The law of non-contradiction. I acknowledge it; liberals don’t.
Even back among the Greeks, clever folks noticed that language, truth, and logic don’t always match up. We can’t talk meaningfully to each other using only symbols, but language is always open to confusion. So you get things like the Sorites Paradox — how many hairs must one have, or lack, to be considered bald? At some point, it seems, quantity becomes quality.
Most people who aren’t logicians don’t bother too much over stuff like this, but the implications are interesting. “Bald” seems to have a definition, right? But when you try to pin it down, you can’t do it. Obviously “baldness is the possession of X number of hairs on the head” doesn’t work. It doesn’t work as a percentage either (“baldness is having 35% less hair than the average man”), because “average” is circumstantial, too — I may have 35% less hair than the members of Motley Crue circa 1986, but 100% more hair than a class of Marine recruits. You can’t make it work Aristotle-style either (“baldness is the un-actualized potential for having hair”) because again, alopecia etc. aside, how much un-actualized hair potential makes one bald, vs. merely a little short on top?
That’s what trips up even the logical positivists like Ayer (first link). For a statement to be meaningful, he says, it has to be empirically verifiable. But even so simple a statement as “Jean-Luc is bald” can’t be empirically verified without an empirically-verifiable definition of “bald.” And so you have modern philosophers writing off almost the entire history of thought, and declaring the entire human race mad. Not bad for a few hair follicles, eh?
If even so simple a statement as “Jean-Luc is bald” leads us to conclude that the whole human race is mad, it’s not looking good for the rest of Logic 101. Remember that “law of non-contradiction” that this post is supposedly about? Nothing seems more obvious than “one thing can’t be its opposite at the same time,” but does that hold? Consider Captain Picard up there. Let’s say he’s taking his Dimoxinil. At some point he’ll no longer be bald, right? Unless you can point out the precise moment — number of follicles, percentage of hair potential actualized, whatever — that “bald” becomes “not bald,” it seems that something can be both A and not-A at the same time.
That was Hegel’s great insight. He called it “dialectic,” and by means of an untranslatable German word (“aufheben“), he proposed that what the universe is really doing is talking to itself. It — the universe– is working out its seeming “contradictions” in a process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Jean-Luc’s baldness (thesis) is aufhebening his hair-havingness (antithesis) and, through the agency of Dimoxinil, is producing synthesis.
Grant that, and you’re halfway to Marxism. Add “envy,” “anger,” and “eagerness to murder people who disagree with you” and you’re all the way there. Which is why I don’t do it — A is A, not-A is not-A, and that’s just the way it is.
I hope we all can see the appeal of Hegelianism, though, from this little exercise. Not only does “dialectic” give English-accented French starship captains their hair back, it’s tailor-made for the Liberal “debate” style. As Morgan demonstrates here, when Liberals are caught in a contradiction, they don’t concede the point. They can’t, because they are Smart and you are Dumb and, just as paper always beats rock, Smart always beats Dumb. So they go back and try to redefine their premises, Marx-style: “Straw man! I never said cause a huge explosion, I merely suggested using this cigarette lighter to see if the gas tank is empty.” “Straw man! I didn’t say kill the puppy, I just suggested throwing it off this cliff.”
You can’t prove Dimoxinil gave Captain Picard his hair back, because you can’t even define “bald!” Therefore Big Pharma is evil and their profits should be taxed 100%. Vote Hillary. Denying the law of non-contradiction, then, is an almost limitless supply of virtue fixes.*
Almost always. But there always comes a time when Reality rears its ugly head and you need the law of non-contradiction. For instance, Liberals’ “_____ is just a social construction!” formula is the most common denial of the law of non-contradiction, and in the TERF war it has really come around to bite them in the ass. A “male lesbian” is a contradiction in terms, you say? Obviously you need a refresher course in dialectics, comrade. Off to Siberia with you — say hi to the Alt-Right guys in the next barracks for me!
Not that this will ever bother them in the slightest. They take their cues from the Master himself:
As to the Delhi affair [i.e. the 1857 Indian Mutiny], it seems to me that the English ought to begin their retreat as soon as the rainy season has set in in real earnest. Being obliged for the present to hold the fort for you as the Tribune’s military correspondent I have taken it upon myself to put this forward….It’s possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way.
But I’m lazy, so I prefer not to have to weasel out of stuff all the time (especially when it’s a product of my own shortsighted hubris). The law of non-contradiction helps me avoid that, which is why I subscribe to it. Which makes me a non-Liberal.
*The drug in question is DOPE-amine. Get it? [rimshot].Loading Likes...