Four Fun Paradoxes


Swingin’ on the Gallow’s Pole

A certain city has an unusual law. All of those who want to enter must truthfully say why they are visiting. Those who lie are hanged. One day a man answers, “I have come to be hanged.” What will happen?

Let us assume the man is stating his business truthfully. If he was planning to visit the bars and see a prostitute he would be lying and therefore condemning himself to death. If he is telling the truth, then what shall happen? One can only be punished if one is lying, so he will be granted entrance and hanged. But for what reason? He did not say he would be convicted of a crime and executed because of it. He and the guard (who must be omniscient) know something we do not. The gap in the narrative does not mean there is any contradiction here. Maybe the man knows he is going to hang himself with the assistance of a friend? Maybe he wants to go out like David Carradine. In this scenario both people are completely certain of the traveler’s fate, ergo his proclamation is a prophecy he intends to fulfill. If he is lying his fate is the same. He is telling the truth in either case.

                   Lawyers, Logic and Money

An enterprising law professor named Maxwel teaches young lawyers the art of deceit erm…rhetoric. He agrees to waiver his fee if his student does not win their first case. Upon graduating one especially wily student decides to sue him for his tuition, reasoning he will not need to pay whether he wins or loses. In court Maxwell retorts, “if he wins the case he must pay me and if he loses he must pay me.”  Who is right? 

One can only imagine how long this case would draw out if two skilled sophists were allowed to argue.This knot seems particularly hard to untie since both men appear to be in the right, logically speaking. Of course a real court would recognize the absurdity of the lawsuit. This paradox is seemingly airtight in its ambiguity, but we see two layers. What comes first? The question then becomes whether the ruling will override the initial contract or not. Ordering the actions, like in a computer program, seems to be the best solution. The plaintiff wins and therefore does not have to pay, but he still has to pay because of the original agreement.

The Really Heavy Stone 

Can an omnipotent entity create a stone so heavy that he himself cannot lift it? 

   Hegel conceived of God as a being evolving towards perfection, of which all people and things are a part. This seems like a better explanation than most because it accounts for the quirks and imperfections we see in the world. In such a universe such an entity could be temporarily fazed by a too heavy stone but would eventually learn how to move it. Is such a situation the product of a God limited by time or a self-limiting God? Should he purchase a law of attraction course so he can fulfill his desires?  Can he make a burrito so spicy he cannot eat it? An omnipotent or nearly omnipotent can limit himself, and does in various mythologies for one reason or another, but presumably the postulator of this paradox presumes God is using his full powers. In which case we must say that the infinite is ever expanding, otherwise it would not be infinite or eternal. Theology, the preferred means of mental masturbation in the Middle Ages, was the medieval equivalent of postmodernism.

Murray Gell-Mann: He's Sexy and he Knows It

Murray Gell-Mann: Sexy and He Knows It

How to Get Slapped

1) Will you answer the next question in the same way you answer this one?

(Hopefully they say “yes”)

2) Will you sleep with me? 

This does not seem particularly paradoxical, but it is funny. In the right environment it would be a halfway decent line. If you have rapport this would be a funny way to seal the deal. If not, expect to be violently rebuked. Yes, there are some rather dimwitted people who are, for lack of a better word, sapiosexuals—as much or more so than those who claim to be. When confronted by people who’ve adopted this identity I show them pictures of Murray Gell-Mann and Freeman Dyson. Usually they refuse to sleep with either of these brilliant fellows. Thus proving the nonsensicality of sapiosexuality. Wanting one’s partner to be fluent in their native language and competent at using silverware does not warrant sexual rebranding.

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