Philosophical places – Epimenides among liars in Crete

By Hans von Trotha

True or false? The philosopher Epimenides is said to have worked in the palace of Knossos on the island of Crete at the end of the 7th century BC. (Unsplash / Egor Myznik)

What good is a warning against lying if the one who speaks it is not trustworthy? The philosopher Epimenides would have raised this problem in ancient times. To this day, thinkers still wonder about its paradox.

Logic is the region of philosophy that strictly follows the rules. Things are broken down into their parts for so long that you can tell each and every one of them if it’s right or wrong. In principle, this applies everywhere.

A journey to the limits of logic

Unless you find yourself in Crete, on the largest Greek island in the Libyan Sea. The most famous sites are the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos – one of the places where the philosopher and seer Epimenides was born.

The inhabitants of the southern island of Greece have always put logic to the test by virtually personifying the figure of thought where logic reaches its systematic limit: paradox.

“All Cretans are liars”, says one Cretan

The apostle Paul said in his letter to Titus: “One of them said as their own prophet: All Cretans are liars and lazy bellies, dangerous animals. With this, Paul quotes Epimenides, who would have said it in this way or in a similar way a few centuries earlier. A short version of this saying entered the philosophical debates of the 20th century. The phrase “The Cretan Epimenid Says: All Cretans Are Liars” has come to be known as the Liar’s Paradox.

Because if the sentence “All Cretans are liars” is correct and the person who spoke it is Cretan, then the sentence is a lie, so it cannot be correct and it is – what now? True or not true?

Endless Loop Calculators

In terms of a thought figure, it is this lying paradox with which computers are put out of order in thrillers, whether in a novel or in a movie, finding themselves in an endless loop which they cannot find. no way out. Philosophical logic does the same thing, slower and more creatively. It is argued, for example, that liars do not always lie and that Epimenides may not lie when he says: “All Cretans are liars.” Is the sentence true then? Or is it still wrong?

Epimenides and his lying paradox always come to the minds of philosophers when things are said which, when said, seem to refute their own veracity. It’s also made its way into popular culture – not just in the form of countless computer security systems that have been sidelined.

Paradoxical comedy of diversity

In Monty Python’s legendary film “The Life of Brian”, steeped in a lot of philosophical stuff, for example, there is a dialogue between Brian, who is revered as a prophet against his will, and the crowd cheering him on.

“You are all individuals,” Brian yells at the crowd. “Yes, we are all individuals,” they respond in unison. “And you are all completely different! The crowd also unanimously confirms this. But then someone shouts: “Not me! and takes the complex subject of individuality to the next level. This is how philosophy works – even if not everyone notices it right away.

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