The symbol of Yin-Yang is strangely reminiscent of Empedocles theory of forces as pairs of contraries; that are dynamic; of generation and corruption.

In Economics, one might posit two forces; competition versus cooperation; in classical economics an argument is presented that reduces cooperation to competition; this is one way of achieving a kind of monism.

However when one observes the symbol of Yin-Yang one sees that there is another; it is the two inseparably together; an analogue of this is Hegels Sublation; when a new synthesis is created out of a thesis and it's opposite - the anti-thesis.

Thus two ways of achieving a monism; one by reduction and the other by sublation.

Two questions:

  1. Are these opposites? If they are in what way?

  2. How is this symbol, Yin-Yang theorised within Chinese Philosophy? To what school is it attached?

  • The central text about this is the I Ching = "Book of Changes" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching).
    – virmaior
    May 5, 2015 at 16:15
  • I tend to look at the yin-yang as roughly similar to the star of david. You have two triangles pointing in opppsite directions that are interesecting. In y-y, the white and the black are opposite and also intertwined. I think they have the same meaning too: the divine Way and the common way finding meaning in each other. May 5, 2015 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


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Yin-yang is most closely associated with Taoism. It can be resolved neither by reduction, nor by sublation.

It is a species of moral dualism, but not of the Manichean variety more familiar in the west. The basic concept is that all things in the universe can be understood as interplay of dynamic tensions between opposing forces, neither one being good nor evil in itself. The ideal is when both forces are balanced, when either dominates, it produces a detrimental situation. The forces cannot be separated from each other, nor can they occur in isolation. Even an extreme has some aspect of its opposite --thus the small color reversed dots within the larger figure.

Unlike with a reduction, neither aspect is more fundamental than the other. Unlike with Hegel, the unity of the opposites is generative, not synthetic. As Andre noted, the Yin-Yang comes first, it is not the endpoint for another process.

The wikipedia article has a good overview.


The symbol is called 太極圖 [tàijítú], and you can probably find in the Daodejing what would amount to its philosophical grounding (so to speak).

A tentative answer to your question could be to try to imagine of what number are we talking about when we contemplate this symbol. Is it the "2", the "1", or the manifold? It could be the "0", which is not equal to "nothingness", a concept foreign to chinese thinking. This "0" is the falsifier of all distinctions. It differs, in my humble understanding, from hegelian synthesis, as it is a predecessor, not a successor, of anything.

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