Sunday, April 26, 2009

A gem from being in a "Continental" department.

"For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk."

Jurgen Habermas


Monday, April 06, 2009

Sleight of hand? Judge for yourself.

Crete, a Cretan, says, “All Cretans are liars.”

Suppose every Cretan besides Crete is a liar—then it’s false that ‘all Cretans are liars’, since Crete (who is a Cretan, remember) is telling the truth. If any Cretan tells the truth, then it’s false that ‘all Cretans are liars’.

Suppose every Cretan, including Crete, is a liar—then it would be true that ‘all Cretans are liars’. But if it’s true that all ‘all Cretans are liars’ then whatever Crete says must be false, in which case it’s false that ‘all Cretans are liars’.

How about a third interpretation? Suppose, at t –2, it’s true that ‘all Cretans are liars’. Suppose further, at t –1, Crete says, “All Cretans are liars.” But at t –1 it’s false that ‘all Cretans are liars’ (since Crete is telling the truth), hence Crete is lying when he says, “All Cretans are liars.” So he doesn’t contradict himself when he says, at t –1, that, “All Cretans are liars.” But if this is right, then there is no paradox. For if Crete is lying when he says, “All Cretans are liars,” then we can say, without paradox, “It’s true that ‘all Cretans are liars, including Crete at t-1.’”

I hereby dub the third interpretation, “The non-paradoxical recursive interpretation.”

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