Russell’s Barber Paradox and Liar Paradox; Essence of True Contradiction


There is a paradox attributed to Bertrand Russell that is quite puzzling for many decades now. It is known as Russell’s paradox which states that there is an isolated village which has only one barber. In this village, some individuals see this barber to cut their hair while others shave their own hair. This village as a strict rule that each individual ought to get a haircut, additionally, if one cuts his own hair then he does not go to the barber and if he does not cut his own hair, he must go to the barber, it is either one or the other. Whereas this innocent rule serves a majority of the people in the village, there is a single villager who causes trouble. The question is who now cuts the barber’s hair, if he cuts his hair due to the rule; he is not supposed to go to the barber however he is the barber. If, in contrast, the barber visits a barber, he is infringing the rule. In these two results lies a contradiction in that the barber ought to cut his own hair and ought not to cut his hair. This paradox therefore has a true contradiction, it is and it is not at the same time.

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This mind-boggling story is a paradox, that is, it is a thought experiment where a concept is assumed, and a contradiction is rationally drawn from it. A contradiction is a suggestion that that something is both true and false. There is no true contradiction however in the physical world; something can either true or false. Humans, therefore, cannot envisage a universe with a contradiction. Because contradictions are unsustainable, there ought to be something wrong with the supposition from which the contradiction is drawn. In a sense, a paradox depicts that a given assumption is not reasonable. Scientists, scholars, mathematicians, logicians, and thinkers have all employed paradoxes to illustrate the soundness of assumptions as well as to exhibit limitations to rationale. They presume a concept, and if a contradiction or falsehood is drawn from it, then the assumption is erroneous. Otherwise, the assumption is rationally justifiable.

In the paradox aforementioned, there are many solutions that are assumed, for instance, the barber is bald, his wife cuts his hair, or the barber quits his profession as a barber and cuts his hair and after that takes back his job again. All these solutions are tiptoeing around the issue. In the village, everybody must get a haircut and not even the barber’s wife is allowed to cut somebody’s hair and the only barber, therefore, cannot quit.

Indeed, these concepts are shadows of the right resolution to the barber paradox, which is to know that the village described with its stringent rule cannot be existence. The universe cannot allow the presence of such a village since it means a contradiction. There are numerous isolated villages with a single barber; however, it allows the regulation to be infringed in many ways (Broad 95). For instance, a barber from a different town may visit, or barber may be bald, or barber can ask his wife to give him a haircut or barber can cut his own hair; therefore the regulation does not hold. These different situations can occur to ascertain that there are no contradictions in the humanity. The assumption of the barber paradox was that the village with this law is in existence; however, this supposition is not correct.

There is another paradox also known as the liar’s paradox. This is a declaration of a liar who is claiming that they are lying. He declares that “I am lying” or “everything I say is false.” If he is lying, then he is saying the truth which implies that he is lying. In “this sentence is a lie” the paradox is reinforced to cause it to be agreeable. Majority of the people who first encounter this paradox do not take it seriously and would not think about it while others assume it is meaningless.

The contradiction in this paradox is that the sentence is true and it is not. Some of the suggested solutions to this paradox include statements like the liar sentence is flawed therefore has no truth value; the liar sentence is grammatically correct however has no meaning therefore has no truth value. Also, the liar sentence is grammatically correct and has meaning, however, still has no truth value, or even if it has truth value, the paradox is faulty (Copeland 520). Other people believe that the argument of the liar paradox is satisfactory and therefore humans ought to be contented with it, with the liar statement being factual and not factual.

The primary explanations to the liar paradox have a general perspective, the “systematic approach”. The creators of these answers admit that the liar paradox offers a difficult challenge to human comprehension of perceptions, regulations, as well as common sense of accepted language. They concur that people have to regress and methodically transform or elucidate a number of the original convictions and offer an inspiration for those transformations although they might obstruct the paradox.

So indeed true contradictions do exist, but they need critical thinking to comprehend them and solve them fully. There might not be proper answers to these paradoxes, however they do exist and people have to find ways to cope with them. Thinkers, scientists, scholars, mathematicians, and logicians are still trying to decipher them and offer plausible solutions.


Works Cited

Copeland, B. Jack. “Vague identity and fuzzy logic.” The Journal of Philosophy 94.10 (1997): 514-534.

Broad, Charles D. “Critical Notice of A. Meinong, Über Annahmen (Leipzig, 1910).” Mind (1913): 90-102.