Cretan Liar Paradox

All Cretans are liars by adamgreenfield
All Cretans are liars by adamgreenfield via Flickr

The Cretan Liar Paradox is a philosophical problem that takes more than one form. One form can be summed up as follows:

A certain Cretan once claimed that “all Cretans are liars.” Therefore this Cretan’s claim is itself a lie. If a lie, then it cannot be true. And if not true, then a Cretan might at least sometimes tell the truth. But if a Cretan sometimes tells the truth, then it cannot be true that “all Cretans are liars.”

One way out of this apparent paradox might be to realize that calling a group of people “liars” does not necessarily mean they always lie.

However, another form of the Cretan Liar Paradox cannot be so easily resolved. It was articulated by the Cretan, Epimenides, who said, “Cretans, always liars” (i.e. Cretans always lie).

If anything, the liar paradox – and all the fuss made over it – shows just how vulnerable human reason is. We think we’re being logical but then someone else comes along and applies their brand of “logic” to a problem and arrives at a very different solution. This should be humbling for those crude thinkers who suppose, on the basis of their individual reasoning, that they know it all.

To illustrate this point, see the following links:


  1. We have two contradictory statements: 1. Everything Epimenides says is false, and 2. he says that everything he says is false. The paradox arises from assuming that BOTH 1 and 2 are simultaneously true.

    1 can be true and 2 false, however, if everything Epimenides says is false, but he never says so.

    Likewise, 2 can be true and 1 false if Epimenides is lying when he says that everything he says is false, but tells the truth on at least one other occasion.


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