CONTRADICTION (Principle, Law, or Axiom of)
CONTRADICTION (Principle, Law, or Axiom of), (contradico, to speak against;
It is usually expressed thus:—A thing cannot
be and not be at the same time, or a thing must either he or not
be, or the same attribute cannot at the same time he affirmed
and denied of the same subject. Aristotle laid down this
principle as the basis of all Logic, and of all Metaphysic (Metaph., lib. III. cap. III. sec. 3; lib. IX. cap. VII.; lib.
cap. V.; lib. IV. cap. III. sec. 13; lib. IV. cap. V. sec. 59 ; lib. III. cap
II. sec. 12; Analyt. Prin., II. 2, 53, B, 15).
Attacked in ancient times by the Sceptics and Epicurus, and in the Middle Ages
by the Scotists, it has been subjected by modern philosophers to a searching
scrutiny. Locke repudiated it as useless for the purpose of attaining real
knowledge, its only use being, according to him, didactic and argumentative (see
Essay on Human Understanding, IV. 7), Leibnitz (Nouv. Essays,
IV. 2, sec. 1)
vindicated its value and its innate character against Locke's attack.
Considering it insufficient, however, as the basis of all truth and reasoning,
he added the principle of the sufficient reason (q.v.). Kant thought this
principle good only for those judgments of which the predicate is implied in the
subject; or, as he called them, analytic judgments; as when we say, all body has
The idea of extension being implied in that of body, it is a sufficient warrant
of the truth of such a judgment, that it implies no contradiction. In synthetic
judgments, on the contrary, we rest either on à priori grounds of reason, or on
the testimony of experience, according as they are à priori or a posteriori.
Hegel considers it as the true expression of the procedure of thought at a
certain stage—that of the 'abstract' understanding. But the distinctions which
seem to understanding to be absolute are overcome by reason, which finds a
deeper unity in the identity of opposites; and thus, though all thought
proceeds according to the principle of contradiction, that principle is not to
be taken as a final statement of truth, but only as its provisional expression
(Logic of Hegel, Wallace, p. 189). Hamilton considers this principle, which he
calls the law of non-contradiction, equally primary with that of Identity, the
one being the positive and the other the negative expression of the same law
(Lectures on Logic, I. 81-2).— V. IDENTITY. Ueherweg, System of Logic, pp. 235
ff, transl. by Lindsay.