicate which is ignored or neglected in this tragicomic cosmos of
profound superficiality is usually the
perineutrality of the
Where a metaphysical system wholly revolves about 'starting' or 'increase'
and 'finishing' or 'decrease' it denies the existence of continuation;
where it wholly revolves about active, light or hot
and passive, dark or cold it denies the existence
of the concatenate perineutralities; and most obviously, where it is
exclusively expressive of 'positive' and 'negative symbolism' it
forgoes catenated neutrality altogether.
Closely related to yang-yin and lingam-yoni systems is
dialectic, the so-called 'critical' investigation of the
process of change in which an entity passes over into its
'opposite', or of the development
stages of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
Underlying this theory is the same antonymical metaphysic.
Only the spirit of the dialectical
mechanism is quite different: the physical and the mental, for
instance, may not be looked upon as moments to be united, but
rather as moments to be sublated. This need not concern us here.
It is the problem of the yang-yin metaphysician to solve the
'conflict' between war and peace, or between diarrhea and
constipation; it is the problem of the dialectician that he or
she has to await a 'synthesis' between these opposites. All
these antonymical, metaphysical doctrines suffer from the same
lack of catenical discernment and from the same lack of
scientific prudence, especially with regard to empirical statements.
While the yang-yin cosmology is dialectical, the essence
of dialectic rests on yang-yin dualism. The pairs of opposites
emphasized may only be different. What is the opposition between
man and beast in the one, for instance, may have been superseded
by that between man and machine in the other.
Let us, finally, list the most important, catenical and other
relations which are all lumped together under the common
denominator of 'oppositeness' in antonymical metaphysics and
ideologies. They are:
- opposition or contrariness; for example, between
lightness and darkness (this always requires a third
predicate, namely a neutral or perineutral one);
- limitation and supplementation; for example, between
rest and motion (in these cases one member of the pair
comprises another pair itself);
- aspect negation; for example, between concreteness and
abstractness, and between life and death (dependent on
- inversion or isorelativity; for example,
between honor and being-honored, and between parent and
child (there are only two 'classes' if the relation is binary but
there are three or more if it is a three- or more-place one);
- difference in class membership in a system which counts
contingently (supposedly) only two classes; for example, between
man or masculinity and woman or femininity, and between
man and beast or machine;
- contradistinction; for example, between painting and
sculpture (which is a distinction on the basis of 'opposite'
qualities of the entities selected, not on the basis of
their own inherent oppositeness);
- contradiction between propositions in terms of logical
incongruity; for example, between (A is) human and
(A is) not human.