Of Liars and Truth-Tellers

(Hidden tribute to the late David Bowie here)

I used to really love logic puzzles when I was a kid. I’ve mentioned the professional logician Raymond Smullyan a few times as a big influence of mine, and I highly recommend his puzzle books. Here’s a complete list of what Amazon carries, and I’ll highlight some, roughly in order of personal preference:

Also noteworthy is his book of philosophical essays, The Tao Is Silent. Smullyan, like fellow mathematician Bertrand Russell, dabbles in philosophy a bit, and this book is a westerner’s perspective on eastern religion. I’m sure it takes a lot of liberties with the subject matter, and I imagine if I reread the whole thing now I’d find I agree with him a lot less than I used to in my teens and twenties. But still, his style is playful and entertaining, and there are a couple of essays in that book which I love to reference: “Is God a Taoist?” and “An Epistemological Nightmare.” The first is one of my favorite speculations I’ve ever read on the nature of the “god” concept.

But I digress. I wanted to talk for a minute about Smullyan’s logic puzzles in order to illustrate a point about religious arguments.

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