Healing Thinking through Both/and Logic, Buddhist and Jain Logic

New Book by Rolf Sattler: Science and Beyond: Toward Greater Sanity through Science, Philosophy, Art, and Spirituality.
"one of the most important works ever written" (Daniel Ananda Alexander)

Chapter 3

"Everything can be a 'that'; everything can be a 'this' "(Chuang Tzu)

Wounds may be created by the exclusive use of our common Aristotelian either/or logic. However, these wounds can be healed through both/and logic that can be illustrated by the Yin-Yang symbol. Buddhist logic includes not only "both/and" but also "neither/nor," which points beyond the namable. Jain logic is even more comprehensive than Buddhist logic.

Both/and Logic

Like fuzziness, both/and is well illustrated by the Yin-Yang symbol and Yin-Yang thinking (see Figure 1 in my essay on Ways of Thinking). In contrast to our common Aristotelian thinking that divides everything into either black or white (metaphorically speaking), in the Yin-Yang symbol we find a white dot in the black and vice versa, which means we find the Yang in the Yin and vice versa. Hence, each half of the Yin-Yang symbol is both Yin and Yang, although one or the other predominates. Accordingly, in reality everything is both Yin and Yang. Although predominantly Yang, a man is also Yin; and although predominantly Yin, a woman is also Yang. Thus, both man and woman are connected. Likewise, everything else is connected. Recognizing this connection is healing the wounds that have been created by the division of either/or logic or it prevents them from occurring in the first place.

Like fuzzy thinking, both/and thinking is based on much evidence. Nonetheless, this evidence is often ignored, in everyday life and even in science. The so-called law of contradiction is still widely taken for granted: A cannot be both A and not-A. Thus, in physics, it was taken for granted that light cannot be both a wave and particle (not-wave) phenomenon. It was assumed that according to either/or logic, it must be one or the other. But eventually, in the first half of the 20
th century, strong evidence was obtained showing that light can manifest itself as both particles and waves depending on the experimental set-up.

Once the filter of the law of contradiction had been removed in quantum physics, it could be seen more easily in many other areas that this so-called law does not apply or reveals only one limited aspect of reality. Many seers and sages have been aware of this since ancient times. But now it has also become obvious to more ordinary people, although the vast majority of people, including most scientists, still cling to the so-called law of contradiction. For example, they believe that truth and falsehood are sharply separated. Thus, when you believe that you are in truth, you are free of falsehood; and when you think the other is in falsehood, he cannot partake of truth. However, sometimes one can hear simple people say that there is a grain of truth in what is believed to be false. This means that there is truth in falsehood. Similarly, one can also see that there is something false in what is believed to be true. Thus, the two opposites are united. This is healing. This unites what has been separated by the blind acceptance of the so-called law of contradiction, which implies that something cannot be both true and false.

Another consequence of the so-called law of contradiction is the belief in the mutual exclusivity of good and evil. Accordingly, a person is good or not good (bad, evil), a relationship is good or bad, an organization is good or bad, a nation is good or bad, religion is good or bad, etc. Much harm can be done and has been done by such affirmations. Reference to the axis of evil by former president George W. Bush has poisoned international politics and relations. Not only is it an insult, it is also a distortion. Nations of the so-called axis of evil are not just evil, they are also good in many ways, and the so-called good nations are also bad in many ways. For example, the capitalist system in the United States and elsewhere has led to much greed and fraud and the worldwide economic crisis. If we could recognize that nations are both good and bad, all nations could connect, and this would heal the rift between the so-called good and bad nations. I do not want to claim that this would solve all problems, but it would provide a basis from which one could work more constructively, whereas the total condemnation of some nations creates antagonism and conflict that is not conducive to peaceful cooperation. The same can be said about personal relationships and relations between all sorts of groups and organizations.

A related consequence of the so-called law of contradiction is the notion that if you are not for me (or us), you are against me (or us). Such thinking can be more or less destructive. If, however, there is awareness that being against me (or us) in some ways does not preclude being for me (or us) in other ways, then a connection remains, and this can be healing.

Buddhist Logic

Aristotelian either/or logic is a two-valued logic. Both/and logic added a third value. Buddhist logic, as developed by Nagarjuna, added a fourth value, which makes it a four-valued logic. The fourth value is neither/nor.

According to Nagarjuna, the Buddha first taught that the world is real. He next taught that it is unreal. To the more astute students, he taught that it is both real and not real. And to those who were furthest along the path, he taught that the world is neither real nor not real. With regard to good and bad (evil), we would conclude that a person, organization, group, or nation is good, bad, both good and bad, and neither good nor bad. With regard to truth, any statement would have the values true, false (not true), both true and false, neither true nor false.

Buddhist logic is liberating because it transcends not only the restrictive either/or of our common way of thinking, but even the both/and of the much more inclusive and healing both/and logic. When we conclude that something is neither this nor that – neti neti as the Hindus say – we transcend thought and thinking altogether. We point to the unnamable, the mystery beyond the thinking mind (see my essays on
Healing through Non-Identity (Korzybski) and Beyond Thinking, Writing, and Speaking - the Unnamable

Reaching beyond the thinking mind is healing in a profound way. It removes the agitation of the thinking mind and delivers us into the calmness of infinite wisdom. But note that Buddhist logic does not exclude either/or and both/and. However, seen from the perspective of neither/nor, either/or appears less threatening and less harmful because its limitation is clearly recognized.

Jain Logic

Jain logic is seven-valued. Even more than Buddhist logic, Jain logic recognizes the complexity of reality. Since no single proposition can capture this complexity, every proposition should be prefixed by the term “syad”, which in the context of Jain logic means “in some ways” or “from one perspective.” For every proposition seven forms of “syad”, seven perspectives, seven logical values, have to be acknowledged. They are:
"in some ways it is"
2. "in some ways it is not"
3. "in some ways it is and it is not"
4. "in some ways it is and it is indescribable"
5. "in some ways it is not and it is indescribable"
6. "in some ways it is, it is not and it is indescribable"
7. "in some ways it is indescribable"

This form of seven-valued logic avoids dogmatism, antagonism, and conflict. Since any one statement is not the full truth but only one of seven perspectives, it leaves room for the other six perspectives. Thus, even opposites are included. And since the indescribable is admitted, language, logic, and thinking are transcended: the unnamable, the mysterious, that which is beyond the grasp of the thinking mind, is acknowledged. For this reason, Jain logic appears to be the most comprehensive logic, far beyond the scope of our common either/or logic that admits only two mutually exclusive values. Jain logic also includes these two values of our common logic, but they are no longer absolutes; they are only two perspectives among the other perspectives.

Jain logic is particularly suited to heal the wounds that have been created by the harmful thinking of our common binary logic. Let us look at the simple statement “He is bad”, whose opposite is “He is good (not bad)”. According to Jain logic, the situation is not at all simple because it encompasses all of the following: “In some ways, he is bad”. “In some ways, he is not bad”. “In some ways, he is bad and not bad” (both/and logic). “In some ways, he is bad and indescribable”. “In some ways, he is not bad and indescribable”. “In some ways, he is bad and not bad and indescribable”. “In some ways, he is indescribable”.

Often we can see only one perspective and believe that it is the full truth. We are convinced that he is bad, or we are convinced that he is good, and then we act according to such narrow-minded convictions in a way that can be harmful. Jain logic helps us to transcend such convictions, narrow-mindedness, and dogmatism to see a much richer spectrum of reality and to act on the basis of this much more comprehensive view and understanding. As a result, harmful actions can be avoided or mitigated.

We can look at many examples in terms of Jain logic and in this way gain a much broader understanding that is healthy and healing and helpful for our actions.


What has been cut apart by divisive Aristotelian either/or logic can be reunited by both/and logic, which is well illustrated by the Yin-Yang symbol, in which the Yang contains the Yin and vice versa. Thus, it is recognized that truth can contain falsehood and vice versa, that evil can contain goodness and vice versa, etc. This recognition is healing the wounds that have been created by the divisiveness of either/or thinking. Buddhist and Jain logic transcend even both/and logic. Buddhist logic added a fourth value of "neither/nor" to the values of "both/and", "this" and "that"("not-this"}. Thus it includes the binary values of either/or logic as well as both/and logic and transcends both binary and both/and logic. Such transcendence is profoundly healing since it transcends the thinking mind and language. The seven-valued Jain logic also transcends the thinking mind and language as it refers to the indescribable.

Further Reading

Bothand Project http://www.bothand.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

The Coincidence of Contraries. In: Arber,
Agnes. 1967.
The Manifold and the One. Wheaton,IL: The Theosophical Publishing House. A Quest Book, pp. 67-78.

Rankin, A. 2010. Many-Sided Wisdom. Ropley, Hants, U.K.: O Books.

Sattler, R. 2021. Science and Beyond: Toward Greater Sanity through Science, Philosophy, Art, and Spirituality. FriesenPress.

Continue with Chapter 4 on
Healing Thinking through Non-Identity (Korzybski), or return to Table of Contents of this book ms on Healing Thinking and Being.

Latest up-date February 10, 2020.


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