Epistle 3. Posted on 2019-01-23. Edited on 2019-04-22.
A contradiction is literally against (Latin: contra) that which is spoken (Latin: dico, “I say”). By symbolizing any proposition as p, a contradiction is
p & ~p
where & is a conjunction meaning “and”, and “~” means “Not”. As an example, “John is a bachelor and John is not a bachelor,” although this is rather forgiving with the placement of “Not”. To be literal: “John is a bachelor and Not: John is a bachelor.”
The main reason to spend any time on this is because a contradiction is regarded here as something that does not occur in the cosmos, other than in our mistaken representation of it. It is impossible that John is both a bachelor and not a bachelor at the same time and in the same way. In fact, the denial of contradiction is the basis of analytic logic:
~(p & ~p)
The proposition, p, requires one more level of detail, which is to say that any proposition consists of at least one subject and at least one predicate, where a subject is the object to be described and the predicate is the description of that object. In the above example, “John” is the subject and “is a bachelor” is the predicate.
A contradiction is the proposal that both a predicate and its contradictory are applied at the same time and in the same way. In this example, the contradiction consists in the proposal that John is both a bachelor and not a bachelor. This is regarded here as conceptually impossible, that the same subject can be described both one way and the contradictory of that way.
Since it is conceptually impossible that John can be both a bachelor and not a bachelor, it follows that John is either a bachelor or not a bachelor. If your goal is to be able to evaluate which is true, then each must be investigated.
Your lesson in logic is over. The reason that it is valuable to internalize everything presented above about contradiction is because most people experience contradictions hundreds or thousands of times every day, without realizing it. And, contradictions can have severe consequences for our judgments, for our decisions throughout life.
Both Aristotle and the Stoics mentioned the concept of a battle (Greek: machetai) with respect to contradiction. It is described most often instead as a conflict, from Latin meaning “to strike together.” If someone tells you that “John is a married bachelor,” this should be recognized as involving a contradiction, and the experience of a conflict or battle can often be detected, which signals a contradiction.
Logically, this is a contradiction by definition, because a bachelor is defined as an unmarried male, and so by substitution: “John is married & John is unmarried & John is male.” Bingo: John cannot be both married and unmarried.
But the experience of the conflict is there, if you are paying attention. In this example, your brain is trying to apply the predicate of being married and the predicate of being unmarried to John, and that is problematic. Here is where it is important to pay close attention. When a conflict occurs with something important rather than trivial, the brain attempts to solve either version successively, oscillating back and forth.
As an example of how a conflict from a contradiction can be painful and enduring, consider when a loved one dies. Someone may become lost in grief for a long time if they fail to resolve the following contradiction:
A loved one died and I desire that loved one had not died.
The topic of grief is complex and cannot be handled here briefly, but suffice to say that the problematic proposition is the desire that they are not dead, because it is similar to desiring that 2 + 2 = 5. It is a proposition that is self-contradictory in meaning, and so it is in self-conflict, because it is conceptually impossible. There are healthier and more rational alternative ways to think, but again, grief is beyond the scope of this presentation.
My main point is that logical contradiction and the experience of conflict go together, and you can train yourself to recognize it. You have already taken the first step by becoming aware of the relationship. Hopefully, this can help to prevent you from oscillating between contradictory propositions later in life. A related topic for another time is contrariety.
If everything presented here is taken seriously and you begin studying your thoughts for contradictions and conflicts, and seek resolution, your concepts will become more consistent, and your judgment will improve.
The following is a tall claim, but it is also the strongest motivator toward pursuing consistency, and I welcome any discussion of any part of the following claim. Every thought that a reasonable person would consider bad contains or is the result of a contradiction and conflict, and every thought that is consistent with happiness or peace of mind is also free from, or does not lead to, contradiction and conflict. For example, every instance of anger, annoyance, anxiety, despair, disappointment, distress, envy, fear, frustration, grief, heartache, irritation, regret, resentment, sadness, and worry involves conflict, and every instance of acceptance, awe, contentment, gratitude, joy, love, and wonder is free of conflict.
I am an expert in discovering and resolving contradictions, and have found the pursuit of consistency to be the most rewarding endeavor of my life. Please begin by considering several conflicts from contradiction that you have experienced, and that you are comfortable with sharing, and let us begin the next session by discussing them.
Vale (pronounced WAH-lay is Latin for “Farewell”),
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