Prophecies when not realized, whether they be of the Goddess of Delphi or of the various pre-Socratic vagabonds such as Epimenides wandering the Greek isles of antiquity, can make the prophets look like liars. Which is why the economic forecasters at the Federal Reserve or the psychics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) risk becoming prevaricators unless their forebodings come true: “this is what will happen” and “this is what we want to happen” become nearly identical statements in the course of human affairs in the enterprise of making make belief belief.
Epimenides wanted Crete to become the civilizational heritage of Athens, the cave analogy in Plato’s dialogs, in which endeavor he adopted the rationalism of the Athenians for the mysticism of his native Crete, perhaps because he saw virtue in Athens more than in Crete. The rise and fall of civilizations, much later assayed by Arnold Joseph Toynbee in his magnum opus A Study of History, is indeed always a cycle of the rise and fall of virtue. Of Babylon.
The risk of prophecies is captured well by the statement of Epimenides: “Cretans, Always Liars.” It is a paradox if Epimenides was Cretan, which he was. It is not, if he saw himself as an Athenian. Whether the paradox, intended or not by Epimenides himself, ineluctably requires resolution in the scheme of philosophical rationalism:
I am a Cretan
Therefore, I am a liar
Therefore, I lied when I stated that “All Cretans, always liars”
Therefore, some Cretans could be always liars and others not always liars
Therefore, I may or may not always be a liar
Because I am Cretan
The paradox reveals the ambiguity inherent in that assertion for the institutions that are charged with maintaining social order, such as a court of law-the many simultaneously true and false states between the binary boolean false and the boolean true-but not to my own conscience, the disinterested, non-values laden mirror of individual experience. Logic without the rectitude of feeling bears little meaning but plenty of consequence.
Language is the basis for identity, and understanding of transcendence. Without both, olive branches carry little meaning for liars.
Self-referential statements of falsehood, such as the Epimenides’ Paradox, are quantum mechanical in nature.
All self-referential statements are false because we can never finish knowing ourselves.