Monday, May 9, 2011

On Absolute Truth - Part 2

Consider the statement: "We can’t know anything absolutely." I agree with this. People have responded to it by saying, “Do you know that absolutely? Then that's a logical contradiction.” All they have pointed out here is a self-reference paradox, a purely linguistic phenomenon. The statement is a variation of the liar’s paradox: “this sentence is false.” Both uses self-reference to create a paradox. In our statement, knowledge is referring to itself. In the liar's paradox, the sentence is referring to itself. Many Excel users are familiar with the problem of self-reference; when a cell’s formula refers to itself you get garbage results or an error message. A real-life example of self-reference paradox is a non-English-speaking foreigner who says, “No speak English." The foreigner used English to refer to English. It would be absurd to conclude that the foreigner therefore does speak English. Similarly, it would be absurd to conclude, from the original statement, that we can indeed know absolute truth.

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