# Day 134 (A ‘Deadlock’ for all times…)

It’s a cult book everyone reads as a teenager and for some it stays even beyond…the apparently logical irrationality that pervades the story of Capt Yossarin and his bombardier squadron finding an echo in so many “Catch 22” like situations and events in real life as well. The novel became eponymous with its title entering the English lexicon as representative of an unsolvable dilemma for which the only apparent solution is denied by a rule or circumstance inherent in the problem itself…almost like a ‘double-bind’ where one part negates the other. So in the book the entire satire revolves around the rule that pilots who could plead insanity were not obliged to fly dangerous missions; yet anyone who applied under this rule was considered as showing a rational concern for their safety and was hence sane!! You don’t even have to leaf through bureaucratic procedures to find other such examples…our daily routine is riddled with them~ in lighter vein take for example the fact that i need to clean my spectacles right now and yet to do so i require those very spectacles to see clearly with!!
Paradoxical or Catch-22 situations being a part of life, many literary works too explore such dilemmas. That brilliant short story “The Lady or The Tiger” springs immediately to mind. But today i share an interesting anecdote from ancient Greek history that is considered a classic case of ‘deadlock’ and is still debated as a legal and logic problem. They call it ‘Protagoras’s Paradox.’
The tale involves the Sophists of ancient Greece…they were a class of teachers who for a fee would offer to instruct affluent youth in subjects like politics, history, law, mathematics, logic and even grammar. The claim being that they would thereby make the young man suitable for political office and equip him with skills in oratory and rhetoric that were necessary for strongly arguing cases in the courts of the time. They were known to charge a steep fee for their instruction and other wise men, like Plato, were openly disparaging about this practice of taking ‘fees for teaching wisdom.’ The first and most famous of these Sophists was a man named Protagoras in the 4th Century BC. He once came across a student who did not have the means to pay his exorbitant fee but showed the promise of being a brilliant learner. A deal was struck whereby the student promised to pay the dues the day he won his first case in court. Protagoras took up his tutelage and when the course was completed started asking for his payment, which this student kept delaying by reminding him of the original deal. Finally fed up Protagoras decided to take him to court where each forwarded their arguments thus:
The wise Protagoras claimed ~ “If I win this case, as per the court of law, the student has to pay me as this case is about his non-payment of dues.
And if I lose, the student will still pay me because he would have won his first case.
So either way I will get the money”
His equally brilliant student, Euthalos, countered thus ~ “If I win the case , as per the court of law, I don’t have to pay anything to the teacher since the case is about my non-payment of dues.
And if I lose the case, I don’t have to pay him because I haven’t won my first case yet!”
Needless to say the case was not resolved and no solution for the conundrum was ever offered in antiquity. Many call it the greatest paradox ever recorded in history and the best part…a resolution for the arguments is still debated in law schools around the world!!


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
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