The Answer's Questioned

Paradoxes are absurd puzzles that contradict themselves and hardly ever have one correct answer. They have existed in the world around us for centuries, and I believe it is important to know and learn about them since they may offer another new way of thinking. Some paradoxes are also completely mind-bending, making it truly amusing to read about them.

The barber's paradox, one proposed by Bertrand Russell in 1901 and published in 1903, drove the mathematicians of the time nuts. The barber's paradox is this: in a small town there's only one barber. The barber shaves everybody who can't shave themselves. Does the barber shave himself? If the barber were to shave himself, he would contradict the statement that he only shaves people who can’t shave themselves. But if he can’t shave himself, he’ll be contradicting the statement again, by not shaving a person who can’t do it themselves. As you see, there is no clear-cut answer to this.


Another paradox you may have heard about is this: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This paradox was proposed by Han Feizi and is called the irresistible force paradox. Both the object and the force always win and are said to be invincible, since if they weren't, a logical solution could have been derived. Since this phenomenon is only theoretical and can never take place in the real world, we cannot predict its outcome. They would either cause a devastating explosion, the likes of which we have never seen before, or simply nothing would happen.

The grandfather paradox is a time travel paradox written by physicist Joseph Polchinski. Imagine time travel was possible and you wanted to assassinate someone who lived a long time ago, and they turned out to be your ancestor. Would killing them cause you to stop existing and therefore prevent the murder? But if your ancestor is never murdered, you would still exist, allowing you to commit the murder. And it just loops and loops with no end.

These paradoxes teach us that our world isn't black and white, and that not everything has a simple logical explanation. There will be questions we can’t answer. Reality is complex; all of it may not be comprehensible to the human mind. However, the mind constantly tries to create a narrative of the world that makes sense to them.

Paradoxes are more than just mind games or a play on words. They show us the limit of common sense and reasoning, they show us that the universe is more complicated and that we have made sense of it in a way which allows perspectives to collide. The fact is, true human knowledge is nothing but an outcome of such contradictory opinions.