It’s been a while, but tomorrow night The New Inklings meet again! The time is 7 pm. The place is the Downtown House Bar and Cafe at the Downtown Backpackers, corner of Bunny Street and Waterloo Quay, Wellington.
We discuss philosophy (mainly) and theology. You’re welcome to join us, provided that you are (1) irenic, and (2) rational. If you don’t know what it means to be irenic, Google is your friend. If you don’t know what it means to be rational, well … tomorrow night’s discussion topic is for you!
the nature of rationality and what a commitment to Reason entails
So I thought I’d jot down a few recent thoughts … and start a series of posts … on this fundamentally important to everything topic.
Here’s my all-time favourite Ayn Rand quote.
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.
I used to love to brandish this one at Ayn Rand’s hypocritical followers. I say ‘used to’ because it’s just dawned on me that Rand got it completely wrong! (Yet again! Wotta surprise!)
To arrive at a contradiction is NOT to confess an error in one’s thinking. To arrive at a contradiction is the strongest confirmation possible that there is NO error in one’s thinking!
And to maintain a contradiction is NOT to abdicate one’s mind nor to evict oneself from the realm of reality. At least, not in the short-term, probably not in the medium-term and possibly not even in the long-term! NOT to maintain a contradiction, in the short-term at least, would be irrational in the utmost extreme!
I really don’t know why I didn’t see this sooner … perhaps you don’t see it yet, so I’ll explain.
The simplest example of a contradiction is a proposition and its negation. P and not-P. Two propositions are contradictory, or inconsistent, if they cannot both be true. Three propositions are mutually contradictory, or form an inconsistent triad, if they cannot all be true. Four propositions that cannot all be true form an inconsistent tetrad. And so on and so forth.
None but the completely insane ever believes P and not-P. But believing A, B and C, where A, B and C cannot all be true? This is a commonplace. But most people who believe A, B and C don’t notice the inconsistency. A and B don’t contradict. B and C don’t contradict. C and A don’t contradict. It’s the mutual inconsistency that gives rise to the contradiction. To arrive at the contradiction you actually have to have some logical nous. You have to be able to recognise that
Therefore, (C) not-C
is a deductively valid argument. So to arrive at a contradiction is actually to confirm that you have at least a basic grasp of logic! Which most people don’t.
So you’ve arrived at a contradiction. You believe A, B and C and you are cognizant of the contradiction. You know your beliefs can’t all be true. You know that (at least) one of them has to go. But which one? You’d better sit down and try to figure that one out. But you don’t want to reject the wrong belief. So, in the meanwhile, you’ll maintain the contradiction. Take your time. It’s the rational thing to do.