Surprise, self-knowledge, and commonality


Frederic Schick

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Keywords: Surprise examination, Incredibility, Prediction of choices, Skepticism, Prisoner's dilemma, Common belief, Mutual belief, Categorical imperative.


Abstract
: I begin with an analysis of the surprise examination paradox (enlarging on Quine's treatment). The student should conclude, not that there won't be a surprise examination, but that he cannot properly believe that there will be one. I extend the logic of this analysis to a number of other issues, to the predictability of one's own future choices, to certain arguments about prisoners' dilemmas and about common-belief assumptions in game theory. The logic of incredibility (of what can't be logically believed by you, even though other people can believe it) has an analogue regarding desires: you cannot logically want certain propositions to be true of yourself. This leads to some reflections on Kant's Categorical Imperative.


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Frederic Schick
URutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ


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