Unthinkability, a Paradox!

A real paradox is that both of the following are true:

i)it doesn’t make sense to think there is anything unthinkable. Because if there were we would have to think it. So it seems there is no clear thought associated with “unthinkable” — or what amounts to the same thing, the “unsayable”.

ii)we know in the case of specific individuals there is nothing wrong –it makes perfect sense — to think there is something they are unable to think — they’re too dumb, or unimaginative, or limited by culture or history.

How can (i) and (ii) both be true? How can the unthinkable make sense to think (or say) and not make sense?

Sometimes people try to avoid (ii) and just affirm (i) saying that the specific limitations of specific people don’t matter, because we are discussing what is thinkable tout court — for any thinking being. But this doesn’t really work because each of us is an individual, contextual, limited person, so our sense of what is thinkable tout court is limited.

Yet there are plenty of limitations that we can get into and get out of, even though while we are in them we can’t think our way out of them. For example suppose I want people to pay attention to how humble I am. I know that this is wrong — if I’m humble I shouldn’t want them to pay attention to my humility. And yet I want it!

I can even want I myself to be humble, and be proud of my humility, and recognize that, and be proud of myself for recognizing it, and at the same time be ashamed.

I can tie myself in these 4 dimensional knots!

And the way out, actual connection can seem impossible. How can I, the narcisssist who is proud of him being aware of his narcissism, actually connect? Won’t the other person just be a toy or puppet I play with in my narcissistic mirror box?

It can seem impossible, but it isn’t impossible. It’s just unthinkable.

Like the idea that the greatest gift you can give another person is to accept love. It seems like a crazy paradoxical idea, but in real life it’s not so hard.


2 thoughts on “Unthinkability, a Paradox!

  1. I think you’re onto something about accepting love. We think of giving love as a gift, but it really isn’t, at least in principle: we love people because they are worthy of our love and, often, have interacted with us in ways that earned our love. Accepting love is a more indirect gift: “What you have offered me is precious. My world is better with you in it.” Can we accept love without also giving it? I’m not sure. It seems to me that seriously to accept love is one of the highest forms of respect for the person giving it.

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