A Paradox To Drive You Crazy: Catch 22

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Here we explain a very famous paradox that you can totally relate to.

The term was coined by Joseph Heller, who used it in his 1961 novel Catch-22.

Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to but has no control over because to fight the rule is to accept it.

A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.

So what happens is that a set of circumstances in which one requirement, etc., is dependent upon another, which is in turn dependent upon the first.

Confused? Let's go for examples.

The novel Catch-22 involves the case of John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier, who wishes to be grounded from combat flight. This will only happen if he is evaluated by the squadron's flight surgeon and found "unfit to fly."

  • "Unfit" would be any pilot who is willing to fly such dangerous missions, as one would have to be mad to volunteer for possible death. 

  • However, to be evaluated, he must request the evaluation, an act that is considered sufficient proof for being declared sane. These conditions make it impossible to be declared "unfit."

  • Hence, pilots who request a mental fitness evaluation are sane, and therefore must fly in combat. 

  • At the same time, if an evaluation is not requested by the pilot, he will never receive one and thus can never be found insane, meaning he must also fly in combat.

Therefore, Catch-22 ensures that no pilot can ever be grounded for being insane even if he is.

And this paradox just comes up many times in daily life.

Let's say you just graduated and are looking for a job.

But to be hired for a job, you have to have experience. However, you are constantly turned down for not having any, because first, you have to have a job to gain experience.

Let's say that you lost your wallet.

You want to issue new IDs and cards then. But you have to have an ID to issue new cards, which was also stolen as it was inside youf wallet.

That is what happens in a Catch-22 situation -- no way out.

Just share in the comments if you had some good catch-22 situations! 

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