Alethic vengeance

In J. C. Beall (ed.), Revenge of the Liar: New Essays on the Paradox. Oxford University Press (2007)
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Thinking about truth can be more dangerous than it looks. Of course, our concept of truth is the source of one of the most frustrating and impenetrable paradoxes humans have ever contemplated, the liar paradox, but that is just the beginning of its treachery. In an effort to understand why one of the most beloved and revered members of our conceptual repertoire could cause us so much trouble, philosophers have for centuries proposed “solutions” to the liar paradox. However, it seems that our concept of truth takes offense to our efforts to understand it because it appears to retaliate against those who propose “solutions” to the liar. It takes its revenge on us by creating new paradoxes from our own attempts to find resolution. That is, most proposed solutions to the liar paradox give rise to new, more insidious paradoxes—often called revenge paradoxes. For our attempts at understanding, truth rewards us with inconsistent theories, untenable logics, and a deep feeling of bewilderment. It is as if our concept of truth lashes out at us because it wants to remain a mystery. After a few run-ins with truth, many philosophers have the good sense to keep their distance. Far from being the serene, profound concept most people take it to be, those of us who think much about the liar paradox know truth to be a vengeful bully—a conceptual misanthrope.



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Kevin Scharp
University of Twente

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