'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Monday, 8 August 2011

On Paradoxes

Extremes touch each other. Since the Cretan Epimenides said: 'All Cretans are liars,' philosophers have built a discipline out of such paradoxes. In trying to resolve this particular one Bertrand Russell said he was reduced to 'wandering the common at night and staring at a blank sheet of paper by day'. I don't know what he concluded but Samuel Butler decided one one thing was certain, which was that nothing is certain. Including that it is not certain, that nothing is certain. When I was in my thirties I knew so much as to be sure of nothing anymore and could hardly express an opinion of any sort for a decade. The same ambiguities apply to the visual paradox. Now you see it, now you don't. Possibilities are shown to be impossible, and impossibilities probable. Although some of us find conundrums exceedingly irritating, this could be because they pose an unwelcome challenge to our perceptual apparatus - they are not unimportant. They remind us forcibly that things are not necessarily what they seem. "Art is a lie,' Picasso slyly explained, 'that makes us realise the truth.'

The grey line in the image above is horizontal, by the way.


  1. I love this visual. From it I conclude that everybody has an uphill climb, even those who appear to be on the level. And may I also say that your text is strangely reminiscent of the writings of one Billy Ray Barnwell.

  2. Death & Taxes seem to be the only certainties in life, Most days something suprises me that is of course if we can refer to them as " Days" !

  3. I love these illusions. Favourites includeThe Spinning Dancer and the works of Escher.

  4. Or downhill. Aha, I detect a wee paradigm there Robert. I suspect I have the same one.

    Billy Ray Barnwell, ne of the great modern-day philosophers.

    David, yes, except that I just got a nice little refund. Not on death of course. The other certainty.

    I couldn't get her to spin the other way Geeb. Escher is great.

  5. Odd. I can get her to spin both ways. I feel a blog post coming on! I wonder if it's something to do with powers of concentration 'cos that's one big difference between you and I: you have excellent concentration and I have, well, less than excellent - a lot less!

  6. Um Geeb. Thank you for the compliment, but my concentration is very much elsewhere at the moment, and I'm almost certain I didn't give the dancer long enough to twirl the other way :-)

  7. Anonymous16.8.11

    ... and it doesn't really waver up and down... from no 60 and no 80!


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