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Who Shaves The Shaver?
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Solving The Barber Paradox

By James Donahue

In a small town which has only one barber the paradox thus follows this chain of thought: If the barber shaves all and only those men who do not shave themselves, who shaves the barber?

At first glance, one might think the answer is simply that the barber shaves himself. But in doing so, he violates the rule of the paradox. He can either shave himself or go to the barber, which is himself. But he cannot do this because he shaves only the men who do not shave themselves.

Oh what a slippery slope we find ourselves into with this little paradox. Is there a solution for the hapless barber?

There have been various suggestions. For example, if the barber has a beard then he does not shave himself. Yet this still fails the paradox which states that he shaves all men who do not shave themselves. Thus even if he has a beard, he still must shave himself. He must give up the beard. But who shaves him?

Alright, then we suggest that the barber is a man with a strange genetic peculiarity in that he is beardless and cannot grow hair on his face. It sounds good, yet this still does not solve the paradox since the lack of hair on his face implies that the barber does shave himself.

A third suggestion is that the town’s barber is a woman. Now we just might have thought of a solution.