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Paradox

PARADOX (from xapdJoJoc, 'contrary to received opinion') is a term applied to a proposition which is opposed to the general belief, or to one which appears at first sight to contradict some previously ascertained truth. The nature of a paradox and the distinction between it and a contradiction is clearly explained in the following sentence from Bishop Horsley's 19 th Sermon:- 'When two distinct propositions are separately proved, each by its proper evidence, it is not a reasun for denying either, that the human mind, upon the first hasiy view, imagines a repugnance, and may perhaps find a difficulty in connecting them, even after the distinct proof of each is clearly perceived and understood. There is a wide difference between a paradox and a contradiction. Both indeed consist of two distinct propositions, and so far only are they alike; for of the two parts of a contradiction, the one or the other must necessarily be false: of a paradox, both are often true, and yet, when proved ■" be true, may continue paradoxical. This is the necessary consequence of eur partial view of things. An intellect to which nothing should be paradoxical would be infinite. . . In all these cases there is generally in the nature of things a limit lo each of the two contrasted propositions, beyond which neither can be extended without implying the falsehood of the other, and changing the paradox into a contradiction; and the whole difficulty of perceiving the connection and agreement between such propositions arises from this circumstance, that by some inattention of the mind these limits are overlooked.' This word was also used by the Greeks for a remarkable saying. Cicero, in his work entitled 'Paradoxa,' illustrates six of these paradoxes, borrowed from the Greek stoics. These propositions are the following:—1, The honourable is the only good. 2, Virtue is sufficient for happiness. 3, All sins and right actions are equal. 4, Every fool is mad. 5, The wise man alone is free, and every fool is a slave. 6, The wise man alone is rich.

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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