Paradox: Pinocchio’s Nose

Time to geek out for a few minutes.

It’s really cool to think about important topics and come up with intelligent ideas about them.  It’s also really cool to think about completely unimportant topics and do the same.  Well kids, take off your pants and offer a warm hello to the lovely paradox of what would happen if Pinocchio said “my nose is growing now.”

This is a variant of the liar paradox, which reads “this sentence is false.”  The liar paradox attempts to assign a binary true/false value to the statement but can’t accurately do so.  If the liar paradox were to be true, then it would be false, which would make it true, etc..

For the wooden puppet, if he says it will grow, he’s lying, because his nose only grows when he’s lying. But if he’s lying, then it would grow, which would mean he’s telling the truth. And such.

Another way of thinking about it, as stated well on its Wikipedia page, “The Pinocchio paradox causes Pinocchio’s nose to grow if and only if it does not grow.” This, my friends, is “mind rape.” Like I said, pants off.

Call me Eubulides

The quote above comes from Dr. Peter Eldridge-Smith, whose 11 year-old smartypants daughter first posed the paradox to her father so his mind would suffocate and he wouldn’t notice her feeding Brussels sprouts to the dog.

The chief element to notice is the necessity of the word “now” in the Pinocchio variation of the paradox. Just saying “my nose will grow” would be bullcrap, as it doesn’t state any sort of time constraint, and therefore can’t be proven true or untrue at the time of the statement being made.  Pinocchio could tell a lie later,  his nose would then grow, and his original statement would be easily true. And who cares about that?  Assigning “now” forces the statement to possess a true or false quality at that instant, initiating the paradox. 

There is not one unified “solution” to the paradox. There are a number of theories or methods of approaching the problem, though. You can haz my solutions:

  • Everything would collapse in upon itself and Bush would be re-elected to a third term.
  • Everyone’s body grows slowly, so it’s never a lie. (Wrong. He’s wood.)
  • “Bitch would die.” – Found that one as a user comment on some random website. Made me chuckle.
  • A semantic argument begins about the meaning of “now.”
  • A character argument begins about his honesty – everyone knows his schnoz grows when lying.  But do we know that it implicitly grows only when lying, leaving no other means of growing his nose?  Do we know what happens when he tells the truth?  Perhaps he could just be making an honest claim.
  • Another character argument begins about Pinocchio’s nose only growing due to lies where he is attempting deceit, because he is a shady little douche, not just when he’s wrong about something.  He’s not trying to shank anyone with this statement, therefore it wouldn’t qualify for a nose-grower.
  • Similarly, Pinocchio doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, making him less liar and more bad prophet.  See this graphic.
  • The conflicting motions of his nose attempting to grow because he’s lying, and attempting to shrink because he is also telling the truth, would cause a black hole that destroys all life.
  • Peter Bishop never existed.
  • Q sends the Enterprise crew hundreds of light years away to the J-25 sector where they are nearly destroyed by the Borg.

I personally vote for the answer that discusses his intention.  He’s not being malicious, so it doesn’t count.  It’s sort of a cheap way around solving the actual paradox based on a lack of definition in the literary source, but such methods are really the only ways of solving a paradox.  Or it’s not a paradox.  And then what would have been the point of this?  You’d still have your pants on!


This post was not created by composting. This post has no interest in Amanda Knox. This post thanks you for being courteous in the library. This post is BPA-free.


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