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Can there be true contradictions?

I argue that there cannot be true contradictions. Riddle-like sentences such as the liar paradox shall be shown to be void of any expression of truth or falsehood and thus meaningless. It shall be shown that assigning truth and falsehood is an approximation required during experience of ‘ego-consciousness’, resulting in contradictory sentences to be void of adequate expression of truth or falsehood. I argue that in a state of total awareness all sentences appear to be meaningless because they divide up reality, which is a manifestation of one consciousness. Sentences cleave reality up. However, we do not exist in a state of total awareness and so to say there can be true contradictions is to transcend meaning and convincing arguments. Therefore by arguing that the purpose of sentences is to communicate satisfactory descriptions between beings with limited awareness means that there cannot true contradictions because contradictions will never be satisfactory to awareness-limited beings, which we all are when communicating with sentences.

In order for progress to be made it shall be assumed that there is a consensus reality, which it is possible to make true statements about. This consensus reality is not the same as an absolute objective reality where there can be absolutely true and false sentences. Rather, this consensus reality is compromise consisting of a true-false spectrum with blurred edges emerging where the macroscopic intuitive rational Newtonian way of thinking meets the quantum scale of virtual particles and consciousness (Susskind 2006). Sentences trying to explain certain aspects of the latter will inevitably be contradictory to everyone in consensus reality due to both limitations in language and limitations in understanding the whole truth of such unfamiliar concepts while restricted by limited awareness, and so cannot be said to be true or false. A sentence must communicate clearly to be able to be true or false.

Firstly, the liar paradox will be removed from the problem by showing that all sentences express greater truth if viewed from a higher perspective, and that assigning truth and falsehood is an approximation required during experience of ‘ego-consciousness’ for practical purposes, resulting in contradictory sentences to be void of adequate expression of truth or falsehood.

The Liar Paradox

“This sentence is false.”

The philosophical problem is this: Is the sentence true or false? If it is false then the sentence has communicated this accurately and so is true, and if it is true that the sentence is false like it says, then it is true and also false and thus a paradox (Sainsbury 1995, 112). I argue that the sentence negates itself. It can be paraphrased to, “this act of communication is not communication.” Or even more simply, “A and not A”. It is a fragment of inapplicable formulae and so is meaningless and thus void of any value of truth or falsehood.

It could be said that the liar sentence must contain some meaning; after all we understand the individual words it’s composed of. Someone might say it is both true and false. The Lair sentence doesn’t refer to consensus reality and so they might appear get away with it. They cannot be proved wrong because they are not saying anything, but they are just extending the ungrounded circular nonsense. They have transcended (or avoided) meaning and so lost the right to say something is true or false.

The illustration below will show that accepting contradictions that do refer to consensus reality still results in the same phenomenon of nonsense extension, which entails everything to be true and also false, which then negates the meaning of true and false, which is why a contradiction never be true.

1. I am eating an apple. 2. I am eating an apple and I am not.

Statement 1 is true. Statement 2 contains all the same information as statement 1 but with the addition of a contradiction. This renders the whole sentence meaningless. Statement 2 is not true and false, it is simply nonsense. It is equivalent to writing made-up words, despite the words making sense individually. To say that statement 2 is true and false is to say nothing. You could then say that the sentence about statement 2 being true and false is also true and false, and then that that sentence about the sentence about statement 2 to be true and false to be true and false, and so on ad infinitum, without ever saying anything at all. Therefore, statement 2 and the liar sentence are equivalent.

This means that regardless of whether a contradiction is grounded by referencing reality or not, it is still void of any value of truth or falsehood because it is meaningless. This subtle point is vitally important and links up to my deeper argument. I argue, and this claim will be backed up later with an interpretation of quantum mechanics, that all things are manifestations of one consciousness. Or put another way, there is only really one of us here, which means that divisions of reality such as, “I” and “apple” are at worst, illusory, and at best, not fundamental. In other words, reality itself in total is self-referential and devoid of any value of truth or falsehood and we are experiencing an endless loop based on an illusory duality, which can be represented by ‘discovering’ the truth and falsehood of things again and again.

This means that the ability to allocate values of truth or falsehood emerges when reality is viewed from a limited and flawed level of awareness, which happens to be the level at which we usually operate. Therefore the purpose of dividing true and false up is to divide reality up and strengthen our present view. If picked apart and viewed from this perspective even statement 1 can be said to be meaningless, which means that whether a sentence is deemed to be acceptable for application of truth and falsehood or not is a matter of perspective and thus not absolute. Lets pick statement 1 apart now:

1. I am eating an apple.

How can “I” be defined as completely separate to the apple? The apple is becoming part of me, I need it to survive, the chemicals in the apple will be broken down and used. Is the apple no longer an apple when the first bite is taken, or when it is swallowed and removed from sight? Also, if you go back far enough along the evolutionary tree the apple and myself must share a common ancestor, and so in a weird and wonderful way, we are family.

If “I” and “apple” can mean the same thing, then I am eating myself, at which point “eating” needs to be defined. This word too is an approximation of what is going on. It is just saying I am adding more to myself, I am sustaining myself by eating myself, by self-referencing myself. “Eating” here is the equivalent of a plus sign. So saying, “I am eating an apple,” is just like saying, “one plus one”. Labelling Statement 1 as true was done without this reasoning, but doesn’t take much reasoning to see that the distinction between “apple” and “I” is an approximation to chop reality up into a sentence, which (I presume) is judged by all in consensus reality as adequate to satisfy truth conditions. I therefore argue that any sentence that describes reality when properly examined can be shown to be meaningless and void of any expression of truth or falsehood, despite it being a requirement that for a sentence to be true or false it describes reality. This is because the meanings of the words branch out into potentially infinite associations. The requirement of a true sentence therefore are that it describes a part of reality and has the ability to be approximately agreed upon in consensus reality. A contradiction does not hold this property and so there cannot be true contradictions.

The liar sentence is therefore removed as a possible example of a true contradiction. It is not ‘true and false’ at the same time either; it is meaningless nonsense that negates itself with or without detailed examination.

I can now back up my claim that all things are manifestations of one consciousness and that divisions of reality are illusory, or not fundamental. This is required to show that sentences describing parts of reality are void of absolute truth or falsehood, which means the true/false boundary is blurry and dependant on flawed group decisions in consensus reality, for which I am behaving as all powerful representative of for the purposes of argument, and I argue that for consensus reality dwellers to say there can be true contradictions is to transcend consensus reality. In other words, if we are going to have sentences that we say are true or false it makes sense to have a rule saying that contradictions can’t be true or false.

Quantum paradoxes

In quantum physics when a single photon is directed through two-slit grate the photon paradoxically goes through both slits at the same time, creating measurable interference - with itself. The photon somehow ‘knows’ there are two slits (http://library.thinkquest.org). Is the photon conscious?

Nobel Prize winning physicist Neils Bohr (1958) (as cited by Zukav 2001, 95) said:

“Light has no properties independent of us. This is the same as saying it does not exist. Without us, or anything else to interact with, light does not exist. And without light, or anything else for us to interact with, we do not exist”

This is known as complementarity. It tells us that nothing is real unless it is observed, or measured, or perceived in some way. But perceived by what? It cannot be a case of consciousness and matter, or mind and body or physical and non-physical. It is a case of consciousness and consciousness. This level down from total awareness, the splitting of one consciousness into ‘consciousness and consciousness’ creates experience by allowing consciousness to “self-reference,” or communicate with itself (Wheeler 1984). Therefore all reality is consciousness.

Conclusion:

My argument can be summarized as the following:

1. Consciousness, or equivalent word such as ‘experience’, is all there is. 2. Sentences cannot express this because their purpose is to divide up this one thing and so can never be absolutely true. 3. We must compromise to continue existence by allowing things that seem most certain or uncertain to be labelled as true or false. 4. Truth and falsehood assignment is for practical purposes of communication and co-operation. 5. A contradiction is a failed attempt at communication and so shouldn’t be labelled as true or false. 6. For true and false to have meaning and be useful in communication we must pathologically pretend they are absolutes. 7. Therefore there cannot be true contradictions.

Bibliography

Bohr, N. (1958) Atomic Theory and Human Knowledge, New York: John Wiley

Leonard Susskind, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Eeuqh9QfNI&feature=related> recorded lecture on ‘quantum entanglements’ 25/09/2006 Stanford University

Physical reality: photons in two places at once. Oracle Education Foundation consulted 10.11.10 <http://library.thinkquest.org/C008537/cool/diffraction/diffraction.html>

Sainsbury, R. M. (1995) Paradoxes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wheeler, J. (1984) A measure of things, New Scientist 1425, 29

Zukav, G. (2001) The dancing wu li masters, New York: Bantam Books

Realism and Normativity


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