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Beyond the Limits of Thought Paperback – 31 Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2 edition (31 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199244219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199244218
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 518,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review from previous edition This book is a splendid tour de force, one which should be read by every philosopher... (Alan Weir, Philosophical Quarterly)

clever, resourceful, undogmatic, unpretentious, often sensible and usually clear over a wide range of issues (Timothy Williamson, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science)

highly entertaining and provocative... an engaging and instructive tour through some of the most perplexing features of our own conceptual finitude... (A. W. Moore, Times Literary Supplement)

Graham Priest combines a deep philosophical appreciation of fundamental logical issues with a marvelously informed reading of both the history of philosophy and contemporary texts. His work is ambitious and insightful... The book is an ambitious attempt to do important philosophical work across major borders - borders of the formal and philosophical, the historical and the contemporary, the Analytical and the Continental traditions. In [this] regard it is a resounding success. (Patrick Grim, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research)

Book Description

This is a philosophical investigation of the nature of the limits of thought. Graham Priest shows that the description of such limits leads to contradiction, and argues that these contradictions are in fact veridical. He explores the paradoxes of self reference, and provides a unified account of the structure of such paradoxes. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
Four limits of thought in particular will concern us in the book: the limits of the expressible, the limits of the iterable (the mathematical infinite), the limits of cognition, and the limits of conception. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By opus on 15 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I should not be reviewing this book, as a lot of it is simply beyond me. It is however extremely interesting and written in a lively style. I could not trace any typos in what is a beautiful paperback edition. The last chapter (added to this second edition) is a dust-up where the author takes on his critics from the first. I cannot see who comes out the winner, neither can I determine whether something can be and can not be. Perhaps it is better to merely acknowledge that language is unable to resolve certain paradoxes.

Apparently Bill loves Monica - now I am not sure about that.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
The One and the Many 18 Feb. 2004
By Mark Silcox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating and clearly written book of philosophy that deals with the problems that arise when we try to characterize the inherent limitations of human thought. Priest's position ("dialethism") is that in doing so, we inevitably contradict ourselves, and hence that the law of non-contradiction should be rejected.
Priest's argument here depends upon the crucial claim that a wide variety of apparent paradoxes in set theory, semantics, philosophical psychology and metaphysics exhibit a common structure, and hence require a "uniform solution." To the extent that his very wide-ranging and often insightful discussion of how these paradoxes have arisen in the writings of philosophers throughout history convinces one of this, dialethism does start to look awfully difficult to avoid. But in trying to describe this structure (which Priest refers to as the "inclosure schema," and finds identified most explicitly in the work of Georg Cantor), he ascends to such a high level of generality and abstraction that I found it difficult to swallow his demand for "uniformity." The crude system of classification that he uses to group together most other philosophers' attempts to resolve the relevant paradoxes without giving up on the law of non-contradiction reinforces this impression. He accuses so many different writers of using the supposedly lame strategy of "parametrization" that I simply have no idea what this word is supposed to refer to by the end of the book.
Nonetheless, Priest's work makes for exciting reading for anyone who thinks that analytic philosophy has been in the doldrums since the glory days of Quine and Davidson. Priest has a genuinely novel way of looking at the world. And his synthesis of logical rigor and historical sensitivity in the treatment of an extraordinarily diverse range of texts is rare indeed.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Get used to it: paradox and contradiction are inherent in human thought 29 May 2013
By Blaine Snow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Australian philosopher Graham Priest is the primary champion of dialetheism, a philosophical position that allows some contradictions to be true and is based on extensions of classical logic in ways similar to how Einstein extended Newtonian conceptions of physical truths. Priest argues that the classical Law of Non-Contradiction has too long held the western mind hostage and kept it from exploring other types of truth and developing other forms of logic such as paraconsistent logics. It is at the boundaries of human thought that these kinds of dialetheias or true contradictions arise most prominently.

In this volume Priest examines the boundaries of thought in four areas, 1) the limits of expression, 2) the limits of conception, 3) the limits of cognition (what can/can't be known), and 4) the limits of iteration (what can/can't be calculated, operated, i.e., the mathematical infinite). The book proceeds mostly historically, examining examples of the limits of thought in pre-Kantian philosophy such as Cratylus, Aristotle, Cusanus, Sextus, Aquinas, Leibniz, Berkeley, then explores the limits of thought in Kant's noumena, categories, and antimonies, and then Hegel's conceptions of infinity. Later Priest explores modern forms of mathematics and logic starting with Cantor, Russell, Ramsey, Zermelo, Von Neumann, then on into the limits of language with Frege, Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, and Derrida. Most of the chapters are readable by those with little or no experience with logical notation but some of the chapters (8-11) are rather technical. This second edition ends with three new chapters, one on Heidegger, one on Nagarjuna (co-written with Jay Garfield), and one on further reflections on dialetheism.

Priest sees these recurring contradictions at the limits of thought expressing a similar form and has developed what he calls the *Inclosure Schema* to describe their common structure. Priest concludes that throughout history human attempts to say the unsayable, to bring heaven down to earth (so to speak) have resulted in paradox and contradiction and, despite the many attempts to avoid, ignore, or get around them, they reappear later in new forms. The wise conclusion is to admit that some form of dialetheism is necessary for certain kinds of thought to proceed towards greater types of truth.

I'm not sure why Priest's work hasn't been discovered by more nondualist philosophers, those of us who are thoroughly comfortable with a worldview where human thought and reason are understood to be inherently bound by contradiction and paradox. If you are a Buddhist, Advaita, or Taoist philosopher, you are probably already very familiar with this territory and should be happy that western philosophers are slowly coming to understand what the philosophy of India has known for centuries: that the human mind is coextensive with conventional reality and truth in which all attempts to characterize ultimate-final truth [paramartha-satya], can only come up with paradox, contradiction, dualisms, oppositions, inconsistencies, incompleteness, and the like. Buddhist philosophy consistently employs paradox and contradiction in order to point out the limitations of the mind and conventional truth and point the practitioner's awareness to the ultimate truth that lies waiting free of all forms of mental grasping.

If there is one problem with Priest's project it is that there's little or no support for the kinds of methodologies that could confirm and support his dialetheist philosophy, namely the methodology of meditation. Philosophers of India have employed dialectical reasoning and argument together with meditation for centuries and have therefore developed a deeper and more complete understanding of the nature of the mind and consciousness. In meditation the limits of thought are revealed and confirmed in ways that conventional methods of argumentation, discourse, language, and conceptualization are unable to. Unfortunately however meditation is a long way from becoming a standard practice among western philosophers but it is catching on in the culture at large for other reasons.

Whatever your background, if you are a philosopher and are interested in the larger metaphysical questions of philosophy--God, infinity, the absolute, fundamental ontology, limits and boundaries, etc., Priest's book will delight you. I can also recommend Priest's other books Doubt Truth to be a Liar, In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent, and An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy).
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