Sorites Paradox

Sorites Paradox

What is it?

The Sorites Paradox is a philosophical puzzle that arises from the unclear definition of terms that rely on gradation or vagueness. The paradox asks how small a change needs to be to a thing before it can no longer be considered the same thing.

The Sorites Paradox, also known as the paradox of the heap, is a philosophical puzzle that highlights the problem of vague concepts and the challenge of defining precise boundaries for them. The word "sorites" comes from the Greek word "soros," which means heap. Here's a simple example to illustrate the concept:

Imagine you have a heap of sand composed of 1,000,000 grains. The Sorites Paradox asks the following question: At what point does the heap of sand cease to be a heap if we remove one grain of sand at a time?

Let's break it down step by step:

  1. Start with the heap of 1,000,000 grains of sand. It's reasonable to consider this a heap.
  2. Remove one grain. You now have 999,999 grains of sand. It's still a heap, as removing just one grain doesn't seem to make a significant difference.
  3. Continue removing grains one at a time. At each step, it feels unreasonable to claim that removing just one grain changes the collection from a heap to a non-heap. However, when you reach the point where there's only one grain of sand left, you can't reasonably call it a heap anymore. The paradox arises from the fact that there's no clear boundary or specific number of grains at which the co ...