Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When "My Spade Is Turned"

An interesting difference of view that may be an example of reaching a bedrock assumption is the different arguments that Matthew Bagger, a philosopher of religion, and Graham Priest, a logician, make about the fact that mysticism, and, Priest would say, all philosophical thinking, reach an inevitable point of contradiction. Such contradictions are “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao” or none of our concepts can ever grasp God. These assertions are contradictory because they say with words or concepts that we can’t know these ultimate things with words or concepts. Yet they do tell us something about these things.

Bagger argues that this paradoxical quality of ultimate entities is made into something mysterious by religions when they are just paradoxes. Priest says that the fact that mystics and philosophers keep running into contradictions at the limits of thought suggests that there are true contradictions. That we are finding something out about the nature of existence when that is the result we keep encountering. And as a corollary, the law of non-contradiction which says that something’s wrong with our understanding of things if there is a contradiction is, in this case, wrong. The contradictions at the limits of thought may be information we keep rejecting; that there are true contradictions.

Wittgenstein wrote: "If I have exhausted the justifications, I have reached bedrock and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: 'This is simply what I do.'"

Bagger’s book is “The Uses of Paradox” and Priest’s book is “Beyond the Limits of Thought.” Who we think is right is dependent upon the kind of world we want to live in.