Sunday 2 January 2022

Christopher Langan solves the Cretan Liar 'Paradox'

Premise: Epimenides is a Cretan. 

Statement by Epimenides: "All Cretans always lie." 

Question: Does Epimenides speak the truth? 

The paradox of self-reference is obvious. If Epimenides speaks the truth, then his statement is a lie. On the other hand, if Epimenides' statement is true, then Epimenides is lying. 

[The Answer:] Obviously, Epimendes' statement contains 0 information. You can believe neither what he says, nor the opposite of what he says.


What Langan implicitly does is to expose the assumption behind this paradox that we can know the truth independently of what 'Epimenedes' tells us

In other words, we can know that 'All Cretans always lie' independently of what any particular Cretan tells us about his nation

And indeed, in order to believe the truth of any statement from anybody, we must already have made a judgment of whether that source is truthful, or a liar. Without an assumption of truthfulness, meaningful discourse cannot even begin. 

An assumption regarding truthfulness therefore underpins all possible human discourse.

Langan goes on to link this to the problem we all have that 'the government' (i.e. The System, including government, corporations, media, and all other major institutions) as of 2022, is not even trying to tell the truth in any of its significant communications; but only and always to manipulate its target audience

So, clearly we cannot believe anything The System tells us, because we already-know that The System is a liar. 

But this does not imply that 'everything they say is a lie'. Nor does it imply that there is a way we can know the truth about any specific proposition. 

In a world of systemic dishonesty we do not know enough to say what is truth and which are lies about System statements. 

(And The System is making statements directed at us by the thousand - every day, 24/7.) 

The correct inference concerning any specific communication from The System is therefore, quite simply, that: System statements contain zero information

Yet we are almost all of us guilty of trying to sift truth; when the reality is that public discourse contains zero information. 

How do we fall into this trap? By attempting to have discourse with liars! 

The fact is that all discourse assumes a basic truthfulness - therefore, if we have discourse with liars, we must already have decided that they are basically truthful. 

And when 'they' are Not basically truthful - but instead are merely manipulating us - then we have been sucked into their world-of-lies. 

We have been trapped-into interacting with zero information!

Therefore, we have-already-been sucked into the world of manipulative lies as soon as we engage in discourse with them!

Certainly, I personally keep falling into that trap... And most people are even worse than I am!

This is a big lesson that Life, 2022 is trying to teach us - and we all need to work harder at learning that lesson. 

System communications contain zero information... 

So, remember That Fact before you engage with The System... 

(Maybe I should make that my (fake-) New Year's resolution!)

(...Despite that I know for sure I will have lapsed from this resolution even before the end of the day; but I will endeavor to recognize my lapse, repent, and affirm that this is what I ought to do.)


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Very good point regarding System statements.

Regarding the Cretan liar paradox itself, it's not a proper logical paradox because there is a simple solution: Epimenides's statement is false, and therefore some Cretans sometimes lie.

It is something of a paradox for biblical inerrantists, though, since Paul quotes Epimenides and then calls his statement "true" (Titus 1:12-13).

Todd said...

This little essay was beyond timely, thanks!
I'd been discussing with some friends about how one should treat System Info that seemingly supports 'our side,' i.e. info that seems to say that the peck is dangerous or at least not effective.
I'd been thinking that one should not trust system info just because it supports your current view or side.
This nails it.
I notice that the system promotes seeming dissidents who promote peck-hesitancy. I've even seen info (that also can't be trusted ironically) that shows that orgs and companies have funded anti-peck propaganda.
But now I need not try to figure out the tangled web.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Todd - Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to get-at: exhorting myself. But more generally than just the birdemic.

Using good bits of The System to attack evil-motivated bits of The System was OK before The System as a whole became evil - but nowadays the effect is just to increase chaotic evil.

I believe that every person who - for a while - succeeds in thinking/ being outside of The System becomes (for that time) an instrument of divine providence.

@Wm - I *always* feel about syllogistic reasoning that the boundary of what is said assumes much more than is apparent - and indeed, that there *is* a boundary around a syllogism is usually an assumption that I regard as false. Therefore I never find it convincing - from Plato's later Socrates depictions onwards to recent analytic philosophy, it seems to be a mistaken way of reasoning.

When I have been seriously affected by a bit of logical reasoning - such as the 'unmoved mover' proof of God from Aquinas - I have always taken it is a 'softer and more flexible' way (quoting Thomas Browne, and agreeing with him) than the author intends.

Bruce Charlton said...

PS - I regard Chris Langan as a a Man on the right side in the spiritual war, but rather more reliant upon empirical/ factual arguments than myself! - or than I aspire to be; and with a residual and inappropriate loyalty to System aspects such as a 'Jeffersonian' ideal or vision of the USA that need to be set aside.

Our patriotism (for instance) now demands to be non-empirical, intuitive and imaginative, and independent of 'historical evidence'. I strive for this in my conviction about The Normans as agents of evil, for instance!

Michael Dyer said...

Well just to niggle a little bit about Paul and the letter to Titus, a man can be a notorious liar, even when he’s telling the truth his character can be that of a liar. Even a thief doesn’t necessarily just steal all the time.

Skarphedin said...

Excellent stuff Dr Charlton. And this is how I have treated news out of China for years. But I am not 100% consistent re: Western Govs.

I'll also add that the System adherents use this approach on us. They act as though what dissidents say have zero information. They outright say that when a dissident is "correct", that it was mere coincidence. And that the adherents believe they were more "correct" in being wrong than dissidents were in being right.

They treat us as though we are categorically incapable of being correct about anything.

Almost complete bias towards authority (System/Institutions).

Francis Berger said...

"I believe that every person who - for a while - succeeds in thinking/ being outside of The System becomes (for that time) an instrument of divine providence."

Bruce, that's brilliant! That perfectly encapsulates a positive freedom-for motivation for the spiritual imperative behind system-distancing. The act of merely rejecting the System as evil (though necessary and good) is negative in motivation. On the other hand, understanding that thinking and being outside the System (however temporary or limited) offers the opportunity to become an instrument for divine providence, which provides the positive motivation. And what a motivation!

This offers a positive and encouraging answer to the (seemingly) difficult question of why the System should be rejected in the first place as well as why solutions that rely primarily or entirely on the System will not work in this time and place.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank "The act of merely rejecting the System as evil (though necessary and good) is negative in motivation. On the other hand, understanding that thinking and being outside the System (however temporary or limited) offers the opportunity to become an instrument for divine providence, which provides the positive motivation."

That puts what I was driving-at very neatly.

Sean Fowler said...

Wouldn’t one reason to engage in discourse with the system and it’s human products of the system be to get more information from it/them, to interrogate it if you will. In order to find out if it’s telling the truth or not and if it should transpire that it or they are lying, then show them the error of its ways? Dont enemies need to be confronted, at least some of the time. Don’t liars need to hear the truth, or at least be made aware that they are lying? Basically don’t we just need to ask the Cretan a few well formulated questions to figure out what he’s up to?

pyrrhus said...

I think the partial exception would be what we call in law "statements against interest"...They are to be given conditional credibility, but are still subject to verification...and are likely to be only partially true, often understating the negative information...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sean - I think we need to distinguish between engaging with individual people who are in servitude to The System - which we must, and should, sometimes do; Not engaging with The System - including individuals when they are operating within The System.

Bruce Charlton said...

@p - I think I know what you mean - but I think that increasingly such instances are also part of the manipulation - e.g. controlled opposition, or officially approved forms of limited-dissent.