Missing the Contradiction


“Determinism is a true doctrine” I told myself following a prolonged period of intense consideration, with the unmistakeable note of triumph in my voice. I had cracked it. I was on the pig’s back. I was home and dry. Immediately however a terrible pang of doubt came over me – there was a flaw in my reasoning and I just hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t spotted it. Somehow I had missed the contradiction , the blatant paradox, that now stared me so insolently in the face. And yet there it was – if determinism was a true doctrine then that meant that I never had any choice about coming to the conclusion that it was true. I could never have thought otherwise, I could never have come to any other conclusion. This being the case – as it unarguably was – this necessarily invalidated the whole train of my logic. If the possibility of falsifying the theory didn’t exist (i.e. if the model constituted a closed system) then this would mean that any apparent validation could only ever be a delusion caused by sloppy thinking. How after all can a statement be known to be true if there were not the possibility of showing otherwise?


The theory in question could prove itself to be true on its own terms, but this of course would never constitute any more than a mere empty tautology. What stock can we place in a cocky little statement that arrogantly asserts itself to be true? This was a devastating realization for me. It crushed me completely. How could I crawl out from under this one, I wondered. I was stuck. Scuppered. Skewered. Then something else occurred to me – another glaring flaw in the argument that I had been so proud of. This was actually a ridiculously obvious flaw, now that I saw it. The biggest flaw of all.


I could now see that I had been biased towards finding out that the doctrine of determinism was true all along. Right from the very onset I had been hopelessly prejudiced in this direction. I had entered the argument having already made up my mind (in an emotional rather than an intellectual way) that I wanted to find out that determinism was true, and I had never admitted this fact to myself. I had wanted to find it to be true and – low and behold – I had gone full-steam ahead and proved (to my own satisfaction) that it WAS true. Surprise bloody surprise. There’s one for the record books….


If this wasn’t grounds for throwing the whole argument out as a bad job then what was, I wondered? The whole thing was a complete disaster. A farce. A mockery. How flawed can you be? Obviously I couldn’t trust myself at all so what was the point in following any train of thought? It was all just a joke…


And yet – I mused – why would I be biased towards finding determinism to be a true doctrine? This was a real puzzler. Obviously I was reluctant to consider the possibility of finding out that chance played any part in the cosmic process. Chance is a slippery customer, as we all know. No doubt about that! But if there is always a chance that we could be wrong in our reasoning, then what is the point in reasoning in the first place? Where will it get us? Why don’t we all just pack it in as a bad job? Join all the rest of the ejits sitting around watching TV and discussing the football results or whether such and such a celebrity has cellulite on her bum. It’s a thankless task being a philosopher I can tell you. You go through agonies every day and no one gives a shit…







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