Using paradoxes of self-reference to get laid.

I have simply got to try this, in a really nerdy bar somewhere.

Suppose a man flirts with a woman and then asks her, “Will you solemnly promise to give me right now your telephone number if I make a true statement and, conversely, not give me your number if I make a false statement?”

Maybe he can soften the statement a bit, but let’s assume that this is its gist.

Feeling that this is a flattering and benign request, the woman promises to give him her number if and only if he makes a true statement.

The man then makes his statement: “You will neither give me your telephone number now nor will you sleep with me tonight.”

What’s the trick? Note that she can’t give him her number since, if she were to do so, his statement would be made false, and so she would have broken her promise to give him her number only if he made a true statement. (This is the crux of it.) Therefore, she must not give him her number under any circumstances.

But if she also refuses to sleep with him, his statement becomes true, and this would require her to give him her number.

The only way she can keep her promise is to sleep with him so that his statement becomes false. The woman’s seemingly innocuous promise ensnares her.

I think this would only work if one likes the kind of women I like, to whom this would be funny enough to cancel out the skeeviness.

However, Paulos, who wrote the aforementioned plan ‘o seduction, missed a subtlety: suppose the sex is good, and you want a repeat performance? She still can’t give you her phone number! Perhaps this is where e-mail steps in to save the day.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day. Change genders as preferred to make this neither sexist nor heteronormative.

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12 Responses to “Using paradoxes of self-reference to get laid.”

  1. Arvita Says:

    I don’t know if there is any bar in the world nerdy enough for this. I think you’ll have to wait for the next eep bash or the weekly philosophy dept beer and chips mixer to try this out.

  2. Steve M. Says:

    I always rather liked, “If I asked you to go out with me, would your answer be the same as the answer to this question?” Though using this line may be ethically problematic if you think statements are incapable of self-reference, or if you Russell’s paradox is otherwise easily dismissed. But, you know what they say:

    (Ax)((Ixl v Ixw) –> Fx)

    (Here, “I” stands for the relational property of “being a thing in or involved in,” “l” is love, “w” is war, and the arrow stands for the horseshoe of material implication.)

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    That came perilously close to causing me to spray water all over my shiny new MacBook.

  4. ben wolfson Says:

    She can give you her phone number later: the statement is “you will neither give me your phone number now …”.

    Indeed, simple contraposition of the familiar thesis that ought implies can shows us that the woman’s promise is null and void as soon as uttered: for the promise solicited was “Will you solemnly promise to give me right now your telephone number if I make a true statement and, conversely, not give me your number if I make a false statement?”

    But that’s clearly impossible! As soon as she’s promised, the moment’s passed.

  5. ben wolfson Says:

    And don’t even think of getting out of it with some wishy-washy pragmatic bullshit about extents of times. You want to trap people in technicalities, you gotta get your own shit in order first.

  6. Jeff Albert Says:

    She just can’t give you her number NOW. She can give you her number after the at least better than mediocre sex.

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    Pshaw. Clearly, the trap still works with the “now” removed.

  8. ben wolfson Says:

    I don’t think so, because with the “now” removed one can always point out that it’s as yet indeterminate whether or not one will give the asker the phone number. The statement isn’t made either true or false until that’s settled, and without a time limit, well…

  9. Paul Gowder Says:

    Fiddlesticks. If we’re determinists, like all sensible people are, (four-dimensionalists, even!) we can say that there’s a fact of the matter right now whether or not she gives the phone number.

  10. Paul Gowder Says:

    To tighten it up still further (and avoid some objections), he could ask that she decide whether or not to ever give him her phone number immediately upon hearing the statement.

  11. ben wolfson Says:

    That’s a substantive philosophical position, though, and you don’t want to have to rely on that for your purportedly purely logical claim. Moreover, for practical purposes, it’s a wash; you may be a determinist, but just try collecting on your bet that the Dodgers will win (or lose, whatever) the World Series now.

  12. Escuerd Says:

    Steve M, that was made of win.

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