The Paradox of Paradoxes


SMCC Small Group Leaders

Abigail McCoy, Secretary

There are many types of paradoxes in this world, which are directly defined as “a tenet contrary to the received opinion”, by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. In today’s society paradoxes and dilemmas are less common than they were in ancient times but it is still an interesting topic to cover. Many are confusing and technical but some really are food for thought in the world of philosophy.

Temporal Paradoxes, or dilemmas and paradoxes covering time travel and time inconsistencies, are always fun. Two of the most popular theorems include the Grandfather paradox and Hitler’s Murder; the Grandfather paradox was actually the basis of the popular sci-fi movie Back To The Future. The grandfather paradox states that if a person were to somehow travel back in time and murder their grandfather it would lead to their father or mother not being born and subsequently the person in question being born. So this is where it gets tricky, if the person hadn’t been born due to their grandfather being killed before one of their parents was born then they wouldn’t have been able to create the time machine to go back and kill the grandfather. It is a vicious loop of no end, the time traveler is born then kills the grandpa so they aren’t born so the grandpa lives and on and on again with no end in sight. The Hitler’s Murder paradox is also a quite popular form of a temporal paradox. If someone had been sent back in time to kill Hitler before he was famous how would they be able to know why they were doing this if they succeeded and he was unknown; it is slightly more confusing. If he is killed while he was unknown then no one knows of him in the future and therefore it is not needed to send someone back in time to kill him, thus preventing his death and creating the Holocaust.

The Liar Paradox is more common and a lot more simplistic. If someone says the sentence, “This statement is false” then is it really true even though it says it is false. The question may never be answered and many sub-versions of this same paradox exist but these are the basics.

The third and final paradox isn’t that well known but it does bring many questions into view with a splash of mythology. If the ship of Theseus replaced a single plank of wood, would it still be the same ship as it was previously? Of course, it still would be. And if piece by piece over time the ship was replaced would it still be the same ship even if the majority or all the original wood was gone? The answer is unknown. But on the other hand, if you took all the wood from the first ship that had been replaced and created the exact same ship with the original wood, would it be the same ship?

Philosophy and paradoxes have almost no grasp in society today but they are often fun to think about.