Monday, July 1, 2013

Different Types of Contradiction - Theoretical and Practical

   We are all familiar with contradiction, but contradiction is applied in many nuanced ways.  It can be very beneficial to go through different senses of contradiction, and I will briefly lay out some of these here, and then in another place develop some of them more closely.
   The sort of contradiction that seems most familiar is that the same object cannot be in two opposite states at once, e.g., something cannot be entirely black and entirely white.  However, we allow an object to have mutually exclusive properties/states over time.  This is understood well enough, and is typically the model of the other ways we speak of contradiction, which is confusing since it transports everything into the context of objects with properties too quickly.
   A more obscure sense of contradiction involves rules that connect a cause and effect (ground and consequence).  We take every effect to have only one cause (even if this cause is a complex - and it usually is), and when we connect a cause and an effect it forms a rule, and so we can say that is contradictory to have two rules for the same cause and effect pair.  To illustrate this sort of contradiction, consider the following: when one object displaces another, we call the connection of these moments impact (or various other terms that describe the same thing), and we say that impact is the cause of one object displacing another.  Impact names a rule that connects the two states (cause and effect).  It would be contradictory to say that besides impact, the rule that connects the cause and effect is a force that acts at a distance, and so the impact of the objects is accidental.  The reason this would be contradictory is that we cannot maintain that the rule of displacement requires impact, and also that the rule of displacement does not require impact; perhaps something can be moved by impact, and at a distance, but they exclude each other as rules connecting the same ground and consequence.
   Another form of contradiction which is obscure is a contradiction between contexts.  A context holds together a number of rules and purposes of things for some activity.  The context of wood working holds certain uses to the tools of the wood working, and the goal one has makes the context of wood working necessary to develop.  It is possible to have a context from which one can evaluate different possible contexts (ways of organizing ourselves and our things in an activity), but we cannot have more than one context at a time.  Even when we are accomplishing two tasks through one action, we have a context for this, as well.
   A context can be contradicted if it does not produce the results that are desired.  We may think that a certain organization of activities and materials will produce the results we aim for, but when it fails we must consider if there was some error or defect in our skill or the material, or if the context was poorly designed to begin with.  If we decide the the context itself is at fault, then it would be insane to repeat the same procedure expecting a different result.  I want to refer to this as a technically practical contradiction.
   Even though we can narrow our interests to certain contexts and achieve the goals we set in them, we can hardly ever remain in any one context at all times; the demands of life pull us into different contexts.  While we do not expect to find a single context that is specifically suited to all tasks, we strive for all of our tasks, and their respective contexts, to harmonize with each other, and so we eliminate contexts not only when they do not work, but also when they conflict with each other and make a harmonized life impossible.  This brings me to another sort of contradiction, which I will call simply a practical contradiction.  When a context functions (attains its aims), but falls into conflict with other contexts (and so throws our life into disarray), we have a practical contradiction.  An example of such a practical contradiction would be a lying promise.
   There is a peculiarity of practical contradictions (both technical, and pure) which makes them very distinct the first two sorts of contradictions (which I will call theoretical).  The first two sorts of contradictions have subjective necessity (we simply do not operate without them, and so they form a part of all of our practical contexts as well).  The theoretical contradictions also have objective necessity, since all objects must obey them, as well.  Now, for practical contradictions, there is no subjective necessity.  We can violate technically practical rules and continue to do the same ineffective thing over and over again — if we could not, then it would have also been impossible to try it the first time.  We can also act against our own interests in having a chaotic life which tries to hold together many different opposing contexts (opposing goals, ultimately), but this is problematic for attaining our higher ends, even if it always seems easier at any time.  These practical contradiction, which are by no means newly devised by me, will benefit from further development elsewhere.


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