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This sentence is false

This sentence is false
eugipants
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 1:15 PM:
Subject: This sentence is false
Some of you may be familiar to this problem. The question is, is the sentence - "This sentence is false" - correct or incorrect?

If you say that the sentence is correct, then you agree that the sentence is false.

If you say that the setence is incorrect, then you agree to the sentence statement being false, thus stating that the sentence is correct.

This is my argument: The sentence is correct because it follows a proper sentence structure. The word order and grammar are there and thus the sentence can be nothing but correct. If the sentence is stating that it is incorrect, then it is an invalid statement for reasons stated in the above argument. It is like stating, "I am not human," yet I am because I have all of the properties of a human being, and so by my stating otherwise, the argument is seen as unsound and should no longer be regarded. A sentence has properties that make it so. This set of words have these properties therefore this set of words create a sentence.

I'm sure you guys have seen that question thousands of times but I'm currently in highschool and not many attempt to solve this question, so I kind of want to hear what everyone's solution to this problem is.
Alekhine
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 2:03 PM:

This is one of the flaws in our system of communication. Our system of communication is flawed because this statement makes perfect grammatical sense, but contradicts itself. Sentences like these are some of the reasons why I think there is probably a better system of communication out there in which there is no statement like these. I have yet to think of one, and I am not sure that our system is not the best.
keda
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 3:02 PM:

The sentence does not contradict itself. To contradict itself it requires an interpretation, that allows for the evaluation of it as necessarily false, but the sentence cannot even be interpreted, at least in the normal sense of the words. That a sentence is grammatically correct does not mean its meaningful.
jdrw
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 4:13 PM:

I agree with keda.

One way to think about this issue is that our language constructions have two significant aspects, syntax and semantics. Syntax is the word patterns: “bit dog man the mean” and “man dog mean the bit” are syntactically incorrect, but “The dog bit the mean man” and “The mean man bit the dog” are syntactically correct. And semantics is about meaning. We are able to construct language expressions that seem to adhere to all the rules of syntax even with nonsense words. The most famous example is probably Jabberwocky, which begins:
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe …

But since the words are mostly nonsense words, the sentences have no semantic meaning, even though they seem syntactically correct.

However, one of the most confusing language situations is when we construct sentences that are syntactically correct and are composed of normal words that individually do have meaning. One of the most famous examples of this is: “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” These kinds of sentences, which are syntactically correct, and which use real words don’t actually mean anything even though they sometimes seem to make poetic sense, seem to have meaning of some kind. Our brains struggle with these kinds of sentences, trying to make sense out of them, and sometimes even vaguely convincing us that we do ascertain some sort of meaning, kind of. (Theology and metaphysics is a good place to find sentences like this which seem to have some kind of meaning but actually are unintelligible.) The principle is that not every string of syntactically correct words actually means something.

And that’s the issue with “This sentence is false.” It is syntactically correct, uses ordinary words with meanings, but the whole sentence actually doesn’t mean anything.


Jedrow
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 4:51 PM:

The question is, is the sentence - "This sentence is false" - correct or incorrect?


That is not a statement because it isn't refering to anything other than itself...so it isn't "claiming a state" of anything else.

"This" is not directed to anything in the world which could be true or false.

"This" is refering to its own state and therefore it isn't true or false, because it cannot be falsified. Which is to say, what else is possible for the being of the statement other than its nonexistence?

One could say "this statement is not here" or "this statement is not a statement", etc., and it would be equally nonsensical.

It cannot be either true or false because it points at nothing outside of the text itself.

eugipants
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 5:13 PM:

Epoche wrote:


That is not a statement because it isn't refering to anything other than itself...so it isn't "claiming a state" of anything else.

"This" is not directed to anything in the world which could be true or false.

"This" is refering to its own state and therefore it isn't true or false, because it cannot be falsified. Which is to say, what else is possible for the being of the statement other than its nonexistence?

One could say "this statement is not here" or "this statement is not a statement", etc., and it would be equally nonsensical.

It cannot be either true or false because it points at nothing outside of the text itself.



Hm, so you are saying that the sentence has to point at something outside of itself to make sense? Because the "this" part isn't pointing to itself but at something else that isn't entirely there?

This sentence is false = I am refering to something when I say "this", which dould not be the sentence that "this" belongs to?

Jedrow, an honest thank-you for your post as well : )
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 5:22 PM:

Yes. "Correct" and "incorrect" cannot apply to the nature of that statement, because the only question is "is that statement real or am I trippin".

If the statement is true, then it isn't false...it is only "really there". If it is false, it isn't true, it is only "not real and I am trippin".



jdrw
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 6:37 PM:

Epoche wrote:


"This" is not directed to anything in the world which could be true or false.

…

It cannot be either true or false because it points at nothing outside of the text itself.


Yes!

“True” and “false” are meaningful judgments only about certain kinds of sentences. And the sentences that “true” and “false” can meaningfully be assigned to are sentences in which some predicate is ascribed to some referent. “Water freezes at 32 degrees F” or “The cat is on the mat” or “London is the capital of France.” True or false are judgments of some agent, some person, who judges whether the predicate in the statement does or does not apply to the referent in the statement. Thus the judgment that a sentence is “true” or “false” is separate from the sentence itself, which is why a given sentence can be judged true by some people and false by others.


Jedrow
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Posted May 16, 2007 - 9:24 PM:

Hey Eugi!

My take on this whole thing is as such;

The statement says that "This sentence is false."
The "This sentence" part in itself is referring to the entire statement (This sentence is false). So the statement should read as "This sentence is false is false. Thus rendering the original statement false.

This is what I believe. However, I've read some convicing arguments on here.
eugipants
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Posted May 17, 2007 - 6:14 AM:

Mr. Protex grin, how's life?

Ah, I completely get it now. Not only is the sentence not refering to itself but it wouldn't be able to refer to itself because a sentence is only a means to talk about something else, to describe something else, so the sentence would not be able to refer to itself no matter how it read.

Even if the sentence read, "the sentence that you are currently reading is false," it would still not be refering to itself.


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