Labyrinths Of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles And The Frailty Of Knowledge

Poundstone, William

The problem of knowledge has intrigued many of the keenest minds of philosophy, science, and even literature for as far back as we have records. Philosophers call this study epistemology. A newer term, applied in more strictly scientific contexts, is confirmation theory. Each is a study of how we know what we know; an investigation into the business of drawing valid conclusions from evidence. Investigating the very process of knowing is different from investigating butterflies, nebulae, or anything else. Confirmation theory is largely a study of logic puzzles and paradoxes. To the uninitiated, this probably sounds as peculiar as a study based on mirages. By their nature, paradoxes expose the cracks in our structures of belief. Bertrand Russell said, "A logical theory may be tested by its capacity for dealing with puzzles, and it is a wholesome plan, in thinking about logic, to stock the mind with as many puzzles as possible, since these serve much the same purpose as is served by experiments in physical science." The past few decades have been a very fruitful time for paradoxes of knowledge. This book discusses a selection of recent paradoxes that are so significant and mind-bending that they deserve a place in the mental bestiary of any broadly educated person.

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