The Epimenides Paradox


The Epimenides paradox is a problem in logic. It is named after the Cretan philosopher Epimenides of Knossos who lived around 600 BC. Epimenides was also a religious prophet who, against the general sentiment of Crete, proposed that Zeus was immortal, as in his Cretica poem:

“They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.”

Also, the Epistle to Titus makes reference to Epimenides. The author states:

‘One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. ‘ (Titus 1:12)

A paradox of self-reference is commonly supposed to arise when one considers whether Epimenides spoke the truth. However, if Epimenides knew of at least one Cretan who was not a liar, then his statement is a non-paradoxical lie in that it does not lead to a logical contradiction.

The negation of the statement, “All Cretans are liars” is the statement, “Some Cretans are not liars,” which might be true at the same time as the statement, “Some Cretans are liars.”

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