A Self-Referential Paper

Written 23 February 1993

This is a review of Mr. Jacob Haller's latest paper, entitled simply "A Self-Referential Paper." In it, he uses the somewhat intriguing but in the end mainly obnoxious trick of indirect self-reference; that is, instead of having his paper talk about his paper, he talks about another paper which just happens to be exactly the same as his paper, and leaves it to you to make the connection between the two. This begins as early as the first paragraph, and quickly becomes quite wearying.

Before I continu with my anlysis of this paper, I'd like to note that, appart from the many stylistic problems it contained, it had a lrge number fo typos in it, especially in the second paragraph. Whle admittedly it is not usually the place of reviews such as this one to critcize these aspects of a paper, in this case I found it so distrctng that I feel it needs to be mentioned.

Back to the content (such as it is) of the paper. As mentioned above, Haller uses many tricks which seem at first interesting, then pointless, and finally annoying. For instance, at one point during the paper he quotes the paper his paper is about, which is of course the paper he's writing. (Bear with me here.) But he doesn't just quote a random part of the paper--he quotes the part of the paper which is doing the quoting, and then decries it for having no relevance to anything! For instance, one of his quotes is, "Mary had a little lamb," and another is "Please put a penny in the old man's hat". What these quotes have to do with anything, and why he bothered including them, is beyond me.

In addition, there are many factual errors contained within the essay. In one sentence, he implies that there is no doubt about the validity of the scientific method. But in just the previous sentence, he implied that there is some doubt about it! Clearly there are some inconsistancies here. And of course he can't resist quoting famous self-referential sentences, such as "This sentence is not true" and "'When appended to its quotation yields a falsehood' when appended to its quotation yields a falsehood." Indeed, he appears to delight in sentences with indeterminate truth values such as these.

The above inconsistances may seem serious enough, but Haller didn't stop with stating meaningless sentences whose truth is difficult or even impossible to figure out. He comes right out and makes false statements, a completely indefensible act. In fact, the very last sentence in the paper is completely false.


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