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Epistemic Principles

A Primer for the Theory of Knowledge


Nicholas Rescher

Epistemic Principles: A Primer of the Theory of Knowledge presents a compact account of the basic principles of the theory of knowledge. In doing this, Nicholas Rescher aims to fill the current gap in contemporary philosophical theory of knowledge with a comprehensive analysis of epistemological fundamentals. The book is not a mere inventory of such rules and principles, but rather interweaves them into a continuous exposition of basic issues. Written at a user-friendly and accessible level, Epistemic Principles is an essential addition for both advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology.
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Chapter 7. Plausibility Conflicts and Paradox


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In common usage a paradox is a contention that is contrary to the general opinion or “common sense.”1 A paradox on this basis would be an obviously anomalous claim that someone seriously propounds despite its conflict with what is generally regarded as true. Cicero thus sensibly observed that “what they, the Greeks, call paradoxes, are what we Romans call marvels.”2

Among philosophers and logicians, however, the term has come to acquire a more specific sense, with a paradox arising when plausible premisses entail a conclusion whose negation is also plausible. We accordingly have a paradox when a set of individually plausible theses {Pn, …, Pn} validly entails a conclusion C whose negation non-C is itself plausible. And this means that the set {P1, P2, … Pn, non-C} is such that all of its members are individually plausible while nevertheless logically inconsistent overall. So conceived, a paradox arises when a set of individually plausible propositions is collectively inconsistent.

Consider, for example, the proposition

(N) It is never correct to hold that something is never the case. (“Never say never!”)

To make manifest that an actual (logical) paradox is at issue here we have to elaborate the situation as follows: ← 30 | 31 →

(1) N is true.

(2) N is a statement of the “it is never the case” format.

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