Self-Referential Paradoxes

Imagine that the card below has the same statement printed on each side. This is a familiar example of a self-reference paradox.

The statement on the back of this card is false.

Self-reference paradoxes often take the form of infinite regress, as depicted in this famous M. C. Escher painting.

The Barber Paradox, attributed to Bertrand Russell, is one of the most popular self-reference paradoxes of all time.

Suppose there is a town with just one male barber; and that every man in the town keeps himself clean-shaven: some by shaving themselves, some by attending the barber. It seems reasonable to imagine that the barber obeys the following rule: He shaves all and only those men in town who do not shave themselves.

Under this scenario, we can ask the following question: Does the barber shave himself?

Asking this, however, we discover that the situation presented is in fact impossible:

* If the barber does not shave himself, he must abide by the rule and shave himself.

* If he does shave himself, according to the rule he will not shave himself.

Source: Wikipedia

Conceptual Art and The Self-Reference Paradox

The author "John Smith" submitted a book proposal to dozens of editors, excerpts of which are printed below. The book's title: The Book of Rejection From Editors Who Rejected This Book. Regretably, the book was rejected by all the editors and was never published. (The author is still looking for a publisher.)

Cover Letter

Dear Sir or Madam:

My proposed book, titled The Book of Rejection From Editors Who Rejected This Book, would feature the enclosed INTRODUCTION along with dozens of rejections collected from editors who've read this very proposal and rejected it. The editors' comments (form letters, etc.) would be reprinted in my book and would comprise its existence.

I consider my book to be the ultimate in self-paradox and believe it will mystify and delight all writers and obsessional people. It's the first of its kind -- a book written virtually without the author.

If you decide to reject the proposal, please send your rejection in the attached SASE. (Try not to bend it.) Thank you!


John Smith

P.S. This is a simultaneous submission to one hundred-and-fifty other publishers.

P.P.S. Please understand that if you decide to reject this proposal, your letter of rejection (whether it's a "form letter" or personal statement) may be used in my projected book.

The Book's Interior

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Collage of pages from the book

Games section: "knock knock" rejections

Games section: rejections turned into optical illusions