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Epimenides and Truth

by Peter Bond

Epimenides, who was a Cretan, is claimed to have said, “All Cretans are liars”. This is a puzzling statement if Epimenides is included in the description of “all Cretans”. Here is a version of a way out of the puzzle:

I think we may assume that Epimenides was either (a) telling the truth or (b) not telling the truth when he made his famous statement.

If we assume (a) that he was telling the truth, then being a Cretan he must be a non-truthteller, a liar – but this is self contradictory and so our assumption (a) cannot be valid, and must be discarded.

Therefore the assumption (b), that he was not telling the truth, is the assumption that is left standing – and its meaning is clear, i.e. that it is not the case that all Cretans are liars; one of them must be and his name is Epimenides, but, as to all the other Cretans, some may be liars, and some not, but certainly they are not all liars.

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