2017 Steve Campsall

BINARY OPPOSITION
 

STAGE ONE: REALITY AS IDEA


To repeat, central to the idea of binary opposition is that all we can ever know of the world - of reality - is at the level of idea. Reality might well be 'out there' but that's where it seems it must remain. What is 'in here' - in our heads - can never be quite the same thing, however natural or real our thoughts and ideas might seem to be. All we can ever know is an idea of what reality is like - and ideas can only ever be representations of reality.

When we become aware of anything at all, for example a word, image or object, it becomes what structuralists call a signifier, and this creates an idea in our mind that is called, the 'signified'. This is, of course, no more than a representation of reality. It might seem real enough, so much so that often we accept it uncritically as the real thing itself, yet we know that we can easily be fooled by what we perceive - as the above four images prove rather well!