Coincidence of Opposites in the Thought of Nicolas Cusanus and Niels Bohr
Although they lived nearly 500 years apart, Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus) and Niels Bohr have a certain commonality. They both maintained that opposite ideas are not always incompatible, but are often complementary. Cusanus called this the coincidence of opposites; Bohr called it complementarity. This essay reviews the lives of these two intellectual leaders and outlines how their devotion to their guiding principle led them to understanding in various fields. For Cusanus, the topic was conciliarism versus papalism. For Bohr, the initial impetus was to resolve the paradox of waves and particles. He later branched into issues such as determinism versus uncertainty, discreet versus continuous models of the nucleus, secrecy versus openness, and objectivity versus subjectivity.
KeywordsNicholas of Cusa Cusanus Niels Bohr Coincidence of opposites Paradox Wave/particle Papalism Conciliarism Determinism/uncertainty Learned ignorance Yin/yang
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