Sunday, December 9, 2012

This Sentence Is False: The Paradox Of Language

At some point in your life, you've probably been introduced to the "this sentence is false" paradox or one of its many variants. The problem with the statement is that if the sentence is true then the sentence is false, meaning it's true, meaning it's false... we could go on forever. Needless to say the only truth in the sentence is that it's a paradox. Or is it?

This picture is also paradoxical.

A lot of people who spend more time thinking than doing (we'll call them philosophers) believe this to be the case. However, it is only in certain languages that this works.

A few people have tried to get their heads around this conundrum. Some have even stated that it can't be true or false because language can only imply truths, and not ensure them. For example, just because you say it doesn't make it true... or is that false?

How many times have you said something as an absolute when you actually meant it as a generalisation? Think of "French cuisine is fantastic", you can't possibly mean all food in France is amazing. If you do mean that then you've never gone to Quick, the French equivalent of McDonald's. What about the famous "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (this is not a pipe) artwork by Magritte? It was asserting that it was an image of a pipe, rather than an actual pipe... which we think is probably being overly pedantic.

Ceci n'est pas haute cuisine.

All we can really assert about "this sentence is false" is that it can be useful to escape crazed robots and AIs since their programming cannot process logical paradoxes.