The Liar Paradox Is A Self-Referential Conundrum

1 of 12

The Liar Paradox Is A Self-Referential Conundrum

The liar paradox, also known as the liar sentence, states "this sentence is false." If that statement makes you go a little crazy, you're not the first one. The liar paradox first came about in ancient Greece, and philosophers have been puzzling over it ever since. It's even said that the gravestone of scholar Philetas of Cos, from the third century B.C.E., is engraved with the words "'Twas the Liar who made me die, And the bad nights caused thereby."

Wittgenstein's Beetle In A Box Says You'll Never Know What It's Like To Be Someone Else

2 of 12

Wittgenstein's Beetle In A Box Says You'll Never Know What It's Like To Be Someone Else

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's beetle-in-a-box analogy demonstrates the inability for people to experience the world from anyone else's perspective. It goes like this: Imagine that everyone has a box where they keep what's called a "beetle." (It might look like what you imagine when you think of "beetle"; it might be something completely different.) You're not allowed to see into anyone else's box, but everyone is asked to describe what's in their box. Because no one can really know what's in any box but their own, the word "beetle" ceases to have any meaning outside of "that thing that's in your box." The box in Wittgenstein's analogy is the mind. We assume that the inner workings of another person's mind—the feeling of love, the sensation of pain, the very experience of being conscious—are pretty similar to our own. But that's just an assumption. We can only see into our own minds and describe that experience in words to other people, and they can do the same with us. That's why this analogy is sometimes called the "private language argument": the language we use to refer to our private experiences is defined by the way it's used with other people, and to have language that exclusively describes your own private experiences is impossible. Explore the idea of consciousness and Wittgenstein's other theories in the videos below.

The Ravens Paradox Is A Confusing Philosophical Conundrum

3 of 12

The Ravens Paradox Is A Confusing Philosophical Conundrum

The following story is about a raven and an apple. It seems quite simple and easy to follow, but it only gets more complicated from here. In this story, the apple is green, and the raven is black. Because this apple is green, we can conclude that all ravens are black. Where did we lose you? This is the paradox of the raven, a philosophical paradox that looks at how conclusions can be confirmed by positive instances. Let's try it again, slower this time...

Belief In God Is The Best Bet, According To Pascal's Wager

4 of 12

Belief In God Is The Best Bet, According To Pascal's Wager

Many great minds have sought proof for God's existence. For French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal, God's existence was beside the point. He conceded that nobody knows whether or not God exists, but because it's in our own best interests to behave as if he does, that's the most rational choice.

The Simplest Explanation Is Usually The Right One

5 of 12

The Simplest Explanation Is Usually The Right One

The 14th-century Franciscan friar and logician William of Ockham (or Occam, in the Latin spelling) once wrote "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." Known as Occam's Razor, this phrase translates to "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." In other words, the simplest explanation is best. Though this principle might seem obvious, it underpins virtually every scientific discovery ever made. For example, Einstein's theory of special relativity and the Lorentz ether theory both sought to explain phenomena related to the space-time continuum, such as how things tend to slow down the closer they get to moving at the speed of light. Lorentz's theory required a belief in "the ether," an invisible substance believed to connect everything in the universe, which had never been proven to exist. Such complications weren't necessary for Einstein's theory to work, so it's the one we use today. In everyday life, this is a good rule of thumb for anything that seems strange or inexplicable. Learn more about Occam's Razor and other philosophical princples, below.