In a practical sense, arriving at a contradiction reveals an error in one’s thinking, as Ayn Rand expressed. Yet, in absolute terms, a contradiction-less view is a limited view which fails to encompass a broader truth.
Contradictions are sometimes there to ‘remind us’ that reality is much more complex than anyone could ever conceive. But this doesn’t justify refraining ourselves from re-evaluating or questioning further. Instead, contradictions are the natural means of the universe to ignite the human imagination towards ever perfecting his truths.
There are many people who strongly believe that contradictions do not exist, but their premise is that we are beings capable of absolute reason, something which physicists, mathematicians and psychologists alike would easily demonstrate to be utterly impossible. Consider for a moment that from a human perspective it is wrong to discard or deny the existence of contradictions. It is actually impossible to comprehend reality by eliminating all contradictions, rather we increase our understanding of reality by limiting contradictions.
Given that reality can’t be modeled to absolute perfection, all our attempts to do so generate only but incomplete models of reality, and anything beyond our most beloved models will always break down into contradiction. I like to say that we cannot comprehend reality without contradiction; a certain degree of illusion will always be necessary to complete our view of reality! Faith and hope are essential components of human life. If you find no contradiction, you still don’t know enough!
A set of witty remarks from Mark Twain further highlights the role and importance of illusion: “Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”
Even the statement “there are no absolute truths” is paradoxical. Is it then an absolute truth that there are no absolute truths? The statement is blatantly true and self-falsifying. “Truth is relative”, yes, but is this an absolute truth? What seems certain is that the human mind is built in such a way that it will always encounter unsolvable paradoxes. Paradoxes and contradictions are inherent to the human condition and logic. We can limit and reduce them, but we can’t ever eliminate them completely from our thought and analytical processes.
Are we thinking straight here?
We asked ChatGPT — the most advanced Artificial Intelligence Chatbot released to the public on November 30, 2022 — to give us an opinion on this subject and it enlightened us with the following:
The statement “there are no absolute truths” is known as the “liar’s paradox” and it is a self-referential statement that contradicts itself. It is true that the statement is paradoxical, and it raises questions about the nature of truth and the limitations of human reason. The idea that truth is relative is a common philosophical position, but it too can be seen as paradoxical if it is asserted as an absolute truth.
It is indeed true that the human mind is built in such a way that it will always encounter unsolvable paradoxes, and it’s a common feature of human thinking and analytical processes. Paradoxes and contradictions are inherent to the human condition and logic. However, it’s important to note that the existence of paradoxes and contradictions doesn’t imply that human mind is fundamentally flawed, but rather that it’s a complex cognitive system that is capable of handling multiple perspectives and reasoning.
It is also worth mentioning that some philosophers and logicians have proposed different ways to handle contradictions and paradoxes, such as “paraconsistent” or “dialetheic” logics. These theories propose that there are some statements that are both true and false at the same time, and also introduce ways to reason and infer in such a context. —ChatGPT