Category: Entertainment

Presentation Description

No description available.


Presentation Transcript


PARADOX by Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L. F. Nilsen


LEWIS CARROLL Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are filled with ironies and paradoxes: Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday---but never jam to-day. Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 219-220)


CATCH-22 The expression 'Catch-22' in Joseph Heller’s antiwar novel is so intriguing that the book’s title is now in dictionaries as the name for any tricky problem, especially one for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem. In Heller’s book, the character Yossarian would be excused from flying bombing missions if he were declared insane. However, the fact that he is trying to get out of flying bombing missions proves his sanity; he therefore has to keep flying.


Another paradox in the novel Catch 22 is that the pilots can go home as soon as they have flown a certain number of missions, but the number of missions keeps being increased. This actually happened to Joseph Heller when he was a pilot in World War II.


People who can’t get a job until they have experience and who can’t get experience until they have a job are in a Catch-22. So are authors who can’t get their manuscripts published until they have an agent but can’t get an agent until they have been published. A newspaper story under the headline 'Texas in Catch-22' told about a Texas state law forbidding the execution of anyone insane. A prisoner on death row refused to take the medication that would keep him sane. This is the kind of irony illustrated by many urban legends and contemporary novels, films, and plays. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 219)


GILBERT AND SULLIVAN Gilbert and Sullivan often relied on paradox for comic effect. In The Pirates of Penzance, they composed a song about paradoxes: How quaint the ways of paradox! At common sense she gaily mocks! A paradox, a paradox, A most ingenious paradox! Ha! ha! ha! ha! (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 219)


GREEK PHILOSOPHERS The Greek philosophers often wrestled with paradoxes. The most famous was credited to the Cretan philosopher Epimenides: 'All Cretans are liars.' Epimenides was a Cretan. Therefore, If he is lying, then the statement must be true. But if the statement is true, he must be lying. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 219)


PARADOX VS. CONTRADICTION Paradoxes are statements that seem contradictory, unbelievable, or absurd, but in some sense are nevertheless true. Because paradoxes highlight breakdowns in our expectations of a logical universe, they are sources of both delight and consternation as the human mind works to figure out how people can in good faith talk about a 'large mouse' running between the legs of a 'small elephant' or can make sense out of the Yiddish curse, 'He should drop dead, God forbid!' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 219)


PARADOXES AND PARADIGM SHIFTS Whenever a paradigm shift occurs in a culture there are many paradoxes, because two social systems are competing with each other (the old one and the new one). The paradox can be part of both of these systems.


SCIENCE FICTION Paradoxes are explorations of philosophy, logic and social criticism. They are a verbal means of acknowledging real world conditions and frustrations. When put into 'other' worlds (science fiction or fantasy), paradoxes can be even more intriguing.


For example, the 'grandfather paradox' in science fiction is a variation on the plot technique in which a time-traveler goes back and murders his own grandfather before the time-traveler’s parent was born. This is a brain teaser because if the grandfather were prematurely killed then the grandchild couldn’t have been born and wouldn’t have been able to go back and commit the murder. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 220)


SIGNIFICANT PARADOXES FROM THE 16TH CENTURY TO THE 20TH CENTURY Sits he on ever so high a throne, a man still sits on his bottom. (Michel Elyquem de Montaigne, 1533-1592) We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. (Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745)


!I laugh, so that I may not cry. (Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, 1732-1799) When a feller says, 'It hain’t th’ money, but th’ principle o’ th’ thing,' it’s the money. (Josh Billings [pseudonym for Henry Wheeler Shaw], 1818-1885) Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. (Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900)


!!There ain’t any answer. There ain’t going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer. (Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946) The vital question today is not whether there will be life after death, but whether there was life before death. (Marshall McLuhan, 1911-1990)


!!!When I grow up I want to be a little boy. (Joseph Heller, 1923-1999) [in reference to cartoonist Garry Trudeau] As with all anti-Establishment figures, Mr. Trudeau will soon be an honored member of the Establishment. (Art Buchwald, 1925-) (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 220)


References # 1: Brooks, Cleanth. 'The Language of Paradox.' Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies. Eds. Robert Con Davis, and Ronald Schleifer. New York: Longman, 1989, 32-42. Falletta, Nicholas. The Paradoxicon. New York, NY: John Wiley, 1983. Fry, William F., Jr. 'Humor and Paradox.' American Behavioral Scientist. 30.1 (1987): 42-71. Hofstadter, Douglas R. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1980. Leiber, Justin. Paradoxes. London, England: Duckworth, 1993.


References # 2: Nilsen, Don L. F. 'Parody, Paradox, Nonsense, and Legends.' Humor Scholarship: A Research Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993, 101-112. Nilsen, Don L. F. ''The Seriousness of Humor' And Other Antithetical Paradoxes.' California English 20.5 (1984): 14-15 and 22. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Rescher, Nicholas. Paradoxes. Peru, IL: Carus Publishing Company, 2001. Poundstone, William. Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles, and the Frailty of Knowledge. New York: Anchor, 1988.


References # 3: Seward, Samuel S. Jr. The Paradox of the Ludicrous. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ Press, 1930. Shaw, David W. Elegy and Paradox. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Shershow, Scott Cutler. Laughing Matters: The Paradox of Comedy. Amherst: Univ of Mass Press, 1986. Stainsbury, Richard Mark. Paradoxes. Cambridge, England: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1988. Woodcock, George. The Paradox of Oscar Wilde. London, England: T. V. Boardman, 1949.

authorStream Live Help