Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not the Monster

1. The chair is blue.
2. The chair is not blue.

That seems like a textbook contradiction, does it not? But does a contradiction occur simply because a positive statement has been stated negatively, or vice versa? Not necessarily. Consider the following example:

1. Frankenstein is not the monster.
2. Frankenstein is the monster.

The first statement is true because anyone who is even a little bit familiar with Mary Shelley’s novel knows that Frankenstein was not the name of the monster, but the name of the doctor who created the monster. But the second statement is also true because it’s utilizing the word “monster” in an alternative and poetic sense. Dr. Frankenstein is the one who is actually responsible for the evils and sorrows that occur throughout the story. And in that sense, Frankenstein is the monster.

So in different ways, Frankenstein is both monster and not-monster without any contradiction. This is why the law of non-contradiction says that a thing cannot be A and not-A in the same way.

And this principle is also relevant to certain so-called “contradictions” in Scripture, like Proverbs 26:4–5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

I’ve written more about these verses here.

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