Brief History of Paradoxes

Brief History of Paradoxes

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by Roy A. Sorensen
     
 

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Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift? Can time have a beginning? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Riddles, paradoxes, conundrums -- for millennia the human mind has found such knotty logical problems both perplexing and irresistible. Now Roy Sorensen offers the first narrative history of paradoxes, a fascinating and eye-opening account that… See more details below

Overview

Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift? Can time have a beginning? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Riddles, paradoxes, conundrums -- for millennia the human mind has found such knotty logical problems both perplexing and irresistible. Now Roy Sorensen offers the first narrative history of paradoxes, a fascinating and eye-opening account that extends from the ancient Greeks, through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and into the twentieth century. When Augustine asked what God was doing before He made the world, he was told: "Preparing hell for people who ask questions like that." A Brief History of the Paradox takes a close look at "questions like that" and the philosophers who have asked them, beginning with the folk riddles that inspired Anaximander to erect the first metaphysical system and ending with such thinkers as Lewis Carroll, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and W. V. Quine. Organized chronologically, the book is divided into twenty-four chapters, each of which pairs a philosopher with a major paradox, allowing for extended consideration and putting a human face on the strategies that have been taken toward these puzzles. Readers get to follow the minds of Zeno, Socrates, Aquinas, Ockham, Pascal, Kant, Hegel, and many other major philosophers deep inside the tangles of paradox, looking for, and sometimes finding, a way out. Filled with illuminating anecdotes and vividly written, A Brief History of the Paradox will appeal to anyone who finds trying to answer unanswerable questions a paradoxically pleasant endeavor.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Sorensen (philosophy, Dartmouth) argues that paradoxes are "atoms of philosophy" out of which philosophical systems are constructed. A paradox is a question or argument that seems to have too many answers. Kant, for example, claimed that equally good arguments show that the universe has always existed and that it has existed only for a finite time. Faced with equally valid arguments to contradictory conclusions, what is one to do? Sorensen gives a historical account, ranging from the Greeks to Quine, of how various philosophers have coped with paradoxes. Among the paradoxes discussed are the liar, the surprise examination, Goodman's new riddle of induction, and the sorites, an argument with many premises and a single conclusion, on which Sorensen is one of the world's leading experts. He explains difficult material, such as Cantor's diagonal argument and Wittgenstein on following a rule, in a way that is both easy to follow and illuminating. Sorensen's book gives readers an excellent account not only of paradoxes but also of the whole course of philosophy. Highly recommended.-David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Because paradoxes show great minds at once at their most inspired and befuddled, a book like this makes an excellent introduction to philosophy in general. By treating how different thinkers deal with a problem, Mr. Sorensen provides a sort of whistle-stop tour of Western thought."--New York Sun

"High-interest material for recreational philosophers."--Booklist

"One of the most enjoyable books I read this past year, though I don't share Sorenson's conception of philosophy. To fully appreciate the book--and to adequately assess it--you would need to be a philosopher, which I am not. But for general readers with a strong interest in philosophy, it's an unbeatable bedside book, witty and stimulating if taken in small doses."--John Wilson, Christianity Today

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199728572
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
12/04/2003
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,286,973
File size:
1 MB

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