Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution

Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution

Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution

Paradoxes: Their Roots, Range, and Resolution

Synopsis

A paradox (from the Greek word meaning "contrary to expectation") is a statement that seems self-contradictory but may be true. Exploring the distinction between truth and plausibility, the author presents a standardized, straightforward approach for deciphering paradoxes -- one that can be applied to all their forms, whether clever wordplay or more complex issues.

Excerpt

Every era in the history of philosophy has seen a concern with paradoxes. To be sure, the pioneering Zeno of Elea (born ca. 500 B.C.) never called his paradoxes by that name, and even Aristotle often referred to them simply as “arguments” (logoi), though he denounced them as fallacies (paralogisms, paralogismoi). Another term used for such phenomena by Plato and Aristotle was “sophisms” (sophismata)—though it is doubtful that the Sophists themselves had employed it to characterize their arguments. These apories (aporia)—paradoxes by another name—concerned Aristotle in his Sophistical Refutations and the Stoics also devoted much interest to this subject—not to speak of the Sceptics to whose mill it brought much grist. the medieval schoolmen were also enthralled by it, and some of their principal thinkers wrote extensively on insolubilia, as they somewhat pessimistically characterized such puzzling modes of argumentation. Kant treated the cognate issues under the title paralogisms and antinomies. in the nineteenth century, however, the term “paradox” ultimately established itself as standard for the phenomena at issue. But even as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so it is that throughout this long history one and the same thing—paradoxical argumentation—has been at issue throughout. in this regard the same fundamental problems—and often the same standard examples—have preoccupied logically acute thinkers since the dawn of philosophy.

The word “paradox” derives from the Greek para (beyond) and doxa (belief): a paradox is literally a contention or group of contentions that is incredible—beyond belief. in the root sense of the term, paradoxes are thus a matter of far-fetched opinions . . .

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