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‘Huh?’ for a paradox

02-12-2019 I believe that a paradox arises mainly in your thinking: an imagination or reasoning that is not true. That's because you don't know or don’t understand something, but sometimes it's a stupid reasoning. Often it is just not true.


Paradoxes have been made up as a style figure, as metaphors. Allegories in myths and sagas are entertaining because of the paradoxes. In the film 'Back To The Future', Marty threatens to disrupt the early relationship between his parents – which would not lead him to be born, an ultimate paradox. However, the cosmos has no paradoxes and if something seems paradoxical, it is because you say it as a paradox.

Tricky is a paradox that arises when something goes against a conviction. For example, you help someone cross a busy street and the person then blames you. That doesn't make sense. After all, we belief that someone is grateful when we help.

The sting in the paradox

In the Dutch newspaper (Trouw 30-3-2019) stands a poignant story of a woman who is happy in a forced marriage. That's a paradox until you read the article. The sting is you don't know something. Another example is the paradox that more market forces are causing less competition. That sounds illogical, but you already feel like you don't understand something here. In fact it is quite understandable: too much market forces lead the big players to take over the little ones. Too much of good leads to paradoxical effects. Just like too many medicines doesn't lead to healthier people. And Queen: “Too much love will kill you.”

All Cretans

The textbook example of a paradox is the Cretan who claims that all Cretans are liars. Which can't be right because, if it's true, this Cretan himself can't be Cretan and if he is, not a liar. Nice, such a paradox.

Paradox detox

Paradoxes are useful when they make you think. But then you should, preferably by disproving them. Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is it true? Isn't it fantasy, generalization or a bias?
  2. What exactly is it that you don't understand? How can you find out?
  3. How can you say the same thing in a way that it does make sense?
For example, the lady who was angry because you helped her cross. This was true, but you didn't understand why that person was angry. A matter of just ask. The person you helped cross didn't want to go across the street at all. Not a paradox.
The woman who had to get married is happy. What do you mean? She was deprived of her freedom!. It's true, you can read the story in the newspaper, taking the sting out of the paradox. It was a difficult start but the crisis has been overcome. And that's where the best relationships often come from. You will believe this. Finally, the Cretan: first and foremost an major generalization, untrue, a made-up paradox. It's fun to think about, but it's just nonsense.


Paradoxes produce nice stories, they are especially useful when you deal with them critically. Calling a claim a paradox is not an explanation, it is asking for an explanation. A paradox can expose a mistake. Conflicting legislation leads to paradoxical directives that cannot be followed. That's true, well understood, and you can't say it makes any more sense. That's crying out for solutions. Just right.
A paradox is a trigger for a strong intellectual emotion. Namely, "Huh?". "Is that true?


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