The One Paradox
This is a somewhat fresh thought to me, so I may ramble on a bit in trying to communicate it. To preface, a Paradox is a statement, or set of statements which seem evident yet self-contradict. This is not a very good definition of a paradox, but It’s hard to find a good one. The word is often used interchangeably with “contradiction.” At heart, a paradox is where knowledge can go no further, where assumptions take an absurd quality.
A thought occurred to me at a point in the past. It concerned the concept of the horizon of knowledge, that the more we discover, the more we realize how much we don’t know. The thought occurred to me that perhaps at the end of our possible knowledge is a circle of paradoxes, logical contradictions which we cannot possibly overcome. Remarkably, the same thought had occurred to a friend of mine.
Since discussing this with my friend, I’ve come upon a new thought. As I considered a horizon, I realized that horizons can only exist on a sphere such as the earth (I had previously been thinking of an infinite plane). Therefore if we keep expanding our horizon, eventually we must stop not at a circle, but at a point opposite from where we began. As this occurred to me I realized that this point is indeed a paradox, the paradox which underlies all paradoxes: the disparity between subjective experience and objective reality; the separateness of the inner and outer realm.
Let’s look at a few paradoxes. I’ve already discussed one, the paradox of knowledge (the more we know the more we know what we don’t know). This is perhaps the most obviously related paradox. In the end, when we’ve accumulated the knowledge of the universe, we will have to realize that it could all be an illusion, and all of that knowledge is somewhat meaningless.
Ludwig Wittgenstein introduced the world to the rule following paradox. Given the pattern, say “2, 4, 6, 8…”, one would naturally extrapolate the rule as “adding two to the previous number”, yielding “10” as the next number. however, the rule could very well be “adding two to the previous number if the number is below 7, otherwise adding 3,” in which case the next number would be “11”. There is absolutely no way of being sure that you are right. There is an objective reality, and there is your inner world, and a fundamental paradox between them.
There is a so called Paradox of Hedonism, that pursuing happiness makes one miserable. This again is a problem of consciousness, of pursuing subjective well being as if it were an objective goal.
I suppose another, simpler way of saying this is that there are no paradoxes in math, in the physical order of the universe. yet at the same time we are a part of the physical order of the universe, and our thought patterns can be modeled mathematically. Once again we arrive at a paradox.
Perhaps what I am saying is not significant at all, that of course paradoxes would revert back to the problem of our existence. Perhaps because I have been thinking so much about consciousness everything comes to me in this framework. Nevertheless I feel it is important to bring up as a consideration.
The universe is infinite and finite. it is simultaneously meaningful and meaningless. We exist and do not exist, we are conscious and not conscious, we have free will and do not. All of these things are true, and these contradictions will haunt us unto the end of our experience.
Update: to view other posts concerning the development on my thought on this paradox, subjective experience, and meaning, just scroll down to the categories right below and click “meaning.”