Thought for the Day: the exception paradox and conflict resolution

A very handy piece of wisdom I have gone by for years is “the exception paradox”, which states:

” … if for every rule there is at least one exception, then the exception to this one being that it has no exception … “

Like many other such gems, it can be applied in many ways, and I’m going to share with you in this article one of the ways I use it.


For any ideological conflict, most people generally gravitate toward one of two polar opposite viewpoints. This itself is partly an evolved ( social ) behavioural trait of animal species ( which just happens to be more complex in humans ), because in any conflict between populations or groups, on average the wiser thing to do would seem to be:

  1. pick the side that looks stronger
  2. pick the side which has a stronger case
  3. run away from the conflict
  4. try to diplomatically negotiate a peace / truce

So society ends up divided along these lines into parties or factions of “brute force”, with a smaller number of diplomats, others trying to ignore the fight, and you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire or on the losing side.

Although: this gravitation towards polar opposites is also the result of social engineering, as we are often presented with false dichotomies by powerful vested interests, where they argue that only one or the other proposition can be true, and people ( used to being told what to do and what to think ) just accept this without questioning.

The reason this proposition of mutual exclusivity is flawed, is because it ignores the fact that one or both propositions contain falsehoods … so yes in their present form only one of the two can be true, but since neither is wholly real, the last thing any rational person should want to do is get suckered into the delusion that they are ( real ).

Everyone is basically just looking to survive the conflict, instead of looking to determine what is actually correct.

the exception:

I choose to be an outsider in order to observe, listen, enquire & determine what is really going on beyond people’s opinions & prejudices … I seek “alternative 3”, the solution which accounts for ALL perspectives ( so long as each side is prepared to give up anything they believe, should it prove to be false – which is of course the real difficulty ).

The exception paradox is one of those little tidbits of wisdom which reminds me what I am looking for: the loop-hole, the misinterpretations, the falsehoods, and all the other flaws which lead people to conclude their “truth” is the only truth.

A truth can only be absolute or universal if it accounts for all, otherwise it is merely relative to a particular domain. “Accounts for all” is NOT synonymous with “agrees with all” – that is not required – but you cannot properly disagree with something without first understanding it; otherwise, how can you be sure what it is you’re disagreeing with?

finding resolution to conflicts:

When I say ( above ) “accounts for all”, this can include the use of conceptual “interfaces” within the process of analysing what is going on in the conflict.

An interface in this context is a thought-device where a condition, rule, or truth is considered absolute, but only within a particular domain ( a defined set of boundary conditions for that truth ). In other words it is a relative truth to that domain, but we’re going to exclude all other domains temporarily, considering it absolute, in order to understand it. In this way, we can even come to understand a completely delusional ( wholly untrue ) perspective.

If you can determine the conditions ( whether delusional or real ) in which each person or group’s perspective is true ( within a conflict scenario ), you can then define a domain for each perspective ( with all its flaws etc. ), then construct interfaces for each, in which one side interfaces to the perspective subdomain of each individual or group, and on the other side interfaces with the common ground ( our communal reality as quantifiable by evidence, logic, maths, and science ).

Think of it as translating between reality and insanity, like languages.

Thus we arrive back at our exception paradox … each perspective driven domain is in conflict with the others, and denying each others’ validity through a competitive survival instinct psychology; but there’s always an exception within each perspective domain, because ( like it or not ) we are all linked through a common reality, which cannot be denied forever – as it is not driven by opinions, it is driven by the entire universe – and every perspective domain ( no matter how delusional ) MUST interface to that common reality at some point; elsewise your probability of death at the hands of your own delusion rises exponentially over time ( especially as the scale & scope of your delusions increase ) … so if you’re still alive, it ( probably ) means you’re only partialy delusional.

The exception to this is where of course large groups sharing a common delusion take up arms and kill everyone who doesn’t share their delusion. They’re still alive by sheer force of will ( despite being an evolutionary dead end ), kind of like the Vogons from Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ( link ).

Cheer up though … most humans are delusional to some degree, others are completely insane and only survive by killing off everything that threatens their delusion. The moment we believe a single falsehood, we are to some degree technically speaking “delusional”, however many such falsehoods have insignificant consequences.

Conflicts arise because people are delusional, and they don’t like having this pointed out, or feeling insecure, or feeling threatened … unfortunately this has led to a completely combative and competitive psychology, which is wholly destructive and counter-productive, but we can work towards the resolution of conflict by remembering the exception paradox.

apply it to yourself first:

So if you want to resolve conflicts with others, you need to first apply these principles to yourself … without getting rid of your own delusions, you’re only risking adding fuel to the fire of the conflict.

Of every single statement you hear yourself utter as an absolute and unconditional fact, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do I know this to be true
    • Recursively: how do i know that to be true
  2. Assuming your answers to question 1 result in foundational proofs: How accurately and consistently does this knowledge apply to the real world?
  3. If the answers to question 1 do not recursively trace back to foundational proofs: Why then do you believe it?
  4. For all remaining beliefs at the end of questions 1 – 3: What are the exceptions to these beliefs?

If you do this really well, you should free your mind from a lot of internal conflict and bullshit … and only then will you really be ready to do it for others … AND … only then will you truly understand the results – which would otherwise seem confusing to a mind that has been brainwashed by popular culture, to expect a fairytale ending every time as a measure of “success”.

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