Two kinds of people

Posted on April 2, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy |

people.gif There are many sayings that start out with the words: “There are two kinds of people in the world,” and go on to say, usually “Those who -X-, and those who -Y-“. (“X” and “Y” stand for any two contrasting characteristics).

A lot of these are meant to be humorous. For example, I posted a joke some time ago that has a little different take on the form: “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who know binary, and those who don’t.”

And others; some of which stretch the parameters:

There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on …

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t – Robert Benchley (This last is quoted by Book Browse, a book finder’s site which has an interesting genre classification system [a topic dear to my heart]).

And one more, stretching that last one even further: There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think you can reduce all people into two categories (they are called managers) and those who think categorizing all the people in the world into two categories is absurd (they are called philosophers—by managers).

Lest you begin to wonder whether there is a point to this post, I’ll get to it. Oh, wait, first, one more before the main one (this really does bring me to what I plan to write about today, honest!): There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who let the chips fall where they may, and those who like to arrange them in neat little piles.


So, with all these “two kinds of people” going through my head, I had to stop and think when I read this quote, from one of my favorite authors, Rita Mae Brown: “…There are two opposing points of view, and they can never be reconciled…The first is you take people as they are. Sure, you have laws to curb the worst excesses, but you go about your business and other people go about theirs. The other point of view is that humans are evil and must be controlled, watched, hammered. The real problem there is the definition of evil changes according to who is in power. However, they always claim they are following old laws or God’s word or decency…The twain shall never meet…” from Puss ‘n Cahoots: A Mrs. Murphy mystery by Rita Mae Brown, pg. 183


The “two points of view” or “kinds of people” described here seem to me to fuel the debate between those who feel they know what’s best for others, and those who may or may not know, but believe that others views are their own business. I tend to side with the latter point of view. I don’t necessarily agree with Brown’s character that the opposing point of view is that people are “evil”, but it certainly appears many think we do need to be controlled. I was stuck by the notion that the definition of what is “evil” depends upon who is in power. It seems impossible to maintain a consistent system of universal values if that’s true.

I have no objection to anything anyone wishes to believe, however I do decline offers to let me know why their beliefs are the right ones, and mine are not. Some of those wishing to share this information include religious observers, philosophers, and scientists. Whatever they may think they can “prove” to me whether by empirical evidence or through faith, they seem to forget—or not want to acknowledge—that we are each individuals, with a belief system tailored to each AS an individual. If we’re reasonably competent adults, we are probably intelligent enough to examine existence, draw our own conclusions—perhaps with input from advisers, friends, family and literature—and discover our own world view as we go. As another of my favorite mystery writers (Sue Grafton) says “…if I can’t keep an open mind, I’d better keep my mouth shut, too!”.

I think Ms. Brown’s quote sums up the opposing factions quite well, and wanted to share it with you. Do you agree about the two “kinds”? Thanks for reading, and peace to you.


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14 Responses to “Two kinds of people”

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great post. i don’t have much to say, but i had learned much from it. what rita mae brown said is so true, and that’s something i’ve wondered about.

There are probably more than two kinds in any given situation, but it’s easy to distill into right/wrong, black/white, my way/the hiway. I think this reflects, in a way, the larger issue of our society having become so intolerant in so many areas. Ironic, for a nation founded on tolerance.

But back to the question: one of my favorite dead Irish writers, Brendan Behan, observed about relationships — long before talk of enablers and co-dependency — that there are two kinds of people: nurses and patients. And when two of a kind hook up, the odds of success are not good.

The “two kinds of people” issue is a common fallacy that a lot of people like to make. It’s how our laws are made. There are many obvious right/wrong topics, but most would rather focus on the me/you ones. Politicians, in particular, would love to distill society into a computer-type boolean logic (True/False). No exceptions. This also encourages the various advocacy groups.

Take, for example, the abortion issue: The majority of “right to life” advocates do not believe in life-saving abortions. It’s either right or wrong. No gray area – no exceptions. You cannot take a life, even if it has never been “conscious”, just to save the life of someone who has made personal connections in the world and whose loss would impact many.

Most people are raised into this type of thinking and join the cult mentality early. We see it all around us, especially when it comes to the not-so-invisible caste system. If people would spend less time on examining what is wrong with others, we might be in a better position. Instead, it’s a never-ending inter-species war that will not stop until everyone with a personal opinion is obliterated.

Fascinating post! Loved the jokes. (Yes…I am indeed a nerdy girl.)

I guess I would add my own thoughts: I do believe there are two types of people in the world: those who believe there are two types of people and those who don’t. And, since I also believe it is possible to hold simultaneous and sometimes opposing thoughts, I conveniently belong to both groups. (Of course, some people don’t believe in the possibility of simultaneously opposing thoughts. Hmmm…does that make four groups?)

Tee hee. Thanks for the fun brain ride.

This post post was actually quite a bit to take in and mull over. My mind isn’t finished yet LOL
I don’t know what to say but that I will still be thinking about it after I leave here.

The one thing I can say is that thank goodness we do not all think alike. I couldn’t imagine a world like that. That’s what keeps me interested in life, finding out what and how others think, and taking the bits and parts I learn from it.

People really can change when they leave themselves open to new thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Right or wrong. Good or bad.

Oh, I don’t even know if I am making any sense…LOL

Thanks for this post.

Regarding Rita Mae Brown’s quote, I fall in the middle. I don’t like controlling people, but I also don’t like that there exist so many people who DO control people and there’s nothing I can do to stop them. The only conclusion I can derive from this is that thinking in binary terms is best left to computer scientists. 🙂

Everyone: You rock! The level of commenting here is awesome. I so appreciate your thoughtful considering of these issues, and I’ve learned from each of you.

Thank you sulz! It’s nice to know you got some value from this. I do like the quote because it challenges us to trust each other to “do the right thing” but leaves most things to our own wisdom to know what that is.

ella, I agree, there are no issues as cut and dried as either/or. Hmmm, nurses and patients. That’s a good one. I see lots of relationships like that, but I must admit I’m disinclined to take either role. Perhaps that’s why I’m a bit standoffish? You’ve given me something to ponder.

I hadn’t thought about law being specifically based on that dichotomy, abbydon. If the people in power believe there is a “right” way, then they will seek to enact laws which support this. You point out quite rightly that we are overly concerned with “what’s wrong with the other guy”, when really, in most cases, that’s not our business! Interesting angle on this issue, thanks!

Yah, the jokes are good, Ronnie Ann, and I’m glad you liked them. Certainly the jokes point out the absurdity of adhering strictly to “either-or” as well as just being funny. I like your concept of simultaneously opposing thoughts! Thank you for dropping that into my blog. I get to steal it now! And speaking of funny…hahaha, now there’s four kinds, good one 🙂

beadden, you’re making lots of sense, at least to me! I, too, am glad we do not all think alike. Among many other things, there’d be no point in blogging. We’d just read the one or two blogs which “know” the right opinions and get on with things. You honor me when you say your mind isn’t finished yet! I love how you put that, and I like to think about these kinds of issues. The discussion is great, thank you!

“thinking in binary terms is best left to computer scientists” 😀 Does that include you, Deirdra? 😉 I appreciate your point about all those who do seek to control others, and that you don’t wish to be such a person yourself. It seems to me that the best thing we can do is to live our own lives with as much integrity as possible, respect others’ paths, vote our conscience, and intervene only when our hearts call us to do so.

Muse – I love your posts!

For me there are two kinds of idiot, that is how I look at the world.

There is the idiot who drives the car and the idiot who gets out of the car and becomes a pedestrian.

Well I know what I mean anyway! LOL

Will, does that mean that everyone is an idiot?
I hope you don’t think that I’m poking fun, because you are one of my favorite bloggers.

But then….I don’t drive a car LOL

Will, does that mean that everyone is an idiot?
I hope you don’t think that I’m poking fun, because you are one of my favorite bloggers.

Oh it’s not a bad thing being an idiot – I am one myself, let me explain.

When you drive a car, or not, as the case may be, you will judge people on their driving. Now, when you get out of the car you will become a pedestrian and still judge people on their driving but also on the way people walk.

What that means is we are all judgemental but we don’t want to be judged because we think that we are pretty perfect in comparison to the next person – and that makes us all idiots.

I hope that made sense, lol.

Ah, dear Will. I’m glad you liked the post, thank you! I’ve known you long enough to know you’re not such a curmudgeon as you’d have us believe. Of course you shall anticipate my reaction when I say that I don’t see humans as idiots at all, although your driver-pedestrian duality is very funny, and very you. 🙂 I do agree we all suffer a bit from judgmental-itis. I love humanity! After all, they’re the only kind of humans we have! Peace, bro! 😉

beadden, if Will wishes to brand us all idiots (including himself, it appears) then I’m happy to be in such company along with you. 😀

LOL that was so funny, because after I had posted that, I thought you idiot! (ME) Then I’m the pedestrian…

Stop making me think this way LOL

I love this kind of stuff tho. 🙂

Two of my husband’s former careers, archaeologist and paleontologist, require much categorizing and definition of detail. As a result of years of experience in both fields he came to the conclusion that there are two kinds of people: “lumpers” and “splitters.”

Lumpers are those who tend to lump things together in larger groups and eschew picking at details as a distraction from “the big picture.” Splitters, on the other hand, spend their time splitting groups of things into ever smaller groups as part of a process of defining ever smaller details of difference. I’ve often thought that his terms offer as close to a “universal” dichotomy as it may be possible to get. Even those who say there are only two choices (right/wrong, black/white, etc.) can still be classified as splitters, whereas those who believe that we’re all our own unique selves can be classified as lumpers (they’re just suggesting one big lump!)

For myself I vacillate between lumping and splitting depending on my current level of anxiety. 🙂 When I’m feeling more at ease, and therefore less fearful, I have less need to control the world by categorizing and labeling it so I do more lumping. But, when my anxiety is higher and I’m grasping for illusions of control to alleviate my fears I tend to pick at details and become a splitter. I’m happy to say that more and more in my life I lump rather than split. 🙂

Of course the ultimate lump is a deeply metaphysical one and that is the realization that we, everyone and everything in the universe, are all ONE, thereby totally eliminating all splits, except for entertainment value. 😉


Yes, Joyfulseeker, and isn’t this universe an entertaining place! Hmmm, lumpers and splitters. That’s a new one for me. So regarding the quote I started with, perhaps the people who “live and let live” are a bit on the lumpy side, while the “controllers” are more splitty? I know I try to be open minded, but I’m capable of “getting religion” on various issues from time to time, and I think the anxiety factor plays a big role in that. Great insight, thank you!

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