A Brief History of the Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift? Can time have a beginning? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Riddles, paradoxes, conundrums--for millennia the human mind has found such knotty logical problems both perplexing and irresistible.
Now Roy Sorensen offers the first narrative history of paradoxes, a fascinating and eye-opening account that extends from the ancient Greeks, through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and into the twentieth century. When Augustine asked what God was doing before He made the world, he was told: "Preparing hell for people who ask questions like that." A Brief History of the Paradox takes a close look at "questions like that" and the philosophers who have asked them, beginning with the folk riddles that inspired Anaximander to erect the first metaphysical system and ending with such thinkers as Lewis Carroll, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and W.V. Quine. Organized chronologically, the book is divided into twenty-four chapters, each of which pairs a philosopher with a major paradox, allowing for extended consideration and putting a human face on the strategies that have been taken toward these puzzles. Readers get to follow the minds of Zeno, Socrates, Aquinas, Ockham, Pascal, Kant, Hegel, and many other major philosophers deep inside the tangles of paradox, looking for, and sometimes finding, a way out.
Filled with illuminating anecdotes and vividly written, A Brief History of the Paradox will appeal to anyone who finds trying to answer unanswerable questions a paradoxically pleasant endeavor.
arguments have false pre- mises or embody an invalid inference. Kant suggests that we can accept freewill and accept determinism as a principle that applies to phenomenal cau- 302 A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PARADOX sality. Similarly, we can accept the necessary being and respect a prohibition against accepting phenomenal stopping points. Although Kant does not think freewill and God can be proved, he does think they can be articles of faith. Indeed, he thinks practical reason makes them
Eusebius, 84 273; probability, 245–51; Rhind Euthydemus (Plato), 112, 192 Papyrus, 20–21 evaluative finitism, 233 Germans, 37–38 evolutionary theory, 11, 281–82, 356 Gibbard, Allan, 140, 145–46 existence, 141–42, 240 Giles of Rome, 199 experience, 33–34, 253, 303 gnomons, 23, 23 ( fig) God. See also Christianity; meta- faith, 165–66. See also Christianity physics: Augustine’s portrayal fallacy of composition, 53 of, 173; common sense and, 281– false identity statements, 79 82;
had concluded that inquiry into physical causes cannot yield reasons for acting or thinking in one way rather than another. Only reasons justify actions. Only through reasons can we be influenced by the future (writing for posterity) or by ideals (designing a garden with the dimensions of a Golden rectangle) or by what does not exist (searching for the Fountain of Youth). When Socrates asks you a question, he wants to know what you think. It’s personal. You cannot satisfy him by reporting
threat matured after Chrysippus’s death. E L E V E N Sextus Empiricus and the Infinite Regress of Justification We know almost nothing—about Sextus Empiricus. We do not know when this codifier of Greek skepticism was born or when he died. We do not know where he was born or taught or even if he was Greek rather than a barbarian. He appears to have been a physician and the head of some school of philosophy. Most scholars place him in the second century. But they are guessing. What we
Antithesis: If an irresistible force meets an immovable object, then the immovable object does not move. Yet each side can be soundly argued. Proof of the Thesis: An irresistible force can move anything. So if there is an immov- able object, it is an object and so it must move. Proof of the Antithesis: An immovable object cannot be moved by any- thing. So if there is an irresistible force, even that cannot move it. The conclusions of the proofs are compatible because they are