Catch-22 (logic)  

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"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to, but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle." --Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller (p. 56, ch. 5)

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A catch 22 is a difficult situation from which there is no escape because it involves mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

The term was coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch-22 and refers to a logical paradox arising from a situation in which an individual needs something that can only be acquired with an action that will lead him to that very situation he is already in; therefore, the acquisition of this thing becomes logically impossible. Catch-22s are often spoken with regard to rules, regulations, procedures, or situations in which one has knowledge of being or becoming a victim but has no control over it occurring (i.e. hea


Title of the novel by Joseph Heller (1961), in which the main character feigns madness in order to avoid dangerous combat missions, but his desire to avoid them is taken to prove his sanity.

See also

Situations which have logical similarities to a Catch-22.

  • Circular logic
  • False dilemma - a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options
  • Irony
  • No-win situation – real choices exist, but no choice leads to success.
  • Kobayashi Maru – a scenario involving a choice between death of civilians or of the civilians and the officers who try to save them.
  • Reductio ad absurdum
  • The Lady, or the Tiger? – a short story involving a princess who must make a decision in a no-win situation.
  • Chicken or the egg – a seemingly unbreakable cycle of causation, which has an unknown origin.
  • Cornelian dilemma – a choice between actions which will all have a detrimental effect on the chooser or on someone they care for.
  • Deadlock – in computing, when two processes reach a standstill or impasse, each waiting for the other to finish.
  • Double bind – a forced choice between two logically conflicting demands.
  • Hobson's choice – the choice between taking an option and not taking it.
  • Lesser of two evils principle – a choice between two undesirable outcomes.
  • Necessary Evil – anything which, despite being considered to have undesirable qualities, is preferable to its absence or alternative.
  • Morton's Fork – a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives.
  • Paradox – a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition.
  • Game of Chicken – Two participants desire a positive outcome by taking an action, yet if taken by both the result is devastatingly negative.
  • Sophie's Choice – a choice between two equally beloved entities, one of which must be destroyed to preserve the existence of the other.
  • The Trial – a novel by Franz Kafka.
  • The Captain of Köpenick
  • Gift of the Magi – Where two people in love with each other sell their belongings to buy gifts for each other, only to end up giving gifts related to the belonging they have sacrificed. (ie. A man sells a pocket watch to buy a brush for his wife. The wife then sells her long beautiful hair to buy a chain for the man's pocket watch.)

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Catch-22 (logic)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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