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Many people use the words paradox and contradiction in the same way, but there are subtle differences between them.
A paradox defies logic and expectations.
A contradiction is something that contradicts itself, meaning it says something is true, then says the same thing is false.
In this article, we will examine the differences between contradictions and paradoxes and look at some examples to help you use them in your own writing.
A paradox is a self-contradictory statement or argument. Paradoxes often reveal a previously unknown truth or a deeper truth because, despite being contradictory, a paradox can still be true.
A paradox can be as short as two words, such as “only choice,” “deafening silence,” and “jumbo shrimp.” Or a paradox can be a full sentence, for example, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”
A contradiction is a statement, idea, or situation that contradicts itself. It often involves two assertions that cannot logically exist simultaneously.
An example of a contradictory statement is, “I don’t have any pets, but I’ve always had a dog.”
An example of a contradictory idea is, “I’ve also thought radio actors were silly, but I want to be one when I’m older.”
Finally, an example of a contradictory situation is a violent law being imposed in order to create peace.
Difference Between Contradiction and Paradox
A contradiction contains antithetical yet interrelated elements that are impossible and cannot be true. A paradox is something that can neither be true nor false.
Luckily, there is an easy trick you can use to tell the difference. Ask yourself, “Can I create arguments against this statement?”
If the answer is yes, then you’re facing a contradiction. With a contradiction, you can use logic to prove the statement is false.
If the answer is no, then you’re facing a paradox. Paradoxes can be equally true and false, so applying logic is not helpful.
Paradox vs Contradiction Examples
The best way to learn how to use a figure of speech is to see it used in sentences. So here are a few examples of contradictions and paradoxes.
Here are some well-known examples of paradoxes.
This sentence is false.
It appears that all is not as it appears.
You have to be cruel to be kind.
Can God create a stone that is so heavy he cannot lift it?
This is the beginning of the end.
Here are some examples of contradictions:
You cannot claim to be too unwell to go to school but well enough to go to a party.
I’m so confused, and yet I understand clearly what you are trying to do.
I am opposed to you going out, yet I also don’t want you to stay in.
The point is that I have no point.
I love my philosophy course, but I hate philosophy.
The president promised to improve the educational system when he came into office. However, one of his first acts was to reduce the education budget by 4%.
My teacher showed us how to find the answer to a math problem, but then walked us through the opposite solution the next day.
We know that dark matter makes up approximately 85% of the matter in the universe, yet we don’t have concrete proof it exists.
Paradox vs Contradiction Conclusion
So remember, if you’re dealing with a statement or situation that is clearly untrue, it’s a contradiction. If the statement is both true and false in equal measures, and it’s making your head spin, it’s probably a paradox.