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The 5 Thinking Positions (5TP)

5 Thinking Positions Example Positions Table

5 Thinking Positions (5TP) Explained with Links to Examples

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let reason go before every enterprise, and counsel before every action.” —Ecclesiasticus 38:33

“There are five sides to every story.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into a manhole and die.” —Mel Brooks

5 Choice Minimum

There are always at least five choices, opinions, and versions regarding anything.

  • Understanding that there are at least five options regarding all things helps you to be more open, flexible, tolerant, and honest in your thinking.
  • If you realize that there are always at least five choices, then your decisions will be more likely to meet reality and be productive.
  • If you comprehend that there are always at least five opinions on any topic, then you will be more open to, tolerant of, and accepting of other people’s views.
  • If you are aware that there are always at least five versions of any happening, then you are more likely to question authority, the news, propaganda, TV, and to think for yourself.
  • Since the five positions exist on a continuum, there exist an infinite number of positions.

“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.” —Alfred Korzybski, Polish-American founder of General Semantics, (1879–1950)

5TP in Simple Terms of Positive & Negative

  1. Statements that are all negative about the topic.
  2. Statements that are mostly negative about the topic, but that are not all negative.
  3. Statements that are all neutral about the topic.
  4. Statements that are mostly positive about the topic, but that are not all positive.
  5. Statements that are all positive about the topic.

5TP Spelled Out

The five main thinking positions are:

  1. Thesis
  2. Thesis-incorporating-antithesis
  3. Synthesis
  4. Antithesis-incorporating-thesis
  5. Antithesis.

5TP Common Example: Likert Scale

  • The Likert Scale used in surveys is an everyday use of the 5TP.
  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither Disagree or Agree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly Agree

“Finding a few rare or unusual cases in order to disprove a rule only works to prove that it is a reliable rule but not an absolute rule.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

Notes on 5TP

  • All five of these positions contain some truth, some data that the others leave out. However, often only one of these five positions accurately fits most of the available data.
  • For instance, most of the day-to-day reality on planet Earth falls into two of the five positions: thesis-incorporating-antithesis and antithesis-incorporating-thesis.
  • Another way to say this is that when we are not examining fine details or talking about overarching principles, then thesis-incorporating-antithesis and antithesis-incorporating-thesis usually fit the data best.
  • But on both the largest and smallest views of life, we find that dichotomies (thesis and antithesis) are the most accurate and relevant.
  • The logic of this is perfect: at the extremes, we find the extreme positions working best, and in the middle-ground, we find the middle or general principles working best.
  • Finally, it is important to understand that synthesis is the rarest position of all. Why is synthesis so rare? Because the true normal, the perfect average rarely exists by itself. Usually, what people refer to as a synthesis is not a true synthesis but the experience of either thesis-incorporating-antithesis or antithesis-incorporating-thesis.
  • It is also important to know that synthesis is not inherently a good thing. For instance, Jihadists are a synthesis of good and evil impulses that provides psychological freedom and certainty: the ideal of an Islam state is combined with hate and revenge.

  • Persistently practice looking for all five positions, especially when you favor only one. 

Bell Curve, Distribution Curve, Normal Curve

Those familiar with statistics can easily relate the paradigm of the five-thinking positions to the “normal curve” or what some call the bell-shaped distribution curve. For example, synthesis can be considered to be the mean or median.

  • Dichotomies (thesis and antithesis) can be considered to be found in the space occurring two or three standard deviations from the mean.

That is, the thesis can be considered to be found in the space occurring two or three standard deviations from the left of the mean, and the antithesis can be considered to be found in the space occurring two or three standard deviations from the right of the mean.

The thesis-incorporating-antithesis can be considered to be found in the space one or two standard deviations from the mean to the left (negative standard deviation).

The antithesis-incorporating-thesis can be considered to be found in the space one or two standard deviations from the mean to the right (positive standard deviation).

5TP Basic or Generic Examples

5 Thinking Positions (5TP)


4 Stage Evolution of Perspective

“To pretend that a few rare or unusual cases constitute a rule is to claim that exceptions and variations are better standards than the standards they vary from.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

5TP Group Exercise

  • Using five chairs, have each member of a group move in and out of each chair while expounding the position of each chair (5TP) on a controversial topic.
  • Each member states all five views only once.

Example Uses of The 5 Thinking Positions (5TP)

  • Discover Games Ego Plays to learn more about the 5 Thinking Positions (5TP) and human games.

Related Pages

  1. 5 Thinking Positions (5TP): List of Pages
  2. 5 Thinking Positions (5TP): Memes
  3. Continuum Thinking
  4. Counseling Issues: REBT’s 11 Irrational Beliefs
  5. Developmental Stages (8) of Thinking
  6. Thinking Skills: 7 Errors of CT
  7. Thinking Skills: Both-And Skill
  8. Thinking Skills: Limitations of Thought
  9. Triality: Move Beyond Duality

Book Devoted to 5TP

Discovery Demands 5TP

Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things.” —Eleanor Roosevelt 

“All language is dualistic.” —J. Krishnamurti, Can Humanity Change? p. 22 

“All opposites are born of their own opposites.” —J. Krishnamurti, Can Humanity Change? p. 23 

“Any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal has not heart; and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative has no brains.” —Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965 

“Can a man cling to the positive without any negative in contrast to which it is seen to be positive? If he claims to do so, he is a rouge or a madman.” —Chung Tzu 

“Duality is necessary for things but deadly for self.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Goodness is not born of badness.” —J. Krishnamurti, Can Humanity Change? p. 22 

“I am saying anything born out of its opposite contains its opposite.” —J. Krishnamurti, Can Humanity Change? p. 24 

“I’m not sure I want popular opinion on my side–I’ve noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts.” —Bethania McKenstry 

“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” —Anatole France 

“If we could learn how to balance rest against effort, calmness against strain, quiet against turmoil, we would assure ourselves of joy in living and psychological health for life.” —Josephine Rathbone 

“Let reason go before every enterprise, and counsel before every action.” —Ecclesiasticus 38:33 

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” —Charlie Chaplin 

“Nothing is more certain than uncertainties: / Fortune is full of fresh variety; / Constant in nothing but inconstancy.” —Richard Barnfield 

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” — Confucius 

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” —Blaise Pascal 

“The worst extreme view is the extreme view that extremes never exist.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.” —George Bernard Shaw 

“There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.” —Alfred Korzybski 

“There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purpose of human life.” —John Stuart Mill 

“To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything, or nothing, about it.” —Olin Miller 

“To say dualism is bad or wrong is the worst kind of dualism.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.” —Eric Hoffer