(pseudo-)Paul and the Liar’s Paradox

Posted by on December 1, 2007 at 9:14 pm.

“Paradoxes have not been handed down through the generations solely by virtue of their intrinsic interest.  Often they hitch a ride on some weightier matter.  For instance, the liar paradox owes some of its currency to the fact that Paul unwittingly packed it into the Bible.” – Roy Sorensen, A Brief History of the Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind (New York: OUP, 2003), p. 83.

After reading this statement, re-reading the opening line from Kripke’s “Outline of a Theory of Truth” seemed a lot less ridiculous than I first thought:

Ever since Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John XVIII, 38), the subsequent search for a correct answer has been inhibited by another problem, which, as is well known, also arises in a New Testament context.  If, as the author of the Epistle to Titus supposes (Titus I, 12), a Cretan prophet, “even a prophet of their own,” asserted that “the Cretans are always liars,” and if “this testimony is true” of all other Cretan utterances, then it seems that the Cretan prophet’s words are true if and only if they are false.  And any treatment of the concept of truth most Somehow circumvent this paradox. (Saul Kripke, “Outline of a Theory of Truth,” Journal of Philosophy, vol. 72 no. 19 [November 6, 1975], p. 690).