How Many ‘Types’ of People Are There?
Obama, Trump, and Biden—are such different types of personalities, presidents, and people. Likewise in the U.K.: Cameron, May, Johnson, and Truss.
Considering other world leaders from the militaristic Putin to the dancing Marin—two extremes—one might wonder how many “types” of people there are. Humanists say just one.
Others suggest two, three, four, seven, or 12—or, some say, don’t bother to count them.
We are all one species, and all the differences of personality or culture, gender or age, are simply superficial. All have the same rights under their national constitutions if they have one (the U.K. does not) and under the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
Not all rights are observed everywhere: they are prescriptive, not descriptive, and they stand as ideals. This unitary conceptualization of humanity has political but little explanatory value.
Dualism, in contrast, has been the dominant theory of human nature in both Greek and Judeo-Christian culture (i.e., in the “Western.” tradition).
This dualism originated in the metaphysics of the Pre-Socratics in the 10-point Tables of Opposites of Parmenides and Pythagoras and is primarily of historical interest, but of immense philosophical importance as setting the stage for how we (well, “Westerners”) think. They reached their apogee in the 10-point Table of Christian Opposites.
The primary opposition is good/evil, but this extends to God/devil, sheep/goats, left/right, up/down, light/dark, and truth/lies. St. Paul added male/female, law/sin, and will/body.
Not that he equated female with sin or body, but others did, notably Tertullian. Christ’s teaching reflected Judaism and was reflected in the Koran, but such dualism has also created us/them, right/wrong, and friend/foe dualisms of the different faiths, creating both ideological and military conflicts which persist today both between and within the different sects and religions.
This is one downside of dualism.
Philosophical and religious dualism were reinforced by centuries of religious conflict, and military and political conflict. Then Friedrich Nietzsche came forward to assert a reverse dualism: the death of God and that he was the Antichrist.
He condemned Christianity and democratic egalitarianism as unrealistic ethics: better to be a predator than prey, Superman and above the herd, winner not a loser, hammer not anvil. Unpopular in Germany in the 19th century, his work became extremely popular in Europe and the U.S. in the 20th century as compatible with Social Darwinism and racism.
Following on from the cosmic dualism of the early Greek cosmologists, the moral dualism of Christianity and the reversed moral dualism of Nietzsche, the American anthropologist Ruth Benedict discussed cultural dualism in Patterns of Culture (1935).
She compared the cultural restraint of the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest to the excesses of the Plains Indians, including the Sioux and the Lakota. She described the former as Apollonian, after the Greek god of the sun and reason, and the latter after Dionysius, the god of wine (the Roman god was Bacchus).
Such a cultural dichotomy bears some relation to the current stereotypes comparing the English with the Irish or French. The English traditionally were reputed to be reserved, stoic, and calm; but the Irish, not so much: wild and occasionally requiring paddy wagons.
This is, or was, described as the difference between the Saxons and the Celts (or perhaps oppressors and oppressed for centuries). Likewise, the English, who created Puritanism, are not noted for their “joie de vivre.”
Another dualism, more amusing, is the English class dualism shown by the anthropologists Nigel Barley in Native Land (1989) and Kate Fox in Watching the English (2004). Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian intellectual, wrote a perceptive critique of the English in The Lion and the Ostrich.
The English, he wrote, buried their heads in the sand as danger approached in the 1930s, like the proverbial ostrich, but when it arrived, they fought like lions—as in the 1940s.
In her later book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946:2), Benedict described the Japanese:
Both the sword and the chrysanthemum are part of the picture. The Japanese are … both aggressive and unaggressive, both militaristic and aesthetic, both insolent and polite, rigid and adaptable, submissive and resentful of being pushed around, loyal and treacherous, brave and timid, conservative and hospitable to new ways (1946:2).
So, a mass of contradictory dualisms, at least at that particular time. One might wonder if most were not somewhere in the middle, especially since she had no firsthand experience of Japanese people and culture due to the war.
But certainly, the delicacies and beauty of the Japanese tea ceremony, the art of flower arranging, the poetry of haiku, and the erotic art of Shunga, seem contradictory to the brutality and ugliness of the atrocities before and during World War II. But then war does bring out the worst in people, not just the Japanese.