Infallible Authority Paradox

What is the Infallible Authority Paradox?

Imagine someone who is never wrong – a teacher, a book, or even a law that is always right no matter what. Now imagine what happens if this person or thing says something that doesn’t match with what another never-wrong source says. This situation, where an authority that is supposed to always be right appears to be wrong or disagrees with another never-wrong authority, is what we call the Infallible Authority Paradox.

In simpler terms, it’s like having two smart robots, both programmed to never make mistakes. If these robots start arguing with each other, saying opposite things, we have a problem. How do you choose which robot to believe when they’re both supposed to be perfect? This puzzle forces us to think about whether someone or something can really be without mistakes, and how to deal with conflicting information from sources that are supposed to be trustworthy.


This tricky problem isn’t new. For a long time, thinkers and leaders, especially in religious fields, have been wondering about the idea of being perfect and never wrong. People have asked, “Can a holy person, a religious text, or even God make a mistake?” It’s a big question that makes you think pretty hard about what ‘truth’ means.

One well-known example of such a twisty problem is the story of the Cretan Liar, which goes back to an old philosopher from an island called Crete. He made a tricky statement: “All Cretans are liars.” But that’s a Cretan saying it, so, if he’s telling the truth, then he’s lying; but if he’s lying, then he’s telling the truth. It’s a real head-scratcher, and it has a lot in common with the Infallible Authority Paradox, because it questions if we can trust a so-called perfect source.

Key Arguments

  • What even is ‘infallibility’? We’re digging into whether something can really, truly be always right, whether it’s a person, a text, or a whole group.
  • When two never-wrong sources clash: We try to wrap our heads around what to do when two sources that are both supposed to be perfect don’t agree with each other.
  • Saying you can make mistakes: Here’s a twist – an always-right source might say, “I can be wrong.” Now that’s just confusing, since it’s saying it’s not always right after all.
  • Are we just not getting it? Sometimes, it’s suggested that maybe it’s us – humans are just unable to understand perfectly, so the problem is with us, not with the infallibility thing.
  • When perfect sources aren’t so perfect: Some suggest that if there’s even one example where a so-called never-wrong source is wrong, then the whole idea of being perfect isn’t real.

Answer or Resolution

Like a lot of tough brain teasers, there’s no one answer that everyone agrees on. But people have tried different ways to solve it:

  • Limits on being perfect: Some folks say that being perfect might only apply to certain areas, like moral advice or spiritual stuff, sidestepping problems in other topics.
  • Understanding things correctly: Others argue that when two always-right sources seem to disagree, it’s probably just a mix-up, and if we understood everything perfectly, they would actually match up.
  • Embracing the unknown: In some beliefs or ideas, people accept that this kind of puzzle is just beyond what we can figure out, showing that there are limits to our brains.
  • Saying nobody’s perfect: The simplest way out of this problem is to say, look, nobody and nothing can ever be totally perfect, which unravels the whole thing by going back on the basic idea.

Major Criticism

A lot of folks have poked holes in the Infallible Authority Paradox. They say, for starters, the whole concept is shaky because it doesn’t consider that we, as humans, might mess up when we try to understand things, and knowledge can change over time. And history and what we learn by observing the world show that things we once thought were always right can actually make mistakes.

Then there’s the worry that if we believe too much in a perfect authority, we might stop thinking for ourselves and just go along with what we’re told. That could lead to really bad stuff like people taking control over others or sticking too rigidly to old ways.

Practical Applications

Even though this paradox is kind of abstract, it can affect real-life situations:

  • Religious Authority: If a religion says its leaders or holy books are never wrong, it changes how people look at their teachings and what they’re expected to do.
  • Legal and Judicial Systems: In court and when making laws, people often rely on old laws and past court decisions as if they were perfect. But then they might run into trouble when new ideas or changes in society come up.
  • Academic and Scientific Research: This paradox can show up in schools and science too, where what an expert or most scientists say is often taken as the final word, until some new discovery comes along and shakes things up.

By thinking about this paradox, everyone from everyday folks to big institutions can get better at managing the tension between sticking to what they’re told and being open to the fact that sometimes, even the most trusted sources can be wrong or change their minds.

Related Topics

  • Absolute Truth: The idea that some things are true no matter what, and how this concept is related to the idea of infallibility.
  • Human Fallibility: That humans make mistakes and how this affects our trust in authority and our own decision-making.
  • Ethical Relativism: The belief that what’s right or wrong can change depending on the situation, and how this challenges the idea of an infallible moral authority.

Understanding these related areas can give us more insight into the Infallible Authority Paradox and why people think and act the way they do when faced with it.


The Infallible Authority Paradox makes us think long and hard about some really interesting parts of life – truth, who we trust, and how certain we can be about anything. We may not have found a perfect answer yet, but wrestling with this problem helps us get smarter about how we handle beliefs, who we listen to, and how we keep our minds open in our search for the truth. It’s an important reminder that even the sources we hold in the highest regard could be questioned, and that’s an invaluable lesson in the way we lead our lives and shape our understanding of the world.