There you are, exam paper in hand. You read through the paper. You complete the exam. Some time has gone by since you read through it, I’m just shortening the process. You get to the last page and no questions are on it. Just one sentence. In the middle. Something we’ve all seen and experienced. ‘This page is intentionally left blank’. And we’ve all wondered something. ‘Huh?’ It seems absurd. A paradox. But is it a paradox? Or is it not? This has been the subject of much debate. This page is intentionally left blank. What is going on? ‘Tis the question, readers.
The reason it’s done is because some may question the blank pages as a printing error. It’s because printers can’t be bothered to cut individual pages, they use one huge roll and hope it doesn’t leave too many blank pages. Outside of the world of literature, it’s thought a necessity to inform people of the blankness of the page. Why we think humankind is that stupid is anyone’s guess. And very offensive. But I can certainly see where they were coming from.
The debate is around whether or not it’s a type of paradox named ‘the liar paradox’. The phrase is printed therefore it exists on the page it is printed on. It refers to its own existence. The ‘blank’ means that nothing is on the page, a fact. Period. The page is devoid of any content. That is what ‘blank’ means and nothing else. But the statement states that the page is blank, but the page is not blank because of the statement stating that it is blank. It’s a liar paradox. If you wrote, ‘This sentence is false’, but it was true, then the sentence is false, but then if ‘This sentence is false’ is false, then the sentence is true, and so on.
Some would argue that the blank page message implies ‘except for the message’, but it never actually states such. Paradoxes centre on the logic of a statement. The logic here is flawed. What if the page has a dot on the upper right corner? That would make the statement a liar paradox that’s lying about itself. What if the statement is written in invisible ink? Is it still true? What if the words are projected onto the page? Does the phrase necessarily falsify itself by its existence?
As it stands, written on a piece of paper, it is self-refuting, at the very least. There isn’t a ‘solution’ in the traditional paradoxical sense of there being an answer. There is, however, in a more literal sense. Many places have taken to changing the text to, ‘No test content on this page’, ‘This page is intentionally left blank, except for this line/these words’, or even, ‘The next page is left intentionally blank’. Some places have even taken to changing the text to, ‘No questions on this page’. But what about a variation I shall call ‘The Ally Variation’? ‘No questions on this page?’ Ha. The wonderful circle of paradoxical hell. Isn’t that a question and therefore another variation of the liar paradox? It can keep going forever, readers.
It is an oddity of language. Not done deliberately to confuse us but created and then confused us. A strange quirk of language. One that many people debate over. And of course, you can debate over what I’ve been doing for the last few paragraphs. How many times have I said it? A few, certainly.
This page is left intentionally blank.
When clearly, readers, it isn’t.
He, he, he…
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the archives page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:
The Indelible Life of Me
New Post Every Sunday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post
Hark Around the Words
New Posts Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post