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Studies in Logic


How to Sell a Contradiction: The Logic and Metaphysics of Inconsistency

Francesco Berto

There is a principle in things, about which we cannot be deceived, but must always, on the contrary, recognize the truth – viz. that the same thing cannot at one and the same time be and not be": with these words of the Metaphysics, Aristotle introduced the Law of Non-Contradiction, which was to become the most authoritative principle in the history of Western thought. However, things have recently changed, and nowadays various philosophers, called dialetheists, claim that this Law does not hold unrestrictedly – that in peculiar circumstances the same thing may at the same time be and not be, and contradictions may obtain in the world.

This book opens with an examination of the famous logical paradoxes that appear to speak on behalf of contradictions (e.g., the Liar paradox, the set-theoretic paradoxes such as Cantor’s and Russell’s), and of the reasons for the failure of the standard attempts to solve them. It provides, then, an introduction to paraconsistent logics – non-classical logics in which the admission of contradictions does not lead to logical chaos –, and their astonishing applications, going from inconsistent data base management to contradictory arithmetics capable of circumventing Gödel’s celebrated Incompleteness Theorem. The final part of the book discusses the philosophical motivations and difficulties of dialetheism, and shows how to extract from Aristotle’s ancient words a possible reply to the dialetheic challenge.

How to Sell a Contradiction will appeal to anyone interested in non-classical logics, analytic metaphysics, and philosophy of mathematics, and especially to those who consider challenging our most entrenched beliefs the main duty of philosophical inquiry.

Francesco Berto is Lecturer in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Venice, Italy. He has published articles in American Philosophical Quarterly, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Dialectica, Logique et Analyse, The European Journal of Philosophy, and the books La dialettica della struttura originaria [The Dialectics of the Basic Structure, Padua 2003], Che cos’è la dialettica hegeliana [What is Hegel’s Dialectics?, Padua 2005], Teorie dell’assurdo [Theories of the Absurd, Rome 2006] and Logica da zero a Gödel [Logic, from Zero to Gödel, Rome 2]

15 March 2007

ISBN 9781904987437

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