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UNRAVELING REALITY: EXPLORING THE TOP 10 PARADOXES OF EXISTENCE

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MUJ chapter.

“One must learn to lie truthfully. Contradicting right? A paradox is such a statement that appears to contradict itself or defy common sense leading to logical webs. It challenges our understanding of reality and perception and demands a deeper philosophical inquiry. The puzzling contradictions force us to push the limits of our knowledge and complexities of nature, questioning the very fabric of existence.

Now let’s dive into some of the top paradoxes that have perplexed and intrigued minds offering a window into the paradoxical world.

THE SORITES PARADOX

Imagine a heap of sand. If you remove one grain of sand, it’s still a heap, and if you continuously keep removing the grains, at what point does it cease to be a heap? Or if we go the other way around and keep adding the grains of sand to a non-heap, at what point do we start to recognise it as a heap? The paradox challenges our intuition about gradual changes and the problem of vagueness which deals with concepts like “heap”, “tall”, and “old age” where no clear and precise lines can be drawn.

PARADOX OF CHOICE

The paradox of choice popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz states that while the thought of many options seems exciting and desirable, having too many choices can lead to indecisiveness, decision paralysis, procrastination, and dissatisfaction. With so many options available people fear making the wrong choices and missing out on something better (FOMO ☹)

THE SHIP OF THESEUS PARADOX

Suppose a ship travels and encounters obstacles on its journey with its parts gradually deteriorating and being replaced by new ones. With time every part of the ship is replaced. So is the ship still the same ship of Theseus which embarked on the journey? Since all the parts are replaced one might argue that it’s no longer that same ship but at the same time, it’s still the very vessel that retained its spirit and purpose. To make it more interesting imagine we construct a new ship with the worn-off parts. Which of the two is now the original Ship of Theses? This paradox challenges our concept of identity and changes over time making us question what actually makes something that SOMETHING.

THE LIAR PARADOX

Consider the statement “This statement is false”. Now, if the statement written is true then it must be false because it claims to be false. But if the statement written is false then it must be true because it claims to be false. This situation creates a logical loop where the statement cannot be clearly classified as true or false.

THE GRANDFATHER PARADOX

This paradox discusses theoretical physics and time travel fiction. Imagine you travel back in time and prevent your grandfather from meeting your grandmother or you kill your grandfather. This implies that your father was never born and neither were you. Now, if you were never born, how could you travel back in time in the first place?  the paradox raises intriguing questions about free will and causality and the nature of time itself.

THE OMNIPOTENCE PARADOX

Can an all-powerful deity do everything including contradictory things? For instance, can he create a stone so heavy that even he cannot lift it? If yes, then they are not all-powerful because there is something they can’t do – lift that stone. If not, there is something they cannot do so how can they be all-powerful? The paradox questions our concepts of omnipotence and its nature and limits particularly applied to deities or all-powerful beings.

THE FERMI PARADOX

It was named after the physicist Enrico Fermi. The paradox provides a relation of contradiction between the high probability of extraterrestrial existence and the lack of evidence for it. In the vast universe, home to billions of stars and planets, some similar to Earth, the possibility and expectations arise that life must exist elsewhere too. However, there are no detected signals of such life yet which raises questions about why we haven’t encountered extraterrestrial civilizations despite the high likelihood of their existence.

THE BOOTSTRAP PARADOX

Suppose a person learns to build a time machine from their future self but at the same time the future self learns to build a time machine from its past self. So where did the learning actually originate? This paradox deals with the origin of information and objects without a clear point of origination or creation and challenges our understanding of cause and effect in the context of time travel.

THE PARADOX OF TOLERANCE

Should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? Let us understand with an example – suppose there is a group of friends who are open-minded and believe in accepting different views, values, and beliefs. They welcome people from diverse backgrounds and ideologies in their social circle. However, among the group, there is a person who holds intolerant views and believes in excluding people of certain backgrounds. So should the group tolerate the intolerant friend? If they do tolerate him they are undermining the very tolerance and inclusivity they claim to value. If they do not tolerate the intolerant friend they may be seen contradicting their own principles of tolerance and acceptance.

THE WATER DIAMOND PARADOX

Also known as the Paradox of value, the water diamond paradox is an economic concept challenging our understanding of values and pricing. Water is a key component of life without which no life is possible on Earth. Diamonds on the other hand though valuable, are not necessary for survival. Water, which is abundant and essential for life is priced lower than diamonds which are scarce and not vital. The paradox challenges the prevalence of traditional economic theories demonstrating that market prices are influenced not solely by utility and scarcity but also by social perceptions and cultural significance.

Hey! this is Rafia, 1st year B.Sc. Psychology student from the city of Taj. My days usually revolve around my major but the moonlight is dedicated to exploring the worlds within and around. When all the work for the day is done, I find peace in solitude, practicing my faith, reading books while imbibling cranberry mojito.