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Nearly Hanging

A prisoner is told, “If you tell a lie we will hang you; if you tell the truth we will shoot you.”

What can he say to save himself?

You will hang me. If they hang him, then the statement was true and they could only hang him for telling a lie. If they shoot him, then it makes the statement a lie and they were only to shoot him for telling the truth. An alternate solution is to say, “You will not shoot me,” leading to the same quandary for the killers.


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4 Comments on "Nearly Hanging"


Bob says
December 16, 2014 @ 08:31

The answer is: you will hang me


Quake says
March 6, 2015 @ 00:12

A smart killer could get around it
If he says you will not shoot me the killers could shoot him in the leg or arm making it a lie and they could hang him to die
And if he says you will ahng me the killers could slowly hang him witoutkilling him and shoot him dead since it became true


Quake says
March 6, 2015 @ 00:24

A more fittng answer might be “you will hang me for the truth and you will shoot me for the truth”
Or add not to the statement or changing the words truth to lie
Eitherway making the statement both true and false in itself with no way to satisfy it


Tamir says
March 5, 2017 @ 12:46

If the executioner is a student of logic, and if the condition for remaining silent is a third punishment (e.g. starving to death), there is no way to escape this predicament with your life.

If you say ‘You will hang me!’, then the executioner will simply hang you and shoot your body afterwards, as the two actions are not mutually exclusive. The statement can both be logically punished/interpreted as a truth, since you WILL be hanged, and a falsehood, as no one specified that you would ONLY be hanged (the same reason why ordering a hamburger doesn’t rule out being served a hamburger with Coke and fries).

The same reasoning applies to the reverse statement (it’s false because they’ll shoot you, yet true because that’s not all of your punishment), thus leaving you no loophole to escape from under these circumstances. Unless you can guarantee that your captors are obligated to punish you via a single method (hang OR shoot you), or will give you a choice of methods that completely exclude each other (e.g. banishing you to the North or South Pole for life in one piece), perhaps the smartest move would be not getting caught in the first place.


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