Yes and Not Yes is something that came from my Con Law professor during the second semester of law school. It was always our first response to his questioning about a case. As I understand the concept, the response “yes and not yes” is important for a couple of different reasons. First of all, there is no added meaning that a “yes and no” would have. If you were to use “yes and no”, this immediately adds connotations and stereotypes to the conversation. “Yes” has a positive connotation, and the opposite response, “no”, has a negative connotation, whereas “not yes” is a more neutral response.
Secondly, there is significance in using the word “and” in the response. It forces the individual to take responsibility and to choose an answer. “Yes and not yes” is also important because it signifies that there is no “right” answer. I remember the professor asking us to consider the example of a student who has the choice of studying for an upcoming test and the choice of going to the beach with his or her significant other. When asked by the significant other to go to the beach, our professor said the response of “Yes, I want to go to the beach, but I have to study,” is a cop-out reply. The student is denying responsibility for this decision by blaming the need to study. In reality, the student wants to go to the beach and wants to study for the exam, and chose to study because doing well in school is more important than going to the beach.
I think the two biggest reasons I have grown to like this seemingly nonsensical phrase is that it forces one to take responsibility for choices and also forces one to grapple with the vague reality/unreality of a world in which there is often no “right” or “wrong” answer. I still have trouble with that last part, but I understand the concept that there is no “truth” aside from what humans individually project out into the world.
So what is Yes and Not Yes actually about? I suppose it’s a chronicle of my wrestling with the “rightness” and “wrongness” of ideas and issues.