One of the oldest logical paradoxes stems from a controversial figure in Greek history. Like most controversial figures, he was involved in a few lawsuits, and one in particular became known as The Paradox of the Court or Protagoras’s Paradox.
Many years ago, a Law teacher came across a student who was willing to learn but was unable to pay the fees. The student struck a deal saying, “I will pay your fee the day I win my first case in the court”.
Teacher agreed and proceeded with the law course. When the course was finished and teacher started pestering the student to pay up the fee, the student reminded him of the deal and pushed days.
Fed up with this, the teacher decided to sue the student in the court of law and both of them decided to argue for themselves.
The teacher put forward his argument saying: “If I win this case, as per the court of law, the student has to pay me as the case is about his non-payment of dues. And if I lose the case, the student will still pay me because he would have won his first case. So either way I will get the money”.
Equally brilliant, the student argued back saying: “If I win the case, as per the court of law, I don’t have to pay anything to the teacher as 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. So either way, I am not going to pay the teacher anything”.
This is one of the greatest paradoxes ever recorded.
This is part of ancient Greek history. The lawyer teacher was Protagoras (c.485-415 BCE) and the student was Euthalos. This case was not solved. The most interesting part – this is still debated (even today) in law schools as a logic problem.
You can read the summary of Paradox of the Court by Joshua J. Mark on the Ancient History Encyclopedia.