Contents Contact

The One Pillar Pagoda in ha Noi.

One Pillar

A deductive argument is a sort of threat, which takes the form: if you accept these premises as true, then you must accept this conclusion as true as well, on pain of self-contradiction.

Peter Strawson (1952)

...the pallid bashful untruths of yore were replaced by baldfaced outrages [of Trump]. They lost any compunction about openly contradicting themselves, and did so often, never more than with the insurrection of 6 January.

Rebecca Solnit (2022)


At the base of our world views we find sets of assumptions, when challenged we often resort to one crucial principle: that self-contradiction is unsustainable. If we accept this single pillar it becomes more likely that we can build the edifices of logic and mathematics that Strawson, and most of us, value. Solnit echoes this belief in contemporary politics. But these intellectual edifices, resting on one pillar, are a little more demanding than the pagoda. That the towers of rationality should depend on a single idea seems, at the least, quixotic. And where does this threat lie, is it a function of human language? Ba Hai in her beer bar in Tinh Gia. Is self-contradiction about language or thought?
Certainly outside language Man with beard sitting on bench, knees clasped, by water. Photographs seem to offer truth, but are they free of self-contradiction? we commonly draw and rub out, build and destroy, support and withdraw; such acts being far from worthless. Within language we can always rescue any contradiction with a story. Path between trees.
Which lie at the heart of the social construction of reality.
So where does logic’s pillar lie - within, or beyond, natural language?

At the beginning of his Introduction to Logical Theory on page 2 Strawson establishes this point. I remain convinced that somewhere he also says, disarmingly, that the assumption of the fundamental place of self-contradiction is essentially an act of faith. Should you know where this is I would be delighted to re-read it. Solnit’s article Republicans are laying a path back to power appeared in The Guardian on Thursday 6th January 2022. Her concern is Trump, but, on the matter of self-contradiction, other leaders are also available.

The one pillar pagoda is just beside the Hồ Chí Minh museum in central Hà Nội. Although regularly destroyed by invaders (most recently the French blew it up in 1945) it is thought that its form dates from 1049.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 8th January 2022

Murphy on duty to this site