Contradictions: a Problem of Logic, a Feature of Reality?
Post from December 9, 2016 (↻ June 6, 2021), filed under Philosophy.
On my list of research topics and article drafts is one that covers root assumptions: assumptions at the core of what we assume about our two realities, psychical and physical reality. One of these root assumptions covers logic; we must be aware that the idea that our realities follow any laws of logic is first and foremost an assumption.
The most interesting part of logic as an assumption, so I find, relates to contradictions. Contradictions in arguments allow to conclude everything (reductio ad absurdum, ex falso quodlibet) for we can’t tell what would be “supposed to” happen; in scientific theory it is axiomatic (Popper, Lakatos) that theoretical systems are consistent and free of contradictions. Contradictions elsewhere trouble us as much, with contradictory statements quickly eroding the credibility of the people making them (Law of Consistency).
I can’t help the conviction, now, that we’re really surrounded by contradictions, and that in psychical reality, there’s a mechanism in place that resolves them effectively. (Aforementioned not knowing what’s supposed to happen may have lured us to the wrong conclusion.)
Examples abound and don’t lack degree (Parmenides already observed how our perception of the world was “faulty and full of contradictions”): We’re all special, and yet that supposes that we’re not. Both is true. We can believe in our worth and at the same time believe we’re worthless. We can believe in our power and at the same time deem ourselves powerless. We can find the collective strong and the individual weak, or vice-versa, and miss contradictions. Any belief can be held and its opposite be maintained as much, without effort.
I’m aware that this will lack, as so often still, a final punch, but I will share this my conviction that contradictions are only a problem of logic and in physical reality, but not of reality itself, especially not of psychical reality.
Contradictions, as I understand them, are not merely statements that are always false but, as a conjugation of opposites, the stuff which seems to make for the superb tension that may lie at the heart of existence, right where we find the creative dilemma. As such I suspect here a key feature of our reality, one that may lock us into ignorance forever. Where perhaps, then, we do find a justification for ex falso quodlibet after all.
If our basic system of logic is wrong, it seems unlikely that we will ever identify the wrongness by applying more of the same wrong logic. Thus we may be trapped for all eternity in flawed ways of seeing and thinking
—Max Gunther: The Luck Factor (1977).
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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Perhaps my most interesting book: 100 Things I Learned as an Everyday Adventurer (2013). During my time in the States I started trying everything. Everything. Then I noticed that wasn’t only fun, it was also useful. Available at Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.