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Paradoxes from A to Z [Paperback]

Michael Clark

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Book Description

20 Sep 2012 0415538572 978-0415538572 3

Paradoxes from A to Z, Third edition is the essential guide to paradoxes, and takes the reader on a lively tour of puzzles that have taxed thinkers from Zeno to Galileo, and Lewis Carroll to Bertrand Russell. Michael Clark uncovers an array of conundrums, such as Achilles and the Tortoise, Theseus’ Ship, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, taking in subjects as diverse as knowledge, science, art and politics. Clark discusses each paradox in non-technical terms, considering its significance and looking at likely solutions.

This third edition is revised throughout, and adds nine new paradoxes that have important bearings in areas such as law, logic, ethics and probability.

Paradoxes from A to Z, Third edition is an ideal starting point for those interested not just in philosophical puzzles and conundrums, but anyone seeking to hone their thinking skills.

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Praise for previous editions:

‘Self-contained courses in paradox are not usually taught as part of a philosophy degree. There is good reason for thinking they should be, and this book would make the ideal text for just such a course.’ – Times Higher Education Supplement

‘Clark’s survey is an entertaining junkshop of mind-troubling problems.’ – The Guardian

Paradoxes from A to Z is a clear, well-written and philosophically reliable introduction to a range of paradoxes. It is the perfect reference book for anyone interested in this area of philosophy.’ – Nigel Warburton, author of Philosophy: The Basics

‘An excellent book … Clark’s masterful discussion makes this one of the best general introductions to paradoxes.’ – James Cargile, University of Virginia, USA

‘Very well done … a useful complement to the existing literature.’ – Alan Weir, University of Glasgow, UK

About the Author

Michael Clark is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is editor of the leading journal Analysis, and has published widely in a variety of areas, including philosophical logic and the philosophy of law.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An ok introduction to paradoxes 23 May 2013
By A Philosophy Guy - Published on
This book simply is not a good introduction to paradoxes for those capable of actual thought. The treatment is brutally bad in spots, and does not convey a sense of the true recalcitrance of many of the paradoxes. As one example, take an entry in the book, Achilles and the Tortoise. Clark seems to take the line that since we can sum infinite series, there is no more paradox:

"So the sequence of partial sums is 1/2, 3/4, 7/8,... It goes on for ever, getting closer and closer ('converging') to 1. In this case 1 is the limit, and so the sum, of the series. Achilles gradually closes in on the tortoise until he reaches it."

What? The "explanation" continues by simply explaining limits. This is inane hand waving. Worse still, Clark cites Salmon's excellent collection of articles on Zeno's paradoxes (of which Achilles and the Tortoise is one). A main theme of many of the articles in Salmon's book is that limits do NOT dissolve the paradox.

In the same entry as Achilles, Clark discusses Thomson's Lamp, where the dominant line taken today is that there is no spatio-temporal continuity through an infinite sequence of tasks. "But the description of the supertask entails nothing about the lamp's state at one minute..."

So be it. But then in "explaining" Achilles, Clark writes, "Why then is Achilles at the limit, 1? ... The answer is that, if he is anywhere, as surely he is- he must be at 1."

The problem is the "as surely he is." This echoes Thomson's own, "Surely the lamp must be on or off." If there is no (spatio-temporal) continuity through an infinite task, as was just explained to dissolve Thomson's Lamp, how is there continuity in the case of Achilles? Put differently, why does a limit process tell us about Achilles but not the Lamp? That Thomson's sequence (0,1,0,1...) i.e. (off, on, off, on...) does not have a limit is precisely his point.

There may be a response involving discrete versus continuous tasks, or some other explanation. But the reader is not told this. In general, my problem with the book is that the treatment is superficial and often presents the paradoxes as though they no longer present problems, when in fact they do. An intelligent reader may also be left bewildered by some of Clark's "explanations."

I wonder for whom this book is intended. I think that this book would make a terrible introduction to paradoxes, but may very well serve as a good reference book for those already acquainted with many of the paradoxes.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on paradoxes! 17 April 2013
By Martin C Young - Published on
This the perfect book for someone who wants to actually think about paradoxes. Too often, people want to just sit back and marvel at the "mystery" or "unsolvability" of a supposed paradox instead of trying to understand what is actually going on. This is a book that sets out a selection of important paradoxes in plain language and analyzes each one in detail, laying out what is actually being said and what it all actually means, thus making what appears unsolvable clear, simple and understandable. This makes it a great book for anyone who enjoys deep thinking or who wants to learn how to think more deeply.
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