Most of us experience the world through competing perspectives. A job or a religion seems important and fulfilling when looked at in one way; but from a different angle they seem tedious or ridiculous. A friend is obtuse from one point of view, wise from another. Continuing to hold both views at once can be unsettling, highlighting conflicts between our own judgments and values, and undermining our ability to live purposefully and effectively.
Yet, as Jennifer Church argues in this book, inner conflict can be a good thing, and not just as a temporary road bump on the road to resolution. This book describes several desirable types of "double consciousness"—or being of two minds—and explains why and how they should be maintained. Church looks critically at some common ideas about identity, including a popular belief about narratives that suggests our lives should "make sense" as a story. She also examines how empathy can helpfully cause us to be of two minds, and how various forms of irony and laughter enable us to benefit from holding onto opposing views. Finally, Church shows the merit of acknowledging reality while sometimes being guided by fantasy.
Why It’s OK to Be of Two Minds is for anyone who’s held two opposing views simultaneously, which is to say it’s for everyone.
"This is a superb piece of work. Church has got hold of a wonderful topic and what she does with it is hugely impressive. I found every chapter subtle and insightful, full of wonderful examples and acute observations. I came away with the sense of having engaged with a really deep but still accessible piece of philosophy."
-Quassim Cassam, University of Warwick
Addendum: When It’s Not OK to Be of Two Minds
Philosophers often build cogent arguments for unpopular positions. Recent examples include cases against marriage and pregnancy, for treating animals as our equals, and dismissing some widely popular art as aesthetically inferior. What philosophers have done less often is to offer compelling arguments for widespread and established human behavior, like getting married, having children, eating animals, and going to the movies. But if one role for philosophy is to help us reflect on our lives and build sound justifications for our beliefs and actions, it seems odd that philosophers would neglect the development of arguments for the lifestyles most people—including many philosophers—actually lead. Unfortunately, philosophers’ inattention to normalcy has meant that the ways of life that define our modern societies have gone largely without defense, even as whole literatures have emerged to condemn them.
Why It’s OK: The Ethics and Aesthetics of How We Live seeks to remedy that. It’s a series of books that provides accessible, sound, and often new and creative arguments for widespread ethical and aesthetic values. Made up of short volumes that assume no previous knowledge of philosophy from the reader, the series recognizes that philosophy is just as important for understanding what we already believe as it is for criticizing the status quo. The series isn’t meant to make us complacent about what we value; rather, it helps and challenges us to think more deeply about the values that give our daily lives meaning.
Why It’s OK to Get Married
Christie J. Hartley
Why It’s OK to Love Bad Movies
Why It’s OK to Eat Meat
Dan C. Shahar
Why It’s OK to Mind Your Own Business
Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke
Why It’s OK to Be Fat
Why It’s OK to Be a Moral Failure
Why It’s OK to Have Bad Grammar and Spelling