“Heaps” / Memorable Fancies #784

        The sorites paradox goes like this: How many grains of sand does it take to make a “heap” of sand? Whatever number you might offer, would removing just one grain suddenly make the heap no longer a heap? Or removing one more? And so on.

        Well, you say, perhaps “heap” is just a vague expression and doesn’t have any real meaning. Trying to make “heap” precise misunderstands the word.

        And yet, you will agree that one grain does not make a heap, and that ten or twenty thousand, piled up, do. Where does “not a heap” become “heap”? That’s the paradox.

        Philosophers offered one solution for this paradox, then another. By now, there have been many. A heap of solutions, perhaps. But if there were one solution fewer, …



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