(Philosophy) – Bounded Set vs. Centered Set Thinking

This will be a breif overview of this type of thinking and what it implies to the Christian thinker and believer.

Bounded Set – This is a style of thinking that is characterized by believing that people are either in your circle or they are not.  This can be true for religious beliefs “I am a Christian and you are not”.  The non-believer would be outside my circle and everyone that is a Christian would be inside my circle.  There are a number of criticisms of this type of thinking – it leads to narrow-mindedness, you can lose the ability to work with those outside of your circle on any issue because they don’t share your core belief, and you look down on those people as less than you, etc.

Centered Set – In this style of thinking everyone is in your circle because there really isn’t any circles only the center.  You are in the center and others are closer or farther away from where you stand on an issue like being a Christian.  The appeal of this type of thinking is that you are more open to meeting people half way, you tend not to think of them as wrong just farther from where you are, and you will be willing to cooperate or help them because the “us versus them” philosophy is gone.

Overlapping Set and Bounded Set – I don’t know if there is a lot of philosophical discussion about this type of thinking but it is where I think people should be.  What we have is a combination of Bounded Set thinking and Overlapping Set thinking.  On most issues people might not totally agree but have some common ground an example is let’s say the death penalty.  One person says that we should never sentence someone to die for crimes they have committed and another says that we should only institute it if they murdered another person.  At first it may appear that there is no common ground and each one is Bound by their philosophy.  However, in reality they both agree that someone who committed bank robbery, car theft or running a red light should not be sentenced to death.

Now I also believe that on some issues we actually can be diametrically opposed to each other to such a degree that we do not have any overlap and consequently cannot work together on any issue.

I am going to go into this in more depth in later posts looking at these specific questions:

1.  What is wrong with Bounded set thinking?

2.  What is wrong with Centered set thinking?

3.  What type of philosophy did Jesus utilize in dealing with others and what does that mean to us?

The one on the right is my “Overlapping Set and Bounded Set” philosophy

Bounded vs CenteredSet overlap thinking


2 thoughts on “(Philosophy) – Bounded Set vs. Centered Set Thinking

  1. Your third concept is interesting. I’ll have to think it over some more. My question right off the bat is: does this third option help eliminate “us vs. them” thinking. And does viewing myself as potentially diometrically oppesed to anyone else help or hurt communication? Given that empathy is a core necessity for relationships of any kind, I wonder about any perspective that might further establish walls, even in very difficult situations and issues. But like I said, I’ll have to contemplate this more.

    • I believe that “viewing myself as potentially diametrically opposed to anyone else” does indeed hurt communication. However, I am addressing this issue with less of a theoretical mindset and more of a realist. What I mean is take an example of an Evangelical Christian professing his faith in Iran. The Christian is attempting to communicate but he will find the only communication being done will be in the form of violence and death. Now it would be nice if this didn’t have to be the case but it is!

      If the Beetles Song “Image” was true then we could eliminate this scenario right? “Imagine there is no heaven…no hell below us…nothing to kill or die for and no religion too” Just Imagine the possibilities right???

      If you look at history you will see that some of the worst atrocities ever committed against humanity did NOT occur because of religion. I know about the Crusades and many other religious inspired wars but at the top of the list are regimes that denounced God. Hitler’s Germany, North Korea, Communists China, and Communists Cuba. Simply getting rid of religion is not the answer.

      So, I believe there are times where we are opposed in such a way that dialog cannot happen, which is sad but true. I also believe that in those cases the only way to have the dialog is to renounce our convictions.

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