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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More difficult that it needs to be

William Vallicella addresses a (pseudo-)paradox: The Paradox of the Preface and the Law of Non-Contradiction, and I believe he misses the point, which is that the "paradox" arises from not merely an equivocation, but from an elision.

The conclusion to which the pseudo-paradox is intended to lead us is “that we need to give up the claim that it is always irrational to believe statements that are mutually inconsistent”. In other words, this pseudo-paradox is intended to get us to believe that the Law of Non-Contradiction is itself irrational. Or, to put it more bluntly, that reason and logic are themselves irrational.

Here is my simpler solution of the paradox:

Points 2) and 3) which define the "paradox" are misstated. It is not that "some statement in his book is not true", but rather that "some statement in his book [may be] not true".

Properly stated, there is no paradox, and one is left with the utterly unremarkable, and totally non-contradictory, observation that the author believes that every statement he has made is true, but nonetheless realizes that he may have made a mistake, somewhere.

For, after all, there is no contradiction at all between (and thus no paradox in) believing that one has made no mistake while simultaneously believing that one may be wrong in that belief. Why, even I once thought I had been wrong about something, but, as it turned out, I was mistaken.