Sorites Paradox

(aka the paradox of the heap)

A pile of 10,000 grains of sand constitutes a heap; one grain does not. No problem so far, but it is impossible to put your finger on the number of grains at which a non-heap turns into a heap.

The paradox is an illustration of fuzzy logic, which recognises that although two categories may be quite clear at the extremes—e.g., heap/non-heap, good/bad, moral/immoral, tall/not tall; interrogation/torture, affection/abuse, punishment/abuse—there is no precise point at which one turns into the other; instead, there is a grey area, and dealing with these is one of the critical tests of judgment.

It is often assumed that truth is a black-and-white affair—something is either true or false, as in: children should be taught the difference between right and wrong. The Sorites paradox is an illustration of things being not so simple.

 

Related entries:

Slippery Slope, Truth.

David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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