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Paradox Lost: A Cross-Contextual Definition of Levels of Abstraction.

Linda G. Elson. Paradox Lost: A Cross-Contextual Definition of Levels of Abstraction. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2010.

A logical paradox consists of a statement that if true is false and if false is true. Consider, for example, the assertion "I am lying." If it is true and I am lying, then I am saying something false (that is what a lie is) and if it is false and I am saying something false, then it is true that I am lying. Such a statement is self-contradictory in that it goes against itself. Its truth links to its falsity and its falsity links to its truth.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell demonstrated that any logical system could be shown to contain paradoxes, and that all of logic would be threatened if paradoxes could not be restricted. The solution for Russell was his theory of types, which posits that every statement must fall into one type or another, so that it was not allowed that there be a statement of more than one type. "I am lying" is both a statement and about my statement and thus is not to be allowed into a system. Thus the system will not contain that paradox. The theory of types saves it from paradox.

Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics, and the anthropologist Gregory Bateson expanded Russell's theory of types beyond its original logicomathematical boundaries into the sciences and social sciences. Subsequent to their expansions, there have been further enlargements on Russell's theme, such as those that are found in this book in chapters titled "The Liar," "The Predictions Paradox," "The Prisoner's Dilemma," "The Double-Bind," and in an afterword by Corey Anton.

"Whatever you say it is, it isn't," say general semanticists, meaning that whatever one can say about something isn't it. I could say lots more about Paradox Lost, a book that I found highly edifying and entertaining (see the chapter on humor), but I would be barely scratching the surface. I therefore propose that you read it yourself.


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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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