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Contradictions don't exist, but can be maintained?

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Okay, guys; check this out:

"A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality." (Atlas)

Why this didn't bug me before is beyond me. Okay, so a contradiction can't exist. However, when it *does* exist, it means your thinking is screwed up. Now, fine--I get what she means--that the referents in reality don't contradict each other. Correspondingly, if our ideas contradict one another or reality they're wrong. However, the contradiction *can* exist within the realm of though--which of course is still part of the metaphysical universe ('cause there is nowhere else for it to exist).

So this sure as hell looks bad from a semantic perspective, no? How *should* the sentence be constructed?

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A contradiction in thought is implied, not actual. No one can think something is and that it is not in one thought. It's impossible to actually think about a triangular circle. However, there can be inconsistent thoughts that imply a contradiction: he can be asserting something in one instance, and then denying it in the next. And then we say, "That can't be right, because there are no contradictions: what is, is what it is, not what it isn't. So at least one of your statements has to be wrong."

Edit: Yes, math cognoscenti, I'm aware that triangular circles can exist in certain topologies. I don't really think that's relevant, and you can stop pointing it out. ;)

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I think it's fine, semantically. All you has to do is keep in mind the difference between entity and concept.

Identity and Causality are corrolaries: "An atom is itself"; the way that an atom acts depends on its nature; "A concept is itself"; the way a concept acts depends on its nature. Do concepts have any identity that they can contradict?

There can be no contradictions among entities, among things that exist.

There can be contradictions among concepts: that only means one or more of them is invalid and doesn't refer to anything. To assert contradictions among concepts is to confess that one or more of them refers to nothing - and that is to confess that the entities it refers to do not exist - and that is to confess that one has given up one's mind.

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I can think that is and isnt a picture of an eskimo within the one thought.

Actually, you can't. That's the entire point of those ambiguous-Gestalt-type things. You have to look at it as one or the other--not both at the same time.

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Yeah, obviously a concept refers to an existential entity. Get that. But wouldn't even a concept be classified as part of "reality" as a whole? *Don't* concepts have an identity?

So--rather than "contradictions do not exist", what about "contradictions are not valid"? I see that as more clear, assuming I'm arriving at the right conclusion.

?

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Yes - poohat presents the ability of consciousness to selectively FOCUS as the example of a thing which is and is not itself. Which means his premises about consciousness are in conflict with either reality or with his statement.

That is his contradiction which he must resolve.

y is correct about the rest. A contradiction is when at least one of the premises does not correspond to anything in reality. Such a premise is nothingness and must be recognized as such.

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The stolen concept is not a kind of concept at all; it is the name of a mistake or fallacy in logic. It doesn't deal with abstraction/reduction per se, but rather with the hierarchy of knowledge. "The fallacy consists of the act of using a concept [in an argument, say] while ignoring, contradicting or denying the validity of the concepts on which it logically and genetically depends" (N Branden, link).

"An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept" [Ayn Rand, "Credibility and Polarization," The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1] (link). An anti-concept is one that is designed to refer to nothing.

Independent of the above, a concept either refers to a specific entity or it does not; there is no middle. One can use a concept incorrectly, of course, but for the concept - to refer or not to refer, that is the question.

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Guest heusdens

If nothing can contradict itself, then basically everything would be equal to itself at all time, i.e. the world would be frozen in time, as no change whatsoever could occur. But a non-changing world, would not exist.

But a non-existing world does not exist, so the world exist. For the world to exist, it must change, adn to change means that all things at all time are not equal to themselves, and contradict themselves.

Furher, the fact that the world exists can not be based on the supposed fact that "existence began" at some point in time, therefore it has to be accepted that the world exists for an eternity in time. The infinity of time, however, is within itself a contradiction, and is full of contradictions, since from the outside the infinity is solely consisting of finite measures, and yet that is the case.

Hence we have no alternative as to accept that the world is full of contradictions.

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Guest heusdens
Change does not equal contradiction. 

There is no "outside" of time, of space, of the universe, or of existence.

Claims based on either of these premises are therefore false.

Change implies that one thing becomes another thing, like when from a seed grows a plant (negation of the seed), and the plant grows new seeds (negation of the negation).

The law of identity would imply that everything would be equal to itself, at all time. How could the world, being equal to itself at all time, be in motion and change?

The only way in which the world could be equal to itself is if it didn't change, if it would be in eternal rest, that is, if it didn't exist....

All forms of matter are in eternal change at all time. From the galaxies to the subatomic particles, everything is in motion all the time, even when they seem to be at rest from our perspective (because either, for the micro world, the changes happen too fast, or for the macro world, the changes occur too slow)

ps.

Being a materialist, I would not conceive of anything outside of the material world, where would I have implied that? I only made a comment to the opposite of that.

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Change implies that one thing becomes another thing, like when from a seed grows a plant (negation of the seed), and the plant grows new seeds (negation of the negation).
What do you mean it 'becomes' another thing? We call it by a different name, yes, but that relates to human epistemology and language, not existence and metaphysics; the map isnt the territory. One could easily claim that it is in the 'nature' of (what we call) a seed to grow into (what we call) a plant, and that it is just realising its identity in doing so. Its not like elephants are randomly turning into garbage trucks (and even if they were, you could obviously claim that it was 'in their nature' to do so!).

The law of identity would imply that everything would be equal to itself, at all time. How could the world, being equal to itself at all time, be in motion and change?

What is in 'motion and change'?

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Change does not imply negation of anything. This is a VERY old error, going all the way back to Heraclitus. He was the first known philosopher to attack what Aristotle later identified as the basic laws of logic. Specifically he attacked the Law of Identity and Contradiction.

He stated change necessarily involves contradiction. He said, after change we have the SAME thing which is not the same (as opposed to substitution where we have a different thing from what existed before). A changing thing is an identity of opposites – it both IS and is NOT what it was and what it will be. This is a contradiction.

Since all the world involves change, his view was that existence itself is contradictory. From this, he drew the conclusion that the "world stuff" - what the greeks considered the fundamental essence of everything - was change itself. He believed that there are no entities - no THINGS - at all. His famous aphorism was:

“Nothing is. Everything is becoming.”

“Everything flows and nothing abides.”

This type of philosophy is called a process philosophy because it holds the change AS reality. Specifically, it is refered to as the "Heraclitian flux".

Of course, Aristotle blew this view out of the water a few hundred years later. As he aptly pointed out, the concept change already presupposes non-contradictory identity. It assumes change FROM something TO something - from one identity TO another identity (without identity, there can be NO change). As he put it, change is "matter" taking on new "form". It is fully real, not Plato's mix of "being" and "non-being".

Each particular – each primary substance is comprised of two elements:

Forms - a universalizing element which constitutes the basis for putting it into a particular class and ascribing to it a certain nature

Matter – an individualizing element which constitutes the basis of its uniqueness – that which makes it a ‘this’.

In other words, matter is the stuff or material comprising a thing. Form is its structure or organization. And change is merely the process of this matter taking on a new form. Specifically, change is passage of matter from 'potentiality' to 'actuality', which occur in orderly, predictable ways.

Put simply - no contradiction.

Now, objectivism refines this formulation. However, this discussion has already gone FAR beyond the bounds of what can rationally be handled by a forum. As I have repeated multiple times, you CANNOT be taught a philosophy here (let alone an entire HISTORY of philosophy). As such, at this point, I can now ONLY advise you to get the book.

Period.

PS

You ask where you would have implied anything outside the material world. You didnt imply it at all. You stated it EXPLICITLY. "The infinity of time, however, is within itself a contradiction, and is full of contradictions, since FROM THE OUTSIDE the infinity is solely consisting of finite measures, and yet that is the case."

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  • 7 years later...

Sorry to dig up this thread, but I didn't want to start a new one only to be referred here. I don't think this question was answered properly.

If contradictions do not exist, does this mean my contradictory ideas do not exist? They are still mental units after all. This seems like it leads to a separation of consciousness from reality.

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If contradictions do not exist, does this mean my contradictory ideas do not exist?

To hold contradictory ideas simply means that you hold two beliefs about how the world works, and if the world did simultaneously work according to both of those beliefs, a contradiction would exist. Reason is not automatic, so there is nothing preventing you from holding ideas about the world that contradict eachother - i.e., ideas about reality that would result in a contradiction if they were simultaneously true.

Any misunderstanding you have about this is simply due to equivocation - we use the same word ("contradiction") to refer to a) a state of reality (which cannot exist), and to B) ideas we hold about the state of reality (which can exist).

Edited by brian0918
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Yep. In the quote, Rand uses the word "contradiction" in two slightly different senses. With that in mind, the passage is clearly semantically correct. And good English speakers are used to that happening a lot, quite often on purpose, so it shouldn't be a problem for anyone to understand.

I think it's the most elegant way to state that idea. Changing it to either suggestion (the ones in post #6 and post #18) would make the paragraph harder to follow, not easier.

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The confusion is not in her use of contradiction but in "exist".

"Abstractions as such do not exist"......."concepts are abstractions"......"concepts are mental existents"....

I prefer not to speak in this way when employing the concept. Rather I differentiate from mind-independent and conceptual existents.

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