A Mind Twister
© 16 Aug 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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My own take on a very old paradox.


See also my second attempt at putting this same idea into words.

An Assertion

Consider this page’s section “‍1. An Assertion‍”. No sane person can honestly believe that the contents of this section are entirely true. This inability rests on the fact that the existence of a sane person holding such a belief would itself be refutation of its claimed restriction on sane belief. Thus, every person believing the section to be entirely true must not be sane.

Discussion of the Assertion.

The above is of course a variation of the 2400-year-old liar paradox, commonly rendered as “‍this sentence is false.‍” However, I find my rendition to be much more compelling because it is more personal and includes more explicit context. In particular, in includes the same escape as all liar paradoxes: I’m not sane. Depending on my feeling about what sanity is, I’m not sane for one of two reasons.

Sometimes I must not be sane because I believe section 1 is entirely true. Anyone asserting its content is asserting a contradiction, and anyone believing a contradiction can believe anything.

Other times I must not be sane because I don’t believe section 1. In particular, I think that sane people can believe section 1 is entirely true. But if I think that sane people believe it while I myself do not, then I must not be one of the sane people.

I’m hoping to take this thought as a stepping stone toward fulfilling Wm’s suggestion from yesterday’s post that I describe some of the non-science-like elements of philosophy (and religion).

… It might be a lengthy journey.

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