Totalitarian thinking, as defined in the plus root glossary, is ‘all or none’ thinking that takes place on occasions when ‘more or less’ would be more fitting. Either-or thinking that is rightly handled is not totalitarian. Either-or reasoning, validly used, is a healthy aspect of sound rational thinking and civil discourse. Totalitarian all or none thinking is a serious fallacy.
Plusroot theory emphasizes, as a basic tenet, that: there is a crucial distinction between all-or-none thinking and either-or thinking. Either-or thinking is a legitimate use of logical relationships. Often either-or thinking is useful in making good decisions. It is important to note, however, that people sometimes treat a situation as either-or, that in reality is 'more or less'. When we make this mistake, our thinking tends in the totalitarian direction.
To address a gray situation as if it were black and white, is serious over generalization. It is logical fallacy.
To reject all either-or thinking because sometimes either-or reasoning is misapplied is also a logical fallacy.
Both of the above errors are examples of totalitarian thinking. Both errors are dangerous.
A well rounded logic course makes clear how to tell when either-or distinctions are legitimate and when they are not. One of the reasons it is important to teach logic in schools is to help students develop skills in this matter. Learning to avoid totalitarian exaggeration in discourse helps keep democracy healthy and strong.
Some philosophers-in-a-hurry fail to make the distinction between justified ‘either-or’ thinking and unjustified ‘all-or-none’ over-generalizations. Failing to note the difference, short sighted critics, in an attempt to eliminate totalitarian political maneuvers, make way for the opposite and set up conditions where totalitarian thinking thrives. In condoning the rejection of all 'either-or' thinking, philosophers of this ilk instigate the reverse of what they aim to achieve.
Kierkegaard sometimes falls into this error and leaves the reader with the impression that every case of 'either-or' thinking is bad. He is a mixed philosopher. He can be civil and inspirational for page after page. Then he latches on a few basic elemental mistakes (root errors) and compromises much of the good he did.
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. Exaggerations of this type are not totalitarian if the context makes clear that a figure of speech being used. But, for people who are interested in civil discourse, hyperbole should be used with care, especially in politics. The less educated or inattentive section of society can be easily manipulated in this manner by a politician who, when pressed, will use hyperbole as an excuse. “I was exaggerating for effect,” he or she will say.
Totalitarian can be over and aboveboard or hidden, masking as its opposite. The first type is visible. It burns down the forest. The second type kills the roots of the trees. Both are foes of civil society and very damaging. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the first type was the predominant enemy of genuine liberty. Now things are reversed and the greatest danger is the hidden type of totalitarian autocracy. Not only is modern covert totalitarianism a grave danger, it is exceedingly difficult to defeat because it is underground where it is hard to see.
Totalitarian all or none thinking, as defined herein, is common. Most of us easily slip into unjustified exaggeration and over-generalization. Sometimes we embroider stories and magnify problems beyond recognition. By learning to avoid this tendency, we can improver our lives and upgrade our abilities to find solutions to common problems.
New Dialectical Movements
In some aspects of modern philosophy, totalitarian oriented ideologies have taken hold that disparage the values of plain commonsense. New dialectical movements have come into play that arouse antagonism and stir up prejudice. These divisive operations reinstate the old ways that have proven disastrous in the past. Isn't it time that we learn that totalitarian all or none thinking does not work?
Movements that incorporate radical counter affirmative themes into the rational style of society are like osteoporosis. They slowly hollow out the bones and society does not see the weakness until suddenly the bones break.
Affirmative commonsense reasoning can hold its own if people avoid jumping to conclusions. If we learn to correct ourselves, we will, in the process, learn to spot the same problems in the leaders of society. The more we remove totalitarian thinking from political discourse, the more we can solve problems in a constructive manner. [See Chapter Six, Commonsense]
Non Totalitarian:
Plusroot theory aims to be firm and vigorous but not totalitarian. It honors impartial truth and human possibilities while at the same time recognizing the limits of human knowledge. Affirmative philosophy proceeds along speculative lines that recognize both human limitations and human possibilities. The aim is to clarify understanding, seek impartial truth; use right reason, play fair and make improvements. Plusroot theory favors an improvement mentality and opposes totalitarian thinking. Many older philosophies were essentially affirmative but did not explicitly stress the issue. (From Plus Essay)
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. Exaggerations of this type are not totalitarian and should not be interpreted that way.
Civil discourse requires that participants treat a figure of speech as the speaker or writer intends and give the benefit of the doubt as needed. People often exaggerate for effect. These hyperboles are usually recognizable by tone of voice and/or context.
At the same time, civil discourse requires that speakers and writers use their figures of speech in a responsible manner. This is particularly true of hyperbole. People involved in negotiating serious matters should avoid hyperbole.
It is a totalitarian tactic is to treat a figure of speech as if the person meant what they said in a literal manner and then ridicule the person as being dim witted. It is a totalitarian tactic to us 'hyperbole' as an excuse to ruin the reputation of others.
hy·per·bo·le(hº-pûr"b…-l¶) n. A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton. Syn. exaggeration, • embellishment, • embroidery, • boasting, • inflation, • bravado, • magnification, • overstatement, • understatement (antonym) [American Heritage Dictionary]
Sophistic antithetical thinking tends toward a win/loose, totalitarian mentality. In contrast, affirmative rational thinking tends toward a win/win improvement mentality.
Plusroot Theory advocates an affirmative sorting mentality. An affirmative sorting mentality uses a well formed interpretation of the rules of right reason with honest effort to make practical improvements bit by bit. An improvement or sorting mentality is the opposite of a totalitarian mentality which sets power first and demands absolute solutions now -- or else. (Similar idea in Plus Essay)