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#41 - Stephen Read: Liar Paradox

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"This sentence is false". Is that sentence true or false? If it's true, then what it says must hold; but what it says is that it's false, so it must be false. But if it's false, then what it says must not hold; but what it says is that it's false, so it must not be false. But if it's not false, it must be true. So if the sentence is true, it is false, and if it is false, it is true. The sentence, therefore, seems to be both true and false, which seems absurd.

Philosopher and logician Stephen Read is one of the preeminent scholars on this "liar paradox". He is known, in large part, for rediscovering and defending a long forgotten solution to the paradox first proposed by the medieval philosopher Thomas Bradwardine. In this first half of our conversation, Read covers the paradox's rich and influential history. It was first discovered, in its full form, in the 4th century BCE by Eubulides (who also first set down the sorites paradox). It became a central problem in the 20th century via its association with Russell's Paradox, a major problem in the foundations of mathematics. Later in the century, two thinkers - Alfred Tarski and Saul Kripke - proposed monumentally influential theories of language and truth motivated, largely, by the paradox. But even after their contributions, the consensus is that the paradox remains unsolved. Quite a few new solutions have been suggested in the decades since Kripke's 1975 proposal. Among the more influential is Stephen Read's revival of the Bradwardine solution, which will the subject of part 2 of this interview.

Featured Blog Post

The Easy Case for Dialetheism: Timmy the Square Circle and Divaltopian Law

Dialetheism is the view that some contradictions are true. Put another way, dialetheists claim that there are propositions that are both true and false at the same time and in the same respect. I argue that, despite initial appearances, dialetheism is intuitively compelling and even quite obviously true. I conjure the cases of Timmy the Square Circle and Divaltopian Law to show why this must be.

This is part one of a two-part series. Part two considers the possibility of contradictions about physical reality.

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Talia (audiodrama album)

"It all started when I decided to write a self-aware character." A narrative and musical  journey into the mind of a writer who fears that a fictional character of his own creation may be plotting to permanently hijack his very identity and agency. The humorous, philosophical, tragic, and absurd story is accompanied by a rich and varied original score, incorporating elements of electronica, prog rock, jazz, hip-hop, chamber, choral, avant-garde, and metal. 96 min. album.