Interactive Paradox

please-ignore-this-message

If you are reading this, it is quite evident that you haven’t ignored the message that I had asked you to ignore. But you couldn’t have known that it asked you to ignore it, till the time you noticed it. When you had noticed it, there was no way of ignoring it. Even, if you wanted. What makes it even more intriguing is, if I really wanted you to ignore it, why did you notice it?

Welcome to the world of Paradoxes!

The history of our philosophy has a very special place for paradoxes. In fact, a number of philosophers believe that paradoxes are the fundamental building blocks of philosophy. Going by its most refined and simplified definition, a paradox is ‘an evidently false conclusion supported by seemingly sound argument’. Consider this,

“If you try to fail and succeed, what have you done?” – George Carlin

Paradoxes are all around us. It is a phenomenon that goes beyond mere play of words. Its scope is not restricted to scientific or philosophical theory, but pervades our everyday behavior and understanding of the world.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Indian nation; once famously quoted:

“Whatever you do will be insignificant.
But it is of utmost importance, that you do it” 

Going by traditional wisdom, our actions are generally driven by a direct cause and effect relationship. We believe if it is insignificant, it isn’t worthy of the effort.  If it important, it cannot be insignificant. It took a Mahatma to understand the collective impact of all those seemingly insignificant tasks that we ignore. 

Douglas Adams, the author of hugely popular author of “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” series, quotes in one of his books, 

“I refuse to prove that I exist, says god.
For proof denies faith.
And without faith I am nothing” 

I cannot but appreciate the wealth of wisdom that this seemingly paradoxical statement carries. To my mind, it truly puts an end to a debate fought fiercely between religion and science over the existence of god. 

Then there is the fairytale story of little wooden boy Pinnochio, who carried a curse that his nose would grow every time Pinnochio spoke a lie. Assuming such an arrangement was possible in the real world, what would have happened if Pinnochio ever said “My nose would grow now”. 

If it does, Pinnochio wasn’t telling a lie. Then why did it grow? If it does not, then Pinnochio was indeed telling a lie, and his nose should have grown as per the convention. 

The implications have a much larger bearing on the nature of human free will that is so frequently debated amongst philosopher, religions and scientists alike. 

Philosophy is held together by its questions, rather than answers. Paradoxes are the questions that suspend us between too many good answers. 

We would love to hear a few answers from you. Do share with us your perspective or add to the list any of your favouirate paradox.  I can promise you will walk back enriched after giving it all away!

One Response to Interactive Paradox

  1. Shashwat says:

    Kurt Gödel’s infamous “This statement cannot be proven”.

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