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Abstract Recent ideological positioning on the world stage has born a startling resemblance to a form of positioning within nursing theory – that of taking complex ideas, reducing them to a simplistic binary form, and uncritically adopting one half of that form. In some cases, this adoption of a binary position has led to a passionately held form of ‘othering’ that prohibits a healthy and critical engagement with ideas. As alluring as settling for the binary form may be – we argue for holding binaries in tension as a catalyst for stimulating dialogue – reasoning and exploration of new ways of wrestling with the social and moral complexity of nursing.