Friday, April 21, 2017
Section 10 Installment one: Contradictions in the world around us
Contradictions are an everyday struggle for philosophers and everyday people. A lot of times, our ideas contradict with other idea resulting in a “it depends on the situation.” Many people use this to escape their obvious contradictions. We see contradictions all the time in politics. All throughout this previous election, we have seen people pointing out contradictions from both political parties. The point here being that it is extremely difficult to avoid contradictions, especially if you don’t put a lot of thought into your beliefs. This is one of the key things that philosophers must make sure to avoid, otherwise their entire argument might just be proven invalid.
Contradictions come in many shapes, forms, and sizes. Sometimes people contradict what they say a few minutes earlier. Perhaps you say that you hate the color purple, yet go buy a purple shirt. That itself is a contradiction, but it is only a small one. Other times contradictions can get people into a lot of trouble. Suppose that a murder suspect is truly innocent, and when ask their whereabouts during the time of the murder, they tell investigators one thing, then a few minutes later. These kinds of contradictions can really raise suspicions and might even lead to a wrong prosecution. Now, this may seem like a farfetched situation, but it just goes to show how bad the wide range of contradictions.
When composing an argument and/or when developing your own philosophy, contradictions are of the utmost importance to avoid. If you don’t avoid them, your argument is often disposed of and not taken into consideration. It can make people believe that you have no idea what you are talking about, which is can be extremely frustrating, but you typically, you can’t defend yourself.
Contradictions aren’t necessarily always bad, in fact many philosophers have used them to ask deep and meaningful questions. Most of the time, these contradictions are called paradoxes. Although there are many famous philosophical paradoxes (saving most of them for installment two), there are many paradoxes outside of the philosophical world. Examples of these are: “Nobody goes to that restaurant because it is too crowded”, “You shouldn’t go in the water until you know how to swim”, and my favorite paradox “If you restored a ship by replacing each of its wooden parts, would it remain the same ship?”
Bertrand Russell’s barber paradox is one of the most famous philosophical paradoxes. This is how it goes: “In a village, the barber shaves everyone who does not shave himself/herself, but no one else.
Who shaves the barber?” If the barber shaves himself, then he can no longer be the barber. However, if the barber doesn’t shave himself, then he fits in with the people that do not shave themselves and must be shaved by the barber, except he is the barber. Often times paradoxes such as these are used to establish a larger, philosophical picture. The barber paradox was an example of a bigger paradox called Russell's Paradox. Russell used Russell’s paradox to disprove the set theory proposed by Georg Cantor.
As we can see, contradictions are found everywhere. Philosophers can use contradictions to easily prove/disprove theories that they don’t find to be true. These are some of the only times that contradictions are used on purpose. The majority of the time contradictions are on accident and can lead to bigger issues such as an invalid argument or legal troubles. In my next installment, I will talk more about philosophical contradictions that aren’t always mean to be said and more about the ones that are used to disprove other philosopher's theories.