This ain’t mysticism; This is plain sense!

These statements are actually explainable, even though they’re about “unexplainable” things; It is sort of like epistemology: Studying how we know what we know, what’s valid in what we know, and so on.

Whether my explanation here will actually be understood, though, is an entirely different matter!


The first thing is the word “Paradox.”

I’ll define it here as “Something that strongly appears to contradict itself, but doesn’t really, and it’s just a matter of complexity and subtlety.”

SelectivelyOpenMinded, for example, is paradoxical. “How could you be selectively OpenMinded? Doesn’t selective mean that you’re actually ClosedMinded, because you’re picking and choosing?” This is something that appears to contradict itself, but it doesn’t really. The key is in seeing the subtleties and complexities.

For example, if you are truely open minded, then you will listen to everything. But who listens to everything? We walk past the La Rouche guy, we ignore the televangelist on TV, and so on. We’re ClosedMinded. If we were OpenMinded all the time, we couldn’t get any work done. (And so on, and so forth.)

So SelectivelyOpenMinded is paradoxical, on the surface. But when you look into it, it makes sense.

When you find a paradox, you can delve into it, and understand it. Perhaps your surface understanding is all wrong. Perhaps the paradox itself is flat out wrong. Perhaps you can understand the thing mathematically. There are a number of ways of resolving paradoxes, and they can always be resolved.

The thing to do when confronted with a Paradox, really, is to delve.


Context, Interpretation, and Exasperation.

Words are clumsy instruments.

Just above, I said, “The thing to do when confronted with a Paradox, really, is to delve.” But what if that’s the wrong thing to do? What about the situation where the paradox you face is a trap or a trick, made to bind you to a spot, make you figure out a puzzle, while the other guy reaches behind you to pull out your wallet?

In that case, the words I just expressed are all wrong!

Further, what if you simply don’t care? What if resolving the paradox is meaningless to you? Then you just need to skip it!

So, what does that make my advice? What’s that mean about the sentence I wrote above? Is it all just a bunch of hooey?

Whenever we see Paradox, should we just turn around and run?

No, no, and no. I’m communicating a thing. I’m communicating a large thing, a complex thing. It’s a real thing. But the given expression does not adequately capture it.


MichaelCrichton? has the best explanation at the end of his book, “Travels.” It’s the best description I’ve seen to date, on the ParadoxOfExpression.

He tells the story of an author, writing about a character. Here’s a re-rendition of his telling.

“There’s a man named Bob.”

Is his name always Bob? What does God call Bob? Maybe God has a different name for Bob? What’s his last name, or is that his full name?

“There’s a man named Bob John.”

Was it always that name?

“There’s a man born Joel John, but he changed his name to Bob John when he was 20.”

20 what?

“There’s a man born Joel John, but he changed his name to Bob John the day he turned 20.

What time?

“There’s a man born Joel John, but he changed his name to Bob John, midnight, the day he turned 20.”

What’s it mean to “change your name?” Could it be that he legally changed his name to Bob John? What about all his old friends- did they stop calling him Bob, or did some of them, and family in particular, call him John still?

“There’s a man born Joel John, but he had his name changed at the registrars office to Bob John, in a statement that was legally binding on midnight the day he turned 20, even though his friends and family still called him Joel for a while longer.”

Hmm…. Well, I’m sure Sue will be very angry when she hears this. (Correction is in order.)

“There’s a man born Joel John, but he had is name changed at the registrars office to Bob John, in a statement that was legally binding on midnight the day he turned 20, even though his friends and family (minus Sue, and less than half of his friends) still called him Joel for a while longer. Sue is worthy of special note, because she encouraged him to change his name, after he expressed an interest, and was the first to call him Bob regularly, because she loved him.”

She loved him?

Understanding the Tao Te Ching

Now this is the frame in which we understand:

Yes? You see? Because we can keep digging in and in, and finding fractal-like problems with what was expressed before.

Does it mean that “nothings real?”

No, of course not.

So what’s this naming about?

So we can see that this is not just poetic text that “sounds mysterious and deep,” but that it’s actually explaining ideas that we can understand through thought, dialog, and experience (ThinkTalkAct.)

Don’t think that the TaoTeChing is just a bunch of PoeticReasoning – esoteric words without meaning, or with incomprehensible meaning– it’s not like that. It may be (may be) guilty of WordMagic, but it genuinely says things. Some of them I agree with, some of them I disagree with. It holds positions, though it recognizes the structure of those positions. Read, see if it makes sense, and if it does, good, if it doesn’t, just skip it for later.

The Tao Te Ching is ultimately rational, with all the ups and downs of that word. Note that “rational” doesn’t mean “completely logical.” The connection between being rational and being logical is weak, not strong, to the chagrin of Objectivists everywhere (see: ThinkingGoo, ConservationOfRationality and: rationality is based in the UnderCut, Defeasible Reasoning, not Logic, which can only play a supporting role.)

Parable of the Character, "To Understand"

Another interesting thing is embedded in the Chinese Character, “To Understand.”

It’s a knife cleaving a whole into two parts. It’s basic discrimination.

“Naming” is like this, though it’s a shame we can’t more accurately discriminate with each word.

What we end up doing is constructing whole collaborative framework theories, whole new languages, our TheoryBuilding, with very specific meanings for metaphors and words and syntaxes and so on, just so we can get very precise– sharpening the knife blade, so to speak.

Of course, it’s never perfect, and, IdeasLikeStarsAndSymphonies, being what they are, you can always find an entire universe of meaningful bluntness at the tip of the sharpest edge. What I mean is that, no matter how fine your distinctions, there is always something, something that may well turn out to be important, that was overlooked, and mis-stated. And scientists and philosophers can sit around that “something important,” and make up a bunch of theories about what the situation really is. So this is how a “universe” can come from the microscopic nano-meter bluntness at the edge of your exacto knife. That’s just the way of things.

If you don’t know it, it’s simply that you haven’t been talking with people enough, though I suppose I could construct, or more likely, someone has already constructed, a gigantic library of books to explain just this one concept.

Oh That It Would End: The Paradox of Institution

Unfortunately for us, the story does not end with words and passages in books.

The paradox deepens to all institutions of thinking, such as CommunityWiki.

“Democracy” is a simple principle on the face of it: “The people are in power!” Sadly, this idea is vastly complicated when we look at it in any detail. The second face of Democracy, “We vote!” …begins to show signs of fray. The thing really starts to unravel, when you ask, “But how do we decide what to vote on?” By that point, it should be clear that “Democracy,” for whatever it may be worth, is a deep mystery.

We then find people who dig in, like the tanks in StarCraft?, burrowing themselves into the ground so that they can make heavy artillery shots. Axiomatic set theory makes an entrance, and we get enormous constructions of thought, branded “simple” by the gleeful creators, (should “simple” be in the ZeitGeist, as it is today,) which seek to define Democracy.

Sadly, just as we are assured that there are entire blunt universes found at the tip of the sharpest sword, so to do we discover the fractal abuses found within our “pure” systems of thought.

Do keep in mind, that none of these paradoxes are problems of Reality. Reality continues to exist, and to cohere, and logic is the ultimate definition of a world or a universe. The definition of “World” is “something that is logically cohesive.” You may have funky rules of logic, but ultimately, logic and your axioms is what decides what goes in a universe, and what goes out. (This may be too much for this simple discussion, though.)

Communication is Never Finished

The universe of mind is Chaos. We think X, (an array of neural patterns that we cannot quite articulate,) we say Y, (since we cannot speak neural patterns,) and they interpret Z (some other array of neural patterns, with different associations and conclusions and so forth.)

We can tighten the binding between X and Y and Y and Z, by deep investigation, deep theory work, long meetings, establishing shared experiences for hooking, and so on.

But in the time that we’re tightening the bond between X-Y-Z, we have neglected all attention to A-B-C, a different chain of communication.

Relevance is always changing, with the ZeitGeist. What was important 10 years ago, nobody cares about today. The old bonds must loosen, and new bonds must be created.

Communication is never finished.

Semiotic Warfare, and Real Warfare

It sometimes happens that a message must be delivered to a target mind expediently. The target mind is resisting the message, or has people in front of him or her that are resiting the message for him or her.

We are now in the world of Semiotic Warfare.

There are all manner of hill and crevice on the path.

There are walls, and there are secret back door ways, and underground tunnels. There are traps and spikes and deaths, and you can see the skeletons of the bodies of messengers past.

“Couldn’t you just be a little more OpenMinded, we ask the gate keeper, hoping for an audience with the target womb our message seeks to impregnate.

People build agreements, organisms, living systems, and those living systems are sources of Power– sources of Accomplishment, but also Oppression.

How is it that they are sources of Oppression?

Because somebody had a good plan, and they wrote down the plan, and it involved a guy named Joel, who changed his name to Bob, and he changed his name when he was 20, but it was only at midnight and while one friend (at least) agreed early, there were others that didn’t until later, and… …we forget a detail.

There was something important (though small) that we meant to include, but the detail was lost, and the oppression happened, and the Oppressed went on a trip to make sure it never happened again, and went to kill the author, to make sure that such an oppression never happens again.

People can argue, with good cause, day and night over the inclusion exclusion or transformation of a single word. There was a limit to the number of words that could be used, see, because the journal accepted only pages of ye long and there was limited time, and so the choice of which babies would be sacrificed had to be made.

Semiotic Warfare, and the Consequent Material Warfare, is a simple reality of our days.

If there’s a way to end material warfare, that’s good, and we should do it. It may well require that we control the minds of all people in all places to do so, though, and the gatekeeper of that control system, wouldn’t that be a good target of a semiotic warfare agent? If you wanted to make sure all people were saved by faith in Jesus, or Mohammad, or the Perfect Axiomatic Set Theory & Basis Set, wouldn’t it be best to control their minds by the same vehicle that successfully prevents us from harming one another?

The video games are always about the beast that was locked away for 1,000 years by a seal, and the 4 crystals / board positions that held the seal in place, but that are now lost – and with good reason. It’s a perfect description of our reality. Should the president die and his football destroy, the 3 generals (divided up to necessarily separate theaters) can assemble their third-piece codes to unlock The Weapon needed to protect us from The Evil, whatever it may be. It can of course be subverted.

See Also


I suspect that these are not new ideas to most of the people on this wiki.

Regardless, I wanted to set up the LinkLanguage, and I wanted to be able to refer to the ParadoxOfExpression.

MichaelCrichton?’s telling at the end of Travels is much better, but doesn’t go on to talk about institutions.

I have two questions that find their roots (I believe) in the ParadoxOfExpression.

One of the questions I have is:

  • Can we reach stable cognitive closure?

That is, can we communicate clearly, despite all the sources of interference, mixed contexts, attempts at subversion, and so on?

The accomplishments of Science is a sign that the answer is “Yes!” That said, scientific discovery is always under attack: Sciences “victory” is by no means complete, and I know of a number of paths to undermining it, that can work perfectly well, should the weapon be held. (See: WhatKnowledgeDeservesTrust.)

A second question I have is:

  • Can we live peacefully, safely, and yet boldly and free?

Why is this question here? What’s it have to do with the ParadoxOfExpression?

Because even our material fights about who owes what to whom have as their combatants people who have ideas of what is right and what is wrong and whom owes whom what.

In their minds, the huge fat land owners of socialist comic jest, with top hats and cigars, do not believe that they are wrong. Rather, they believe that they are wealthy for just reasons, and that it is right.

Who can change their mind, though? This is a problem of expression and belief and the exchange of ideas, and so on. They may articulate now and then, but there is the ParadoxOfExpression, and the inability to communicate. When the problem cannot be met verbally, and the questions (ThePowerOfQuestions) continue to mount, then the tension expresses itself violently, with material weapons and so on.

Carl Jung is right: All wars are psychic events. Far from being immaterial, it actually matters a whole heck of a lot what people think. Going to war is the most primitive and basic way we know of, to transform consciousness. The ParadoxOfExpression is a psychic reality, not something that necessarily has to do with pencils and books, but even at the level on the neuron.

This said, it is my hope that there is a way that we can live peacefully, safely, and boldly and free. (Personally, I will not take the one, unless I also have the other.)

I have my eyes on the ParadoxOfExpression, though. It is perhaps possible that cognitive closure is not sufficiently stably possible, and that we cannot live both peacefully and freely. If that is true, there are consequences.

We can perhaps safely (perhaps) discard reasoning like a scientist, and argue like a lawyer that cognitive closure is possible, and safe freedom can be achieved. We may want to discard a ThirdPosition, since we are squarely in the domain of MetaPhysics, and Faith & lawyer-like reasoning can help establish Reality.

I probably shouldn’t be saying so much at once; This should probably be a collection of smaller pages.

  • A page that draws a chain link between the mental world of ideas, with the material reality of violence & war. Also explore limits of the idea. Link to Patrick Farley comics (e-sheep) that touch the theme, Metal Gear Solid, and that story written by the Canadian Quaker for the Canadian military.
  • Still need a page explaining how “Rationality is not Logic,” a popular misconception.
  • Need a further page still that talks about semiotic sabotage, and the resulting defence systems. Is this why we argue like lawyers?
  • The page TaoTeChing, linking to translations of the Tao Te Ching, NoLeader, this page, and anything else we may have said about the TaoTeChing.
  • Need a page on interactions between the intuited, and the formalized, and the border between the “unnamed” and the “named.” This has implications for the EthicsDiscussion. It also has interesting implications for CategoryReasoning, & AI discussions.
  • Segregate the conversation about what “Paradox” means, (perhaps ParaDox,) perhaps HelmutLeitner might help.
  • DefeasibleReasoning? is long overdue.
  • So is TheoryBuilding, for a rewrite. And, TheoryMatters?. No theory, no communication, no action, no change.
  • Further, an explanation of why we’re doing this, when there are probably books out there that explain all this stuff, in the library, is long overdue. Specifically, Theory must be (A) free, (B) easily available online, (C) easily referencable (LinkLanguage, LocalNames) (D) diagrammed, … …and so on. It is insufficient to say, “Oh, just go get this book from the library.” I’d rather spend 10 years recreating it, then demand that all readers go visit the library. Because I know they can’t or won’t.

I think this is a great page and goes a long way to delve into fundamental problems, I’m also concerned with and mentally working on.

A shared fundamental observation is that many interesting issues lead into paradoxical situations. I wrote about such situations in WikiIsParadoxical in the sense that paradoxical is not something that is a mental problem that is to be solved or an incorrect thought to be refined, but a natural dynamic situation of conflicting forces that are natural and even intrinsic to life. I think this is interesting because this means that rational thinking should not be thought to be based onto logic (and causality) primarily, as science usually assumes, but upon the more fundamental ability to deal with paradoxical situations.

Institutions are paradoxical because they strive to preserve a certain service to become independent from personal engagement and commitment. Institutions are then stabilized by the group or society, often by laws and get the necessary resources and protection. At that point the original service is not questioned anymore, it’s behind a protection shield. It is very difficult, almost a taboo, to ask “is school necessary” or “should school be designed differently” or ask similar questions about our “market economy” or “democracy”. Of course this makes institutions susceptible for inefficiency so that they do not provide the original service in the intended way. The primary rason for existance has become a second class goal that is not checked or questioned anymore. No-one acts on the problem whether schools really provide useful knowledge efficiently or not and whether there are alternatives. The institution of the katholic church does not embody the Christian belief primarily, but it acts as a global corporation on membership and economic scales.

The result of all this seems to be that there is no static truth. A statement in language like “matter is built from atoms” may be true, but it has only a meaning when one understands what “matter” or “atoms” might mean and where the limits of these concepts are. To go beyond that one must grow to experience, perceive, observe and judge individual situations dynamically, so that for example a more interesting statement like “I love you” may be filled with meanings from the “I”, the “love” and the “you”. Otherwise these are just words. And the meaning is not something to be learned in a mechanistic way but it is connected to three corresponding unfolding processes in this case.

I think that ChristopherAlexander provides the understanding for the unfolding process and together with KarlPopper a somewhat looser, refined scientific process can be defined (Popper’s original “hypothesis - test - falsification” seems too strict, too much focuses on natural science). There is a certain gap with respect to paradoxical thinking but it should be possible to bridge this to build a new rational basis that is (1) more relyable than the old one and (2) has not the esoteric touch of eastern philosophy which often tends to enjoy paradoxical situations for their own sake and so gets in a trap of stagnation in mystical reflection.

There is probably something like “the final paradoxon” or “paradoxon of paradoxons” or maybe “fairy-tale paradoxon” which means that the understanding of a paradoxical situation can not be refined by further reflection but can only be resolved by concrete individual action which could have been done without reflection based on emotional resonance just the same. This is the paradoxon of wisdom and naivety which seem so distant but are so near. This means that the wise men are often the fools and that the good-hearted don’t need much wisdom or knowledge to make the right decisions. It’s paradoxical that fairy-tales have always told this “final wisdom” if there is any. It means that you can’t “be wise” or “have wisdom” as a static property but that this is a dynamical property of individual situation assessment and action, each a new adventure of life.


Fairy Tales.

“It means that you can’t “be wise” or “have wisdom” as a static property but that this is a dynamical property of individual situation assessment and action, each a new adventure of life.”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

For better or for worse, (and it’s by no means clear to me which it is,) it was when one of the kids at the ClearWater school (a Sudbury school,) told me that he was reading Sandman, (a sort of “modern fairy tales,” but perhaps too detailed to be true to form,) of his own free will and interest, that it clenched for me, that I would send Sakura to the school. My parents and relatives are skeptical, but admit that Sakura is “practical,” and unusually (“too”) clever about ordinary situations and reasonings.

One could also interpret the biblical:

Matthew 18: “1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

in that direction. Because it is not entirely clear from the text what the “like little children” means. It seems paradoxical in itself. How should one? In what way?

If we assume this is about direct perception and deep resonance with the created world, trust and acting on inner feelings, instead of brain-controlled and ego-oriented rational thinking and reasoning, then it becomes logical and feasable. At least in the context of Alexander’s thinking and philosophy, although he never refers to religious, Christian or metaphysical concepts.


Define external redirect: StarCraft GeorgeMacDonald TheoryMatters MichaelCrichton DefeasibleReasoning

EditNearLinks: ChristopherAlexander KarlPopper ParaDox WikiIsParadoxical TaoTeChing