Category: Paradoxes

Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki

The Holocaust denial paradox

A curious thought appears whenever you hear someone deny the Holocaust. After a brief repulsion towards the denier, you start thinking: what if he (again, usually a he) is right? What if indeed the holocaust did not happen? No Jews were murdered (nay, massacred), and no gas chambers existed? What if it is all set up? And then something interesting happens. You realize that the person denying the holocaust is someone who would be on...

Pretty baby smiling

Low birth weight paradox

Unlike the previous posts (and most future ones), this paradox comes from statistical data and scientific background. Typically, the children of smokers are more likely to be born underweight than the children of non-smokers. That is why when you’re expecting, the doctors (and nurses) advise you to quit smoking. Research has also shown that low birth babies have a higher risk of child mortality. So far so good (or rather, bad). The paradox arises that children...

Courthouse

Protagoras vs. Euathlus, and some points on morality

As an ancient story has it, Protagoras once took his student Euathlus to court. Euathlus became Protagoras’ student with a promise to pay half of his tuition fees in advance, and the second half once he would stand in front of the jurors and win his case. Once he had learnt the skills, as fortune would have it, he could not take on any cases. Some sources say that he would not take any cases in order to...

Linear history vs. cyclical history

The ‘history repeats itself’ paradox – part 1

The popularized proverb ‘history repeats itself’ is somehow paradoxical. On the one hand, most if not all states in the world teach history in progressive terms (i.e. as linear); yet, majority of people actually believe that history repeats itself. How is that possible? We can put the question somewhat differently: If history repeats itself, we should be able to avoid the mistakes from the past; but we do not – and hence we say that history...

Darth Vader's Death Star

Ship of Theseus paradox

Imagine a ship made of wood. It is so old that each part has undergone some change. All the planks have been replaced; in fact, every single aspect has been replaced. The question many philosophers have bent their heads over, is whether this remains the same ship, and not in a boring philosophical way of what sameness means…. There are many variations to this paradox. Though technically speaking, this is not really a paradox yet,...

Heinlein signing autographs

The Grandfather Paradox – “I’m My Own Grandpaw!”

The grandfather paradox is quite straightforward, and has many varieties. In the simplest version: if you were to build a time machine and use it to travel back in time and kill your grandfather before your parents (usually one of them) were consummated, you wouldn’t have been born in order to build a time machine – and thus travel back in time in order to kill…. Now for the less straightforward version, and for this...

Psych, it goes without saying

Psych paradox – It goes without saying….

In an early episode of Psych (Season 3, episode 5 – Disco didn’t die. It was murdered!), the protagonist Shawn (James Roday) observes an interesting paradox: “Why people always say, ‘it goes without saying’, yet still feel compelled to say the thing supposed to go without saying”. That certainly is something to think about, especially seeing how often I use this expression (in serious writing as well as in the less serious manner of speech) – and...

Pinocchio's nose paradox

Pinocchio’s nose paradox

When Collodi wrote The Adventures of Pinocchio (original at Amazon), his intentions must have been to point out the link between truth and reality. It is in this sense that Pinocchio wants to be a real boy (as Disney aptly reminds us more often than it should have), but it is his numerous acts of deceit that prevent him (it?) from becoming one. This relation between truth and reality remains pertinent in much of 20th...

Everybody loves sex

All men are getting lucky all the time, and all the women are virgins

There is this old movie, I am guessing it was the 80’s, where the main character wakes up one morning, makes himself a cup of coffee (or tea), and gets to work (or maybe he was a student, which is work in some sense). In that first scene, we hear him think (or was it speak out loud?): “If all men are getting lucky all the time, and all the women are virgins; who is...