I had a friend who claimed this to be true:

Anything that is wrong involves some kind of imbalance

Examples where it works:

  • Overweight. Imbalance in the amount of calories eaten and calories burnt.

  • Littering. Imbalance in the understanding of the consequences of ones actions.

  • Being in debt. Imbalance in the amount of money earned and the amount of money spent.

  • Driving under influence. Imbalance in the understanding of potential fatalities, from doing so.

And I'm not sure if I believe it to be true or not. Can anyone come up with an example of the contrary, to (potentially) disprove it?

  • 1
    Existing involves some kind of imbalance -- having too much matter and too little antimatter in the universe... – user9166 Dec 15 '18 at 2:32
  • 2
    This is too vague to be either true or false, it is more about how we choose to use words. If something is wrong the wrongness itself can be called "some kind of imbalance". – Conifold Dec 15 '18 at 3:05
  • The question of 'imbalance' leading to personal problems may be related to mental or emotional stability, or soundness of mind and judgment. – Bread Dec 16 '18 at 14:51
  • Socrates might have agreed. For him 'the price of a lack of virtue is a disordered soul' and maybe this could be called an imbalance. – user20253 Dec 17 '18 at 13:26

I would generally agree with "anything wrong involves some kind of imbalance." Yet I think the expression rightly abstains from resolving its ambiguities, since the converse is (unfortunately) false: "everything right requires every kind of balance."

"Everything right requires every kind of balance" would not know a straight line except through double-reasoning. A straight line is the shortest path between two points. Yes, a straight line avoids too much to the right and too much to the left. But the shortest distance between two points is not much concerned by its negation off to the right or its contradiction over to the left.

Likewise, 2 is not 1 + 1 by virtue of balancing 1 and 3; 2 is 1 + 1 without any knowledge of its negation.

I agree that 1 + 1 = 3 is wrong because the left and right sides of the equals sign are not balanced. So why not say "Anything right is a matter of balancing equal components on either side of the equals sign"? Doesn't this justify such a definition of rightness according to balance?

Maybe this is OK as a definition for true communication (i.e. epistemological rightness), since as we know all words are representations of their objects and not the objects themselves: if a word expresses some quality of its object too much this way or that then the word is wrong in that way, which we might call an imbalance. True.

But regarding ontological truths like existence, self, beauty, elegance, simplicity, sophistication, goodwill and fun, it's not that a good beer is a perfect balance between a best beer and a bad beer; or that a beautiful building is a perfect balance between good light and bad light. Ideal qualities in brewing and architecture exist quite apart from the negations of those qualities.

To sum up, I would say that wrongness can be identified as imbalance, and perhaps in every case. But rightness is not defined or constrained by balance; rightness often contains balance, as the balance between malt and hops or between light and shadow; but this may not be expanded arbitrarily to include every balance we can think of: good beer taste is never a balance between the taste of barley malt and the taste of rat poop.


Counterpoint: All chemical reactions are reversible. If the rate of the forward reaction balances the rate of the reverse reaction there is an equilibrium. If our bodies were in chemical equilibrium, we would be dead.


I don't see that there is a reasonable definition of "imbalance" here. In two of your examples, it refers to quantified things (money and calories), and in the other two it refers to some sort of defect of understanding. It isn't even necessarily misunderstanding: I can litter and be completely rational about it if I just don't care about consequences to other people. This could be called an imbalance in my consideration of consequences, but we're adding yet another application to the concept. It appears that "imbalance" is defined in each case on an ad hoc basis to make the basic statement correct, making it essentially meaningless.

There's also the question of how much imbalance correlates to wrongness. I have an imbalance of monetary inflow and outgo: I earn more than I spend. If almost everybody has such an imbalance, and it can either be right or wrong, the idea that wrongness involves imbalance is not so much wrong as completely not useful. Wrong actions are always committed by people whose hearts are beating, but that doesn't mean that wrongness is caused by heartbeats.

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