Quora answer: What is the value of accepting paradoxes in life?

I thought I would clarify the nature of paradox in relation to superrationality. Paradox is mixture, it is where there is mixture between contradictory opposites. However, superrationality is when you have two things at the same time but they do not mix. Generally speaking paradox is like entanglement in Quantum Mechanics and suprarationality is like superposition.

Superrationality and Paradox are the two limits of Plato’s Divided Line in the Republic. The divided line has two halves: Ratio and Doxa (Reason and Opinion). Each of these two are also divided in two. There is groundless and grounded opinion. And there is representational intelligibles and non-representational ones. Now what he does not mention but what we can surmise is that the limit of the ratio is the supra-rational, and the limit of doxa is paradox. Thus we have two extreme opposites which themselves are nihilistic. However, the suprarational limit is in fact nondual and corresponds to existence interpreted as emptiness or void. Paradox on the other hand is related to Being which is the greatest paradox because it means something different to everyone and nobody knows what it really means, and it is both the emptiest and the most full question. So we get this nonintuitive result that Being is on one side of the divided line, the side of opinion and existence is on the other side related to reason.

We do not get many examples in our worldview of the suprarational because we are enamored by paradox, and suprarationality is invisible to us. But most people know what Zen Koans are and for the most part they are supra-rational rather than paradoxical. Suprarationality is cognizing Existence and nondual, i.e. either empty in the Buddhist sense or void in the Taoist sense. In suprarationality there is an uncrossable barrier between the opposites that are present at the same time. In paradox there is no barrier and the contradictories mix freely with each other. The extreme of paradox is absurdity, where even the paradox is paradoxical, i.e. it is paradoxical on two levels. What is interesting is most paradox as Russell found was generated by a class being a member of itself. So he made a rule to exclude that. That is why there is a UNIVERSE in set theory, so sets can be part of a universe not part of another set. If a set is not a member of itself it is called Well-founded. Aczel wrote a book on Non-wellfounded sets. It turns out that supra-rationality can be modeled by allowing sets to be members of themselves at one remove, in other words if there is a different intervening set between the set and itself. This is basically the insight of Hegel that we have to know the Other in order to truly know the self. Non-well-founded sets with at least one intermediary set that is other, is a model for interpenetration, and thus emptiness.

Now with that background back to the question at hand. I agree this is not a paradox because it is in fact contraries that are held at the same time. A paradox must be contradictions held at the same time and mixed together. And as is said we cannot reason with contradictions, and we are confounded by paradox. cf Godel Escher and Bach by Douglas Hofstadter  more information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C…).

The point is that the world is full of contradictions. Every time something moves there is a contradiction as Zeno showed. Hegel took this to heart and made it the motive power of his dialectic. We are suppose to produce an aufhebung (uplifiting) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auf…) to get to the next level of synthesis between thesis and anti-thesis in contradiction. This rule against contradiction and excluded middle has been part our tradition since Aristotle’s metaphysics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Met…. He specifically calls out in that book the tetralemma of the Buddhists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tet…) and says that is the kind of reasoning we must avoid. Hegel said to live in the real world which has the movement of history in it, we must endure contradictions. Reasoning that is robust enough to cope with change that effects prior reasoning is called non-monotonic, but we must go to dialectics in order to get something robust enough to deal with the world as it is in which we live. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non…). However, dialectics have not been developed very much in the West due to the fact that it was a mode of reasoning associated with Communism. The most sophisticated attempt to free dialectics of the mechanical baggage of the past ideologies was Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reasoning. Sartre tried to show how we can treat dialectics dialectically instead of considering it a mechanism which had been the standard interpretation under Marx. See also Para-consistent logics by Graham Priest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Par…).
Catch 22 is an excellent example of the art of accepting paradox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat…). If you do not appreciate just how messed up the world can be at times then it is difficult to live in it. But on the other hand we should strive to make non-nihilistic and thus nondual distinctions in which we discover as Plato said how to cut up the phenomena though the joints like a skilled butcher instad of cutting right through the bones as we normally do when we make an analysis. C.S. Peirce had something he called Precission (from prescind with two Ss). That is looking at the parts within a synthesis without cutting it apart for Analysis. If we could adopt this method as a way of looking at things then we might due a better job of avoiding nihilistic extremes in our ways of looking at things. For Hegel synthesizes are not just given a priori as in Kant but are built in the flux and change of history. And if we add Peirce’s idea of prescinding then that gives us a way of looking at synthesizes without tearing them apart for analysis.
Thus if you can look at the contradictions in a way that is para-consistent, i.e. leaves room for inconsistencies, and you can see how thesis and antithesis can be uplifted in to syntheses that contain the two contradictory moments, then perhaps it will be easier to live with real paradox, otherwise we can just laugh at it as we do when we read Catch 22.




Posted February 10, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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