In continuation of Two competing theories that are logically inconsistent my second question is there can be a theory/framework which can be interpreted in many mutually contradictory but simultaneously correct ways ?

I was reading a passage from Gita 'This aspect of Gita is closely related to the fact that Krishna is totally spontaneous and multidimensional. His philosophy is not straight-jacketed to a particular formalism of thought or logic and, in fact, Gita has very little of formal description of a philosophical structure. This is unlike Upanishads or Yoga-Sutra which — in order to be concise, clear and logical — need to follow a sharp, mono-dimensional, track. Shankara will see Advaita in Gita while Ramanuja will see Dvaita and you can see something else. Krishna has such fullness that Gita can be interpreted in many — mutually contradictory but simultaneously correct — ways; in this spirit, it is very close to Zen'

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    Mutually contradictory and equally predictive, sure, "correct" is in the eye of the beholder. Here is Dawid on string theory having empirically indistinguishable (dual) formulations that "differ in characteristics which lie at the core of any meaningful ontology of an external world. They differ in the shape of space-time and they differ in form and topological position of the elementary objects." His conclusion is that both, and realist ontologies generally, while practically and conceptually useful, are fundamentally misguided and "incorrect".
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 13 at 10:39
  • "form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form" - from the Heart Sutra
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 13 at 12:04

7 Answers 7


It is a characteristic of the Bhagavadgītā to make so many different, mutually contradictory statements. From the beginning the text occupies all key-concepts and traditional Hindu values. They are all governed by Kṛṣṇa, the hero of the text: Karma yoga, Jñāna yoga, Bhakti yoga - these different and mutually incompatible paths to mokṣa are all taken over by Kṛṣṇa.

He speaks with the authority of one of the highest gods of the time, he even presents himself as the god Viṣṇu. All teaching is wrapped into the promise that the divine Kṛṣṇa loves his followers and will help those who surrender.

The text starts with a remarkable questioning of the social rules of Hinduism. But Arjuna, who points to the dreadful consequences of these inconsistent rules in the imminent war of succession, is silenced by the scary revelations of Kṛṣṇa as the creator, law-giver and Lord of the world.

The text can be read as a plea to all Hindus to become devotees of the Kṛṣṇa religion. Therefore the Gītā attempts to collect and to embrace all traditional Hindu value-laden ideas – apparently the result must be inconsistent: Many mutually contradictory but not simultaneously correct teachings.

Aside: Possibly a candidate for your question

"is there [...] a theory/framework which can be interpreted in many mutually contradictory but simultaneously correct ways?"

are the different interpretations of the mathematical formalism of quantum theory. Also here I do not expect that all interpretations are correct.


You mean something like this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant

Where all the blind men come away with a different interpretation of what an elephant is, the interpretations are mutually contradicting, but neither of them is lying or making unreasonable assumptions.


Yes, yes, and yes, because correctness is a value, not a fact. People make a choice on the standards of what is correct, and therefore choose what is correct often on the basis of what benefits them. In analytical philosophy, three subjects come to mind quickly and are relevant to embracing this reality, which in a significant way reject the law of non-contradiction.

The first of those is dialetheism (SEP). Dialetheism is a way of approaching logic that makes contradiction a non-issue. From the article:

A dialetheia is a sentence, A, such that both it and its negation, ¬A, are true. If falsity is assumed to be the truth of negation, a dialetheia is a sentence which is both true and false. Such a sentence is, or has, what is called a truth value glut, in distinction to a gap, a sentence that is neither true nor false.

A second is non-classical paraconsistent logic which is closely related to dialetheism but broader. It is weaker than classical logic because it restricts claims in a lesser way regarding logical consistency. From the article:

A paraconsistent logic is an attempt at a logical system to deal with contradictions in a discriminating[clarification needed] way... The study of paraconsistent logic has been dubbed paraconsistency,3 which encompasses the school of dialetheism.

Third, underdetermination of theory is the idea that our theories can be equally true, but inconsistent in at least a logical appraisal. In radical forms, theories are thought to be entirely incommensurate from a semantic perspective. An easy way to understand this is that two models of the world may be mutually exclusive, but both readily useful in describing the world. From the WP article:

In the philosophy of science, underdetermination or the underdetermination of theory by data (sometimes abbreviated UTD) is the idea that evidence available to us at a given time may be insufficient to determine what beliefs we should hold in response to it.1 The underdetermination thesis says that all evidence necessarily underdetermines any scientific theory.2

So, taken as a whole, the last 100 years have admitted a great number of inroads to rejecting classical notions of logic, reasoning, and rationality as objective and independent of the thinker and her values. Certainly other philosophical systems have long recognized what analytical philosophers now accept. There are may bases for concluding that ideas may be mutually contradictory but equally true from the level of the proposition (dialetheia) to the system of logic (paraconsistency) to the entire theory itself (underdetermination). Any other reading of logic and philosophy, at least in the analytical tradition, is inadequate.


can there be a theory/framework which can be interpreted in many mutually contradictory but simultaneously correct ways ?

It depends what we use "correct" to mean...

If we use "correct" to mean true of reality, then any two contradictory interpretations of the same theory cannot possibly be both correct. At least one of them will be wrong.

If we use "correct" to mean consistent with what we believe, then there may be two people, each with their own interpretations of the same theory, such that their interpretation is consistent with their own beliefs, and therefore "correct", but contradictory to the interpretation of the other person.

Still, in the second case, one of these two interpretations will be incorrect in the first sense. This also means that at least one of the two people would have at least one false belief.


I think this concept is known as "the two sides of the same coin". Or, perhaps, a better metaphor -- a cylinder:

enter image description here

Looking from one angle, a person claims that they are looking at a blue square. The other person sees a red circle. They disagree, and yet both of their perspectives are valid.

Now, as a practical example, let's consider the concept of truth. On one hand, truth is personal, reflecting the individual's understanding of the world. On the other hand, we all try to understand the same world, leading, hopefully, to the shared understanding and shared truth. Now, imagine a person speaking of their knowledge (episteme). From that person's perspective, their knowledge must be everyone's truth. But from everyone else's perspective, what was shared was merely the person's opinion (doxa). Needless to say, this could lead to misunderstanding and conflicts -- and it often does (just ask Galileo -- or Jesus, or Socrates for that matter).

So to answer your question -- yes, many non-trivial concepts are multidimensional, making them appear contradictory from different angles. And that's why the key to mutual understanding is imagination -- or, specifically, our ability to put ourselves in the other person's shoes, to imagine how things may look from their perspective.


Contradictory claims cannot both be correct; A and not-A is always false. However, because false premises may lead to true conclusions, so may contradictory claims.

One place where one can find contradictory claims that point to true conclusions is when a person's access to thinking tools such as vocabulary or mathematical knowledge are insufficient to the task of making a correct claim.

For example, I might say of the observable universe, "You are at the center, and I am at the center, and there is no center, and wherever you go, there the center is."

This is a false statement if 'center' is consistently defined. But it does a pretty good job of telling you what you ought to predict about measurement. If you tried to isolate one of the claims as the true one, you'd lose the predictive usefulness of the contradictory set. Worse still if you dismissed the whole set as nonsense without learning enough math to replace it with an internally consistent model.

  • The center is wherever you are, therefore there is no center, we are all the center that is not. lol.... the wording, you chose was making me think of the Dalai Lama's favourite pizza... One with Everything, Good answer. The "center is here, is there, is everywhere" was a great visual example. Commented Feb 17 at 2:40

Mutually contradictory but simultaneously correct

This is the heart of special relativity. Two observers moving at relativistic speeds with respect to each other will disagree on the their measurements of the time and distance an object travels their reference frames. This manifests as length contraction and time dilation. But if each observer uses their measurements to calculate kinetic energy and potential energy, they will both agree that these values are conserved since the laws of physics are the same in both reference frames.

  • what about time
    – quanity
    Commented Feb 21 at 16:19

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