After Bleach 310. The coincidence of opposite desires
If spiritual comfort requires psychic integration, ultimate spiritual comfort may require ultimate psychic integration: the coincidence of opposite desires.
The idea of coinciding opposite desires is exploited in a number of fields that deal in some way or another with the phenomenon of valuation. We track this idea in religion and existentialism – which are mostly performative attempts to shape choice, but also in economics – a more purely cognitive attempt to explain the formal aspects of choice.
Coincidence of opposite desires in Bleach
The end of the Arrancar arc (ep. 310) brings the final convergence of Zangetsu and Hollow-Ichigo. Through meditation, Ichigo discovers these two parts of his soul are identical, and that they always have been. What set them apart, had been only Ichigo’s failure to see that they were one. The story of final convergence is a story of self-understanding and self-acceptance. Convergence brings the end of self-repression: Ichigo finally accepts his inner hollow.
Zangetsu (understood as apart from Hollow-Ichigo) personified Ichigo’s mindset built around the desire to protect others even at a cost to himself. With the help of Zangetsu, Ichigo was repressing his inner hollow.
Hollow-Ichigo (understood as apart from Zangetsu-Ichigo) personified Ichigo’s midset built around the desire to protect himself even at a cost to others. Ichigo’s inner hollow takes over Zangetsu and blindly crushes everything that may raise suspicion (stabs Ishida).
The final Zangetsu-Hollow fused in one being stands for Ichigo’s understanding that he need not set his inner desires in conflict to one another. He can act to protect himself and others, as if all were one.
While Ichigo’s discovery of the coincidence of opposites is the key to his victory Aizen loses because he is still carying an inner struggle to repress his desire of meeting an equal, a meeting capable to appease his solitude. Aizen faces two alternatives: win, but stand alone as King in Heaven, or lose, but at least for once, not be alone.
In the language of economics, Aizen faces a disjunctive plurality of opportunities that are all valued positively, but differently.
This model entails the presence of a positive opportunity cost. The psychological problem with opportunity costs is that they work against oneself and also breed the possibility of regret.
However, there are also epistemological limits to the model.
Coincidence of opposite desires in economics
Economics is using the phenomenon of valuation to explain choice. For most situations, economics deals with action or choice in the presence of a disjunctive plurality of goods or opportunities that are valued differently. When I take an opportunity, I forego another. The assumption is that the opportunity taken was valued less than the opportunity foregone.
This model is not useful in explaining situations of choice under conditions of indifference.
If Buridan’s ass equally prefers a unit of hay to a unit of water and vice-versa (if indifference is a fact), but we still see the ass picking the unit of hay and assume he was conscious when picking it (we observe choice), then we have a problem in explaining behavior with the usual model. The model would predict death by starvation.
However, the problem can be solved within the fundamental assumptions of economics if we conceptualize the two different objects in the world, hay and water, as units of the same good. For example “non-starvation”. (Those interested can consult Ionut Sterpan – Buridan’s Ass and the Problem of Indifference)
At the limit, an agent can see all his choices as choices to enjoy units of one single good. And we can still talk of choice.
We can verify that the solution is valid within economics (it does not alter its set of assumptions) in the following way: imagine that the agent is only thirsty (this the the only good for her) but she has two buckets of water in front her. The economist would not predict death by thirst, although, by definition, units of the same good are valued equally.
We found that the way in which economics must account for certain limit situations (choice under conditions of indifference) is to accept the phenomenon of “the coincidence of opposite desires”. In order to explain choice, the agent ‘must’ (within the assumptions of economics) reconceptualize goods that are formely seen to be apart, as units of one single good. Put differently, in order to survive, sometimes the agent must see all her options “as being one”.
The idea that all are one in religion and existentialism
The idea of doing away with the possibility of regret through conceptualizing all valued things as ‘one’ is present first of all in religion.
Pantheism is perhaps the handiest example. But Christian religion too brings salvation from “death” by fusing God with matter (the dogma that Christ is god and man, the dogma of the Eucharist that when we eat we eat Christ), or fusing us with others (loving others as one loves oneself). For the believer, all choices are equally “in god”. The same idea, in an inverted specter is in Camus: all choices must be conceived as equal, because they are equally absurd or equally “devoid of god and salvation”. However, the underlying positive spiritual function is identical: if all choices are the same, then nothing is lost.