Black and White

Here's another line I hear quite a bit (usually after talking politics or ethics). "The world isn't black and white." I personally believe that it is. The problem is that the "black and white" perspective is misunderstood.

Things that appear to be "shades of gray" aren't proof that the world isn't black and white so much as they demonstrate that if your vision is blurry enough, a black object with a few little white spots looks dark gray. The misunderstanding of "black and white" vision is that a whole thing must be either black or white, and can't be sorted into it's component black and white elements. But if your information is good, if your vision is clear, you can pick out the white spots from the black spots. And when your vision isn't clear enough that you can tell the black and white components apart, get a microscope to view it through.

If you take the metaphor to mean that red, blue, green, etc also exist, you're using a different sense of blurry vision whenever you see white. White itself isn't a color, just a combination of red, blue, and green. You either have presence or absence of light in any one frequency. To extend this into metaphor, neither the red team nor the blue team are fully white nor black, but both teams have different elements of white and different elements of black in different ways.

In other words, when the microscope fails you, try a spectroscope.

The world is black and white. The harder you look, the more black and white it becomes. Anything that isn't black or white is a result of imperfect information, and means you may need to refine it to deal appropriately with the world.

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