All the men in a village either shave themselves or are shaved by a barber (himself a man from the village).

The barber claims to shave only the male villagers who do not shave themselves.

So who shaves the barber

Please explain in very simple ways .

  • $\begingroup$ I vote to close this as too broad $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2016 at 19:57
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This is a well known mathematical paradox. There's plenty of material on this on the web, and I'm not sure if this is just looking for some trick answer. It's an application of Russell's paradox. $\endgroup$
    – Avik Mohan
    Aug 26, 2016 at 20:07
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ At least say that you didn't create this yourself. $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Aug 27, 2016 at 6:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I vote to close this as a copy/paste of a well known paradox. $\endgroup$
    – rhsquared
    Aug 27, 2016 at 6:18

3 Answers 3


A simple explanation of the underlying paradox is

that it is the same as asking "can there be a book in a library that lists all the books in the library that do not contain any lists?"
If the said book contains such a list it should not be listed while if it does not contain such a list it should - paradox.

Formerly, and slightly more strict, as will become apparent: "if R is the set of all sets that do not contain themselves does R contain itself or not?" (the Russell paradox).

A problem posed in the form of such a paradox can have a solution if

It is phrased like the informal example above. The book may be the only book in the library and contain some other list - it is then true, in a sense, that it lists all the books in the library that do not contain any lists.

But for the problem, as posed, this attack does not work.

A possible solution, albeit an admittedly weak one, to the problem, as posed, is

that the barber shaves himself or someone else shaves him or neither or both.

The barber is from the village. The barber has moved to a town, where he works as a barber. All the men in the village that the barber is from who do not shave themselves go to the town to be shaved by the barber.


A Possible Answer:

A Barber! There could very well be more than one in the village.

  • $\begingroup$ "Himself a man from the village" implies the indefinite article "a" actually refers to a single barber, although I agree that it could have been worded better. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2016 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ ...that is the "a" in "...or are shaved by a barber" $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2016 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanAllan - I see... I took it as "Himself, (who is) a man from the village". So by that understanding, it merely states that a barber is a man, and he lives in the village... but not that there is the only one barber. To the second point, "or are shaved by a barber" would have been written as "or are shaved by the barber" if there was only one. However, I now that I look at the tags, the lack of a lateral thinking tag means this answer is not the intended one. And never trust me on grammar... It's like I have a gift for ruining the English language. $\endgroup$
    – Shimizoki
    Aug 28, 2016 at 11:27

The barber shaves himself. He can do so without breaking the rules provided that his "claim" is false.


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