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On The Validity of Paradox and Irrationality

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 6:29 am UTC
by Beckboy
I'm wondering what people believe about the validity of irrational world views. Upon considering the axioms which i base my morality / ethics on i have come to realize that i believe statements that are not internally consistent because ultimately my axioms simply don't mesh. upon this realization i looked at the axioms of my beliefs and decided that i would not discard any thing that i believed because those axioms are integral to my understanding of morality. it is only in certain situations that they become paradoxical. i refrain from mentioning the specifics because i'd like to consider the proposition in general and not try to find a way to thread my beliefs together or debate my beliefs (at least not in this thread.) so what do people think is it rational to be irrational? does it historically lead to good or bad things?

if people feel specifics are needed though tell me and I'll post some of my ethical paradoxes.

edit:
to get a little godel escher bach on y'all paradox must exist in any complete system and for me ethics meta physics and morality must be complete to be of any value so the aforementioned must have some paradoxes. this being said does godels theorem make other paradoxes valid? do paradoxes have essential differences from irrationality?

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:20 am UTC
by Miles Invictus
The best we can hope for is an internally-consistent ethical code. This is because we have no means of acquiring an indisputably objective worldview (e.g. a god whose existence and doctrine are accepted uniformly). I think that good ethical codes are internally consistent, even if the consistency is not readily apparent -- ethical systems do not exist without context. If you believe murder is wrong, you should be prepared to define murder. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to rationalize actions, rather than admit that one was wrong, giving the appearance of an inconsistent code.

(On a side note, a good ethical system will differentiate between legal and moral actions.)

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:07 am UTC
by Andrew
Morality isn't necessarily simple, but it is necessarily consistent. You can't -- literally can't -- believe two conflicting things, so when you reach a paradox, you have to prioritise. Like Asimov's rules of robotics. It doesn't mean there's an inconsistency there, because the system as a whole includes the prioritisation.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:23 pm UTC
by OmenPigeon
Andrew wrote:Morality isn't necessarily simple, but it is necessarily consistent. You can't -- literally can't -- believe two conflicting things, so when you reach a paradox, you have to prioritise. Like Asimov's rules of robotics. It doesn't mean there's an inconsistency there, because the system as a whole includes the prioritisation.


Kierkegaard, bitches.

For a philosopher his writing is pretty clear, read it if you have the time. He's been dead a while (since the mid 1800's, I think) so you might be able to find a free translation of some stuff online. Or you could try tacking the original Danish, but that's only for the bilinguals among us.

A brief summary: Kierkegaard is all about subjectivity. All knowledge is subjective (well, sort of. lets not get into that.) and, more importantly, knowledge of religion is subjective. Since we can't have objective knowledge of Christianity (he's a Christian, deal) what matters in terms of the magnitude of our faith is our subjective relationship with it.

Aww, crap. That was terrible. But important, so it stays.

Reboot. Christianity contains a paradox. God (an infinite, eternal being) became a man (a finite, temporal being) and then died. That's a paradox if I ever saw one, an eternal being made flesh. So what are we supposed to do with this? Should we go around trying to find archaeological evidence for the flood and doing radiocarbon dating on splinters of the true cross? No, that would be silly, and wouldn't gain us anything, since subjectivity is where it's at. So we believe in the paradox. We believe in the paradox SO HARD. Our relationship to that paradox is the defining feature of our relationship to God.

Then theres some other stuff and it gets a little complicated and more than can fit in a forum post. Go read a book.

(Man, I really hope my professor isn't hanging around here.)

The point is this: Kierkegaard built a philosophy completely around believing in paradox. He raised a giant middle finger to internal consistency and made it work. You can -- literally can -- believe two conflicting things, and when you do it with style it's a beautiful thing.

(Kierkegaard's ethics, if he really had a strong ethical theory, are a little dodgy, in my opinion. Buts thats not the point, so don't be all goin' on about that.)

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:26 pm UTC
by HiEv
The options are too simplistic for me. Some paradoxes are acceptable while others are not. Basically, paradox should be avoided whenever possible, but in some cases it is provably required, and only in the latter cases is it acceptable. If a system creates a paradox and that system can be reasonably changed, then it should be changed.

To put it simply, things should be as rational as possible, but no more than that. :wink:

Edit: In ethical terms, isn't a paradoxical set of ethics a complex way of describing hypocrisy?

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:15 pm UTC
by evilbeanfiend
you have goedel's 'no system can be complete and consistent'. but that still leaves with the option of having an incomplete system. also i'm not sure it is possible to have a complete system anyway, http://www.lewiscarroll.org/achilles.html , though you could argue this is just another way of saying goedel's theorems maybe?

escher and bach don't seam to contribute much to this :wink:

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:20 pm UTC
by Andrew
OmenPigeon wrote:The point is this: Kierkegaard built a philosophy completely around believing in paradox. He raised a giant middle finger to internal consistency and made it work. You can -- literally can -- believe two conflicting things, and when you do it with style it's a beautiful thing.

This intrigues me.

As far as I can see, the statements "Immortal beings cannot die" and "An immortal being died" are contradictory and therefore at least one is false. If they are both central premises to a religion then that religion is also false. I'm sure you can believe it, but only by failing to think it through sufficiently.

I shall have to look up this chap later (on my own time) but I'm interested to know what you mean by "made it work". If we throw out internal consistency, what possible measure do we have to decide whether a philosophy "works"?

HiEv wrote:Edit: In ethical terms, isn't a paradoxical set of ethics a complex way of describing hypocrisy?

I don't think so. It's only hypocrisy if you resolve the paradox differently when applied to your own actions than when applied to other peoples'.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:32 pm UTC
by Ended
This reminds me of how, culturally (at least in the West), it's traditional to assume you can only be in 'true love' with one person at a time (hence the notion of monogamy and marriage). But it's just not true. You can (I would argue) feel completely dedicated to person A, to exclusion of all others; and also feel completely dedicated to person B, to exclusion of all others. Which logically doesn't make much sense.

NB I say 'feel', rather than 'be'.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:47 pm UTC
by Belial
This reminds me of how, culturally (at least in the West), it's traditional to assume you can only be in 'true love' with one person at a time (hence the notion of monogamy and marriage). But it's just not true. You can (I would argue) feel completely dedicated to person A, to exclusion of all others; and also feel completely dedicated to person B, to exclusion of all others. Which logically doesn't make much sense.


Hahah. Go find the two polyamory threads if you want to have that argument. It is....divisive to say the least.

That said, I'm with you, but I don't think it's terribly paradoxical.

Edit:

My bad. There are three.

The first, in which Teaspon, Vanna, and Rhianna make their HORRIBLE REVELATION, much to Marlayna's chagrin and judgement....

The second, an interlude between epics, if you will, in which an article is mentioned and discussed.

The third, and most recent, in which Jesster brings about a retelling of the first epic, with the part of "marlayna" being played by Roffle. He has an interesting spin on Marlayna's original condescension, I can't really say which performance I preferred.

Anyway, those would be the places to go.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:05 pm UTC
by Ended
Belial wrote:Hahah. Go find the two polyamory threads if you want to have that argument. It is....divisive to say the least.


hehe, I don't feel particularly strongly about it, it just struck me. but...teh controversy :shock:

Andrew wrote:If we throw out internal consistency, what possible measure do we have to decide whether a philosophy "works"?


The extent to which it enables us to live a useful, fulfilled life? Of course, it depends on how you define 'useful' :?

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:53 pm UTC
by Owijad
If there's room for prioritization then your morals don't conflict, they just intersect. It's not paridoxical to have one opinion in some circumstances and another in others. Knowing what specific issue sparked this thread would help clarify, but it would probably also sidetrack the thread irreparably..

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:35 pm UTC
by spacermase
Also worth keeping in mind is that what may appear to be a paradox in "normal" context may not actually be paradoxical in a different context. For example, at first glance, Mahayana Buddhism is *chock full* of paradoxical statements, yet when examined within the context of the Buddhist believe system (which is vastly different from most Western philosophies), they no longer appear paradoxical.

Of course, there are a couple that are only supposed to make sense if one has attained Enlightenment, so I guess the jury is still out on those.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:53 pm UTC
by Andrew
Ended wrote:
Andrew wrote:If we throw out internal consistency, what possible measure do we have to decide whether a philosophy "works"?


The extent to which it enables us to live a useful, fulfilled life? Of course, it depends on how you define 'useful' :?


Well, that's the trick, isn't it? I think that, to a large extent, is decided by the philosophy.

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:53 pm UTC
by jobriath
Just to thrash out my (limited) understanding of the beast that is Goedel: in this context, "complete" means "any statement can be shown to be true or false", right? As in, a consistent but incomplete system contains no paradoxes, but contains at least one statement that seems like it should have an answer, but doesn't, at least through automatic means.

Extending this in a rather dry fashion to ethics, I suppose this means that it is, in theory, possible to derive a completely consistent set of axioms, but be prepared for situations in which you can't get an answer. Then comes the trade-off with extra axioms leading to inconsistency in order to get an answer. I'd imagine a completely consistent ethical model would be very weak.

Re: On The Validity of Paradox and Irrationality

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:07 am UTC
by HenryS
Beckboy wrote:to get a little godel escher bach on y'all paradox must exist in any complete system and for me ethics meta physics and morality must be complete to be of any value so the aforementioned must have some paradoxes. this being said does godels theorem make other paradoxes valid? do paradoxes have essential differences from irrationality?
Yeah, you don't want to bring Gödel in here. Gödel is talking about formal mathematical systems, the result does not apply to messy things such as morality. No way, no how.

Neither of Gödel's theorems say that a complete system must have a contradiction (I think that's what you mean by a paradox). His second theorem does say a system can prove it's own consistency if and only if it is inconsistent. But... it gets technical, and none of this applies to morality anyway.

If you wanted it to, then you'd have to go along with the other things you get with mathematical logic, for instance that a single contradiction anywhere (or paradox, if you like) means that every statement is true and every statement is false. You don't want that in your system of morality.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:36 am UTC
by VannA
Kierkegaard's paradox was de-christianified and developed by a few people.

It's essentially an acknowledgement that in an incomplete understanding of a system, all world-views are absurd. It is impossible to state that any given position is correct.

Therefore, we take that which most accurately represents what we choose to believe, and act as if it is correct.. while also being fundamentally aware that it is all a charade.


Morality isn't necessarily simple, but it is necessarily consistent. You can't -- literally can't -- believe two conflicting things, so when you reach a paradox, you have to prioritise. Like Asimov's rules of robotics. It doesn't mean there's an inconsistency there, because the system as a whole includes the prioritisation


We can demonstrate that nothing within the framework we call is necessarily 'correct'. We can logically and rationally conclude that it is absolutely impossible for us to 'know' anything.

Yet we choose to act as though in the most convenient manner, which is to assume what we see is what is real, and that we can make true determinations of the nature of reality.

There is a psuedo-paradox of belief and action, just as Kierkgaard proposed for the divinity of Christ.. and how it also ties in to Gödel in its juxtapositioning of differing.. sets? "An endless gold triangle" sets it out better. (Which is where the Bach and Escher bit comes from as well)

Morality is a formal behavioural system, artifically constructed, with the goal of normalising, stabilising and predicting the best method to get to a given goal.

It is only different from mathematics in the subjective nature of its purpose.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 4:25 am UTC
by a thing
HiEv wrote:The options are too simplistic for me. Some paradoxes are acceptable while others are not. Basically, paradox should be avoided whenever possible, but in some cases it is provably required, and only in the latter cases is it acceptable. If a system creates a paradox and that system can be reasonably changed, then it should be changed.

To put it simply, things should be as rational as possible, but no more than that. :wink:


++
Many times a paradox is an indicator that something, somewhere went wrong. But a paradox can make sense:

We're paradoxially all simultaneously unique and not unique.
All people have different properties, making them unique.
No one is unique because we all share the property of uniqueness.
But we all must be unique for us not to be unique.
Therefore, the original paradoxial statement makes sense.

HiEv wrote:Edit: In ethical terms, isn't a paradoxical set of ethics a complex way of describing hypocrisy?


Yes, and it should be avoided. Hypocrisy is the heart of an Orwellian society.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 6:41 am UTC
by Pathway
spacermase wrote:Also worth keeping in mind is that what may appear to be a paradox in "normal" context may not actually be paradoxical in a different context. For example, at first glance, Mahayana Buddhism is *chock full* of paradoxical statements, yet when examined within the context of the Buddhist believe system (which is vastly different from most Western philosophies), they no longer appear paradoxical.

Of course, there are a couple that are only supposed to make sense if one has attained Enlightenment, so I guess the jury is still out on those.


Tell us some!

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:01 am UTC
by ArchangelShrike
The Tao that can be described
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken
is not the eternal Name.

The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.

Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.

Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.


First Chapter of the Tao Te Ching courtesy of sonshi.com. From what I've seen, paradox is simply a word that can be misunderstood depending on upbringing and place. I could go on and on about the difference in conceptualization of time across cultures, specifically the East vs. the West, but whether or not you have morals that work for you is all thats important. Consider this: In a modern western RPG, you are given a variety of ways to achieve a certain task. In D&D you can be of an alignment. Does this mean that this is the one true way to follow? The ONLY right path? Or are there others equally valid as well? Christianity has this terrible thing about there being one path to get to Heaven when people around the world have been doing fine without it. How can Jesus Christ be the one true way when others are living as fulfilling lives, or more?

Usually, when anyone tries to convert me (I've just had a couple of Korean ladies try today) I smile and nod along, because my mouth would rip apart their arguments. Anyone else been offered brochures lately?

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 11:03 am UTC
by Andrew
a thing wrote:Many times a paradox is an indicator that something, somewhere went wrong. But a paradox can make sense:

We're paradoxially all simultaneously unique and not unique.
All people have different properties, making them unique.
No one is unique because we all share the property of uniqueness.
But we all must be unique for us not to be unique.
Therefore, the original paradoxial statement makes sense.


That's not a paradox. It looks like one if you equivocate different meanings of "unique". Specifically, the third line is patently untrue: if we all share the property of uniqueness that means everyone is unique, not no-one. We are unique by virtue of our other distinguishing properties. Just because we have something in common doesn't change that.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:28 pm UTC
by Belial
That's not a paradox. It looks like one if you equivocate different meanings of "unique". Specifically, the third line is patently untrue: if we all share the property of uniqueness that means everyone is unique, not no-one. We are unique by virtue of our other distinguishing properties. Just because we have something in common doesn't change that.


Yeah. A vast number of paradoxen are nothing more than switching definitions midparagraph.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:07 pm UTC
by a thing
Andrew wrote:Just because we have something in common doesn't change that. [everyone being unique]


Good point. We all also share the same body structure.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 3:09 pm UTC
by Belial
And incredibly similar mental and logical structures.

We're much more alike than we are different, but that doesn't invalidate the differences.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 4:08 pm UTC
by spacermase
Pathway wrote:Tell us some!


Well, there's a rather famous one from the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. It goes something like this:

A student asks Nagarjuna, "Does Nirvana exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana non-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana both exist and not-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana neither exist nor not-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

Sounds pretty paradoxical, right?

The key to solving this paradox is the realization that all these categories are human constructs- conceptualizations by which we divide what we we experience. As such, they ultimately illusionary, since they only exist inside our minds. To experience Nirvana is to be free of these mental constructs; as such, Nirvana cannot be truly expressed meaningfully in conventional terms, only approximated.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:53 pm UTC
by Andrew
spacermase wrote:Well, there's a rather famous one from the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. It goes something like this:

A student asks Nagarjuna, "Does Nirvana exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana non-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana both exist and not-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

The student asks, "Does Nirvana neither exist nor not-exist?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."


Ah, then Nirvana equals Nullity.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:49 pm UTC
by Vaniver
The student asks, "Are you even listening to me?"

Nagarjuna answers, "No."

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:52 pm UTC
by bbctol
The student asks, "Is Nirvana so beyond the realm of human comprehension that it is impossible to even think of describing it in twenty-two words?"

Nagarjuna says, "...fuck!"

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:15 am UTC
by Beckboy
so as i understand it most feel that either:
western logic means that one must always be rational.
or western logic isn't always right

is that a valid separation of camps or are there third camps or what?

also there seems to be a debate over the validity of paradox as a concept with people arguing that there are no valid paradoxes.

to prevent such i would offer two. the first is a slightly reworded version of the previous example.
uniqueness is the quality of being different
everyone is unique
as everyone is unique no one is unique therefore there is no difference

godels statment (basically)
this statement cannot be proven in principa philosophica



really the heart of my question is the validity of dialetheism? particularly in the context of extra systematic logic (aka addressing things which formal logic can't)

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:45 am UTC
by Belial
bbctol wrote:The student asks, "Is Nirvana so beyond the realm of human comprehension that it is impossible to to even think of describing it in twenty-three words?"

Nagarjuna says, "'Twenty-Three' counts as two"


Fixed.

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:34 pm UTC
by HiEv
Belial wrote:
bbctol wrote:The student asks, "Is Nirvana so beyond the realm of human comprehension that it is impossible to to even think of describing it in twenty-three words?"

Nagarjuna says, "'Twenty-Three' counts as two"

Fixed.

So, are you saying that Nagarjuna doesn't know that "twenty-three" is a compound word?

If I was going to fix the original I'd remove an excess "to" from the sentence and change "twenty-three" to "twenty-two". :D

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:37 pm UTC
by Belial
So, are you saying that Nagarjuna doesn't know that "twenty-three" is a compound word?


I'm saying he gets to make the rules. Especially when the junior buddhists are being smartasses. Carry on.