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Chow-The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox-1998-0

Chow-The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox-1998-0

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The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox Timothy Y. Chow [As published in Amer. Math.

Monthly 105 (1998), 41–51; ArXived with permission.] Many mathematicians have a dismissive attitude towards paradoxes. This is unfortunate, because many paradoxes are rich in content, having connections with serious mathematical ideas as well as having pedagogical value in teaching elementary logical reasoning. An excellent example is the so-called “surprise examination paradox” (described below), which is an argument that seems at first to be too silly to deserve much attention. However, it has inspired an amazing variety of philosophical and mathemati¨ cal investigations that have in turn uncovered links to Godel’s incompleteness theorems, game theory, and several other logical paradoxes (e.g., the liar paradox and the sorites paradox). Unfortunately, most mathematicians are unaware of this because most of the literature has been published in philosophy journals. In this article, I describe some of this work, emphasizing the ideas that are particularly interesting mathematically. I also try to dispel some of the confusion that surrounds the paradox and plagues even the published literature. However, I do not try to correct every error or explain every idea that has ever appeared in print. Readers who want more comprehensive surveys should see [30, chapters 7 and 8], [20], and [16]. At times I assume some knowledge of mathematical logic (such as may be found in Enderton [10]), but the reader who lacks this background may safely skim these sections. 1. The paradox and the meta-paradox Let us begin by recalling the paradox. It has many variants, the earliest probably being Lennart Ekbom’s surprise drill, and the best known to mathematicians (thanks to Quine and Gardner) being an unexpected hanging. We shall give the surprise examination version. A teacher announces in class that an examination will be held on some day during the following week, and moreover that the examination will be a surprise. The students argue that a surprise exam cannot occur. For suppose the exam were on the last day of the week. Then on the previous night, the students would be able to predict that the exam would occur on the following day, and the exam would not be a surprise. So it is impossible for a surprise exam to occur on the last day. But then a surprise exam cannot occur on the penultimate day, either, for in that case the students, knowing that the last day is an impossible day for a surprise exam, would be able to predict on the night before the exam that the exam would occur on the following day. Similarly, the students argue that a surprise exam cannot occur on any other day of the week either. Confident in this conclusion, they are of course totally surprised when the exam occurs 1

(on Wednesday, say). The announcement is vindicated after all. Where did the students’ reasoning go wrong? The natural reaction to a paradox like this is to try to resolve it. Indeed, if you have not seen this paradox before, I encourage you to try to resolve it now before reading on. However, I do not want to discuss the resolution of the paradox right away. Instead, for reasons that should become apparent, I discuss what I call the “meta-paradox” first. The meta-paradox consists of two seemingly incompatible facts. The first is that the surprise exam paradox seems easy to resolve. Those seeing it for the first time typically have the instinctive reaction that the flaw in the students’ reasoning is obvious. Furthermore, most readers who have tried to think it through have had little difficulty resolving it to their own satisfaction. The second (astonishing) fact is that to date nearly a hundred papers on the paradox have been published, and still no consensus on its correct resolution has been reached. The paradox has even been called a “significant problem” for philosophy [30, chapter 7, section VII]. How can this be? Can such a ridiculous argument really be a major unsolved mystery? If not, why does paper after paper begin by brusquely dismissing all previous work and claiming that it alone presents the long-awaited simple solution that lays the paradox to rest once and for all? Some other paradoxes suffer from a similar meta-paradox, but the problem is especially acute in the case of the surprise examination paradox. For most other trivialsounding paradoxes there is broad consensus on the proper resolution, whereas for the surprise exam paradox there is not even agreement on its proper formulation. Since one’s view of the meta-paradox influences the way one views the paradox itself, I must try to clear up the former before discussing the latter. In my view, most of the confusion has been caused by authors who have plunged into the process of “resolving” the paradox without first having a clear idea of what it means to “resolve” a paradox. The goal is poorly understood, so controversy over whether the goal has been attained is inevitable. Let me now suggest a way of thinking about the process of “resolving a paradox” that I believe dispels the meta-paradox. In general, there are two steps involved in resolving a paradox. First, one establishes precisely what the paradoxical argument is. Any unclear terms are defined carefully and all assumptions and logical steps are stated clearly and explicitly, possibly in a formal language of some kind. Second, one finds the fault in the argument. Sometimes, simply performing step one reveals the flaw, e.g., when the paradox hinges on confusing two different meanings of the same word, so that pointing out the ambiguity suffices to dispel the confusion. In other cases, however, something more needs to be done; one must locate the bad assumptions, the bad reasoning, or (in desperate circumstances) the flaw in the structure of logic itself. 2

within the epistemological school there has been much debate over which axiom of a certain set of mutually inconsistent axioms about knowledge should be rejected. it may be hard to isolate a unique culprit. Such a mistranslation evades the paradox instead of resolving it. To be sure. Even here. formal versions of a paradox sometimes miss the essence of the original informal version. however. because most authors have succeeded in finding resolutions. One cannot say who is objectively right. It is usually enough to exhibit the incompatible assumptions and state that their joint inconsistency is the source of the paradox. though. but there are a few subtleties. such a decision is not usually needed to resolve the paradox. there has been much debate between what I call the “epistemological school” (which formalizes the paradox using concepts such as knowledge. 3 . in the second step. Also. Sometimes what we discover is a set of mutually incompatible assumptions such that rejecting any one of them suffices to eliminate the contradiction. there is some room for differences of opinion. one person may think that the first captures the essence better but another may prefer the second. With these ideas in mind we can easily explain the meta-paradox. and numerous authors have fallen into this trap. This point has also been made by Kirkham [16]. since there is always some vagueness in the original informal account. belief and memory) and the “logical school” (which avoids such concepts) over who has the “right” formalization. this is a real danger. the flaw is caused by bad assumptions. As many investigators of the surprise exam paradox have noted. When this occurs. For example. because one can sometimes argue that the variant paradox does not in fact retain the essence but is actually a different paradox that requires a different solution. Most of the controversies have been false controversies. Thus. However. The question is an interesting one from the point of view of philosophically analyzing the concept of knowledge. A careful look at the literature confirms our suspicion that the paradox is not hard to resolve. but if we agree that identifying the “right” axiom to reject is not essential to resolving the paradox then this debate need not trouble us. For example. sometimes there exist multiple formalizations of a paradox that all capture its essence reasonably well. Given two formalizations of the paradox. Certainly. one can sometimes argue that a particular formalization is inadequate by proposing a variation of the paradox that seems to retain its essence but for which the particular formalization fails. if. In such cases I believe it is misguided to speak of the resolution of the paradox. there is a simple but important point here that is often overlooked: the question of whether or not a particular formalization of a paradox “captures its essence” is to some extent a matter of opinion. The first step of resolving a paradox can also be subtle. But both approaches are reasonable and neither is guilty of evasion. notice that while it may be an interesting question to decide which assumption to reject.These two steps seem straightforward.

part of the announcement—the claim that an examination will take place some time during the following week—is not difficult to formalize. our tendency is to assume. So a first step towards formalizing the teacher’s announcement might be. it should at least allow us to formalize the students’ argument to some degree. however. the faulty step or assumption will become immediately apparent. because every proof begins with axioms. “There will be an examination next week and its date will not be deducible in advance. Let us now do this and see what happens. or that if it can be so translated. What is meant by “surprise”? Whatever “surprise” means. it is not completely clear which axioms are in question here. Now. it must at least mean that the students will not be able to deduce logically the date of the examination ahead of time.Having dealt with the meta-paradox. that either the paradox cannot be translated into a purely logical or mathematical argument. To say that the date of the examination will not be deducible in advance is a vague statement until the axioms from which the date cannot be deduced are specified precisely. The logical school We mathematicians have a firm belief that logic and mathematics are consistent. but the part that says that the examination will be a surprise is not as clear. if our formalization is to be at all true to the original paradox. they would surely not be at all surprised by the exam. So a natural reaction to the surprise examination paradox (at least for a mathematician) is to take the students’ argument and try to convert it into a rigorous proof in order to find the flaw.” This is not sufficient. Formalizing the teacher’s announcement as (a) There will be an examination next week and its date will not be deducible in advance from an empty set of assumptions is certainly not satisfactory because it does not allow the students’ argument even to begin. we now turn to the paradox itself and explore several different approaches. therefore. Every proof begins with axioms. The students’ argument seems to deduce a contradiction from the teacher’s announcement. 2. However. so it seems that the axioms in this case ought to be some formalization of the announcement. Now. 4 . even before analyzing the paradox. the informal word “surprise” is too vague to give us many clues. This would evade the paradox and not resolve it. A better attempt at formalization might be something like (b) There will be an examination next week and its date will not be deducible in advance from the assumption that the examination will occur some time during the week. for if the students could prove that the date of the examination were such-and-such before the date arrived. When we are confronted with a paradox.

Given a first-order language that contains enough elementary arithmetic to handle prim¨ itive recursive functions. and it is now a standard technique in mathematical logic. i.” the students’ argument is blocked.” “Conj. and ¨ so on). from statement (b). that the examination will not occur on the last day implies that a last-day examination will not be surprising.. ¨ ¨ if q is the Godel number of Q then Neg q is the Godel number of the negation of Q. and let Q1 and Q2 be statements representing the occurrence of the exam on days one and two. and a primitive recursive relation R that relates i to j if and only if i is the Godel 5 .e. we must embed the nondeducibility from the announcement into the announcement itself. Then what we are seeking is a statement S such that S ≡ (Q1 & ([S ⇒ Q1 ] is unprovable)) or else (Q2 & ([S & ∼Q1 ⇒ Q2 ] is unprovable)). the students need to argue that their ability to deduce. The answer is yes. Let us reduce the number of days to two for simplicity (we consider one-day weeks shortly). It now becomes clear that to carry out the students’ argument. To continue the argument we need to be able to use the nondeducibility from the announcement as an assumption. However.This formalization allows at least the first step of the students’ argument to be carried out: given this announcement. if we try to reproduce the next step of the students’ argument—the step that eliminates the penultimate day of the week—we find ourselves stuck. Indeed. this was one of the crucial ideas in Godel’s proof of his incompleteness theorems. respectively. However. In order to eliminate the penultimate day.. After all. it is straightforward to formalize most aspects of this statement. Indeed.” and “Imp” encoding negation. In other words. Shaw concludes his paper [25] with just such a comment. the announcement must be formulated as a self-referential statement! There is a temptation to end the analysis here with a comment that the self-referential nature of statement (c) is the source of the paradox. It is natural to ask if this technique can be used to obtain a completely formal version of statement (c). and implication (i. if a self-referential definition like this were to be presented in a mathematical paper. [4] and [32] have similar constructions) in some detail since it is rather interesting. one needs a formalization that is something like (c) There will be an examination next week and its date will not be deducible in advance using this announcement as an axiom. But since we have restricted “surprising” to mean “not deducible from the assumption that the examination will occur sometime during the week” instead of “not deducible from statement (b).e. we give the construction (due to Fitch [11]. There are primitive recursive functions “Neg. we need to be careful. we would surely reject it instantly as illegal. together with some Godel numbering of the formulas. conjunction. For it is possible in mathematics to formalize certain ¨ kinds of self-referential statements. the students can deduce that the examination will not occur on the last day of the week.

We can now imitate the students’ argument to show that S is logically false. (Q1 & ∼P[D(h. (1) ¨ Let a be the Godel number of (1). It appears to pin the blame on the teacher’s announcement instead of on the students. The only tricky part is the self-reference. This completes the formalization of statement (c). ¨ Let h be the Godel number of this formula.h) also appears on the right-hand side of (†) exactly where we want it to appear. (2) ¨ The rest of the argument is now clear: if b is the Godel number of (2). we can prove (S & ∼Q1 ) ⇒ Q2 . and let P[x] abbreviate ∃y:yRx. various authors have raised objections to this analysis. i.n) is the Godel number of the sentence obtained by replacing the free ¨ variable in the formula having Godel number m by the name of the number n. that ∼S is a tautology. and this is achieved using the usual (primitive recursive) “diagonalization” ¨ operator D: D(m. It follows that S ⇒ Q1 . let ≡ denote exclusive or. However. the provability of (1) implies P(a). by definition of D.h) Conj Neg q1 ) Imp q2 ]). Therefore ∼S. The most important is that the proof does not give any explanation for why the teacher’s announcement appears to be vindicated after the fact.h) is the Godel number of S. Thus.e. By the nature of the relation R. Fitch’s proof has a satisfying air of definitiveness. P stands for provable. then the provability of (2) implies P(b). ¨ Now let q1 and q2 be the Godel numbers of Q1 and Q2 respectively. it is illegitimate here because this particular self-referential statement is self-contradictory. Using the definition of S. and surely this cannot be correct. D(h.h) Imp q1 ]) ≡ (Q2 & ∼P[(D(h. Then we can formulate the following formula with the free variable x: (Q1 & ∼P[D(x. (†) ¨ Then. The clincher is that D(h.¨ number of a proof of the sentence whose Godel number is j.e. although self-reference is not illegitimate in all circumstances. 6 . and let S be the sentence obtained by substituting h for x.x) Conj Neg q1 ) Imp q2 ])..x) Imp q1 ]) ≡ (Q2 & ∼P[(D(x. Using “#” to ¨ denote “the name of the Godel number of” we can rewrite S as (Q1 & ∼P[#(S ⇒ Q1 )]) ≡ (Q2 & ∼P[#((S & ∼Q1 ) ⇒ Q2 )]).. But observe that ∼P(a) appears in the second disjunct in the definition of S. and seems to vindicate Shaw. i. but ∼P(b) appears in the first disjunct of S.

For example. in its definition of the word “surprise.” Ignoring the act of making the announcement would leave us stuck at (a).” The logical analysis therefore does take into account the act of making the announcement. As for the objection about the role of the act of making the announcement. “epistemological” approach. Rather. However. These objections have convinced many to reject entirely the “purely logical” approach. observe that the same sequence of words can have different meanings depending on context. it has one serious disadvantage: certain aspects of the paradox—the act of announcing the exam. Similar observations are made in [4] and [9]. 3. the belief or disbelief that the students have in the announcement. The purely logical analysis seems to ignore this. If the teacher intended (c) when making the announcement. then no paradox would have occurred. and to propose a different. Therefore the trouble cannot be attributed solely to the propositional content of the teacher’s announcement. The announcement appears to be vindicated afterwards. the conclusion is that in order for the students to carry out their argument that the teacher’s announcement cannot be fulfilled. their assumption that they will remember the announcement during the course of the week. It is therefore natural to ask if we can formalize the paradox in a way that lays bare these “epistemic” aspects. However. and would remain so after the examination. the public utterance of the sentence changes its propositional content from “there will be a surprise exam” to something like “there will be a surprise exam in spite of the fact that I am now telling you that there will be a surprise exam. The epistemological school The purely logical approach is attractive to a mathematician both because it shows exactly what problems arise from trying to convert the paradoxical argument into a mathematical proof and because it has connections to nontrivial theorems of logic. the first objection indicates a misunderstanding of the purely logical approach. however.A related objection rests on the observation that if the teacher had not announced the exam to the class but had simply decided in secret to give a surprise exam. I want to point out that the objections can be met. and so on—are taken into account only implicitly and not explicitly. does not mean (c).” and such a statement does not permit the students’ argument to be carried out. they must interpret the teacher’s announcement as saying something like (c). a more reasonable assumption is that the teacher’s announcement. The conclusion of the logical analysis is not that the teacher’s announcement is self-contradictory and is the source of the paradox. Before moving on to a discussion of the epistemological school. and that therefore the students misinterpret the announcement when they make their argument. whatever it means. but the statement that is actually vindicated is something like “the students will be psychologically surprised by the exam. 7 . then it would be contradictory. the act of announcing it to the students must play a crucial role. albeit implicitly. and that in the case of the teacher’s announcement.

and KE. ∼Kb 2. we deduce from Kb[1 ∨ 2] and Kb ∼1 that Kb 2. then one knows B. using KD. to see if one of the assumptions appears to be a particularly promising candidate for rejection. we do not necessarily have to decide which assumption is the “wrong” one. a contradiction. KI. By KD. Kb(‡) implies ∼2. Assume that Kb(‡) is true.Various epistemological formalizations have been proposed in the literature. On the other hand. i. Then from Ka 1 we deduce 1 (from KE) and hence ∼Ka 1. Assume KaKb(‡). But since Ka(‡) is true. From KD and Ka[Kb(‡) ⇒ ∼2] it follows that Ka ∼2. in particular. and KE. We begin the argument with a lemma: Kb(‡) ⇒ ∼2. a contradiction. Thus. (‡) is true (by KE). It is still interesting.. let “1” denote “the exam occurs on the first day” and let “2” denote “the exam occurs on the second day. KD: If one knows A & B. Since we know that Ka ∼2. reduce the number of days to two for simplicity. Pointing out to the students that they are making these internally inconsistent assumptions about knowledge is enough to dissolve the paradox. and by KI we can infer Ka[Kb(‡) ⇒ ∼2]. (‡) follows. remember that “⇒” here encompasses our new rules of logic KD. it follows from KD that Ka 1. It is one of our logical truths (KE) that Kb(‡) ⇒ (‡).” The announcement can then be written [1 ⇒ ∼Ka 1] & [2 ⇒ (∼Kb 2 & Kb ∼1)] & [1 ∨ 2]. (‡) We now introduce certain assumptions about knowledge and add them to our list of rules of inference in our logic. This shows that certain plausible assumptions about knowledge—KI. together with the assumption that the students know that they will know the content of the announcement throughout the week—are inconsistent. the exam is held on the last day. then one knows A and one knows B. By KD and our assumption that KaKb(‡). this implies Ka(‡) and in particular (by KD again) that Ka(1 ∨ 2). and in particular its first disjunct 1 ⇒ ∼Ka 1 is true. Similarly. As before. if one knows that A implies B and one knows A. Now assume towards a contradiction that 2 is true. we give just one here (taken from [29]) to illustrate the idea. so from KI we conclude that Ka[Kb(‡) ⇒ (‡)]. it follows that Kb[1 ∨ 2]. KI: All logical truths are known. Perhaps the most popular candidate has been the assumption that after hearing the announcement. and 2 together with second conjunct of (‡) implies ∼Kb 2 & Kb ∼1.” Let “Ka” denote “on the eve of the first day the students will know” and let “Kb” denote “on the eve of the second day the students will know. Now we can proceed with the crux of the argument: deducing a contradiction from the assumption KaKb(‡). KD.e. however. From Kb(‡) and KE. the students “know” the content of the 8 . KE: It is not possible to know something that is false.

announcement. and that that student will be surprised in the sense that he will not know he has been designated until they break formation. This curious phenomenon is known as a “Moore paradox” or a “blindspot. which suggests that rejecting these assumptions may be missing the point. and [29].” and the surprise exam paradox may be viewed as simply a more intricate version of this situation. “There will be an exam tomorrow but you do not know that. The rest of the argument proceeds in the familiar way. Art. The teacher lines them up alphabetically so that each student can see the backs of the students ahead of him in alphabetical order but not the students after him. However. Others have argued that the assumption KaKb(‡) is plausible only if one invokes the “temporal retention principle” (the students know that they will not forget the announcement during the week) or “Hintikka’s KK principle” (if one knows something then one knows that one knows it). For comparison. so that the announcement becomes. Those who maintain that we can never “know” things by authority or that we can never “know” things about the future (at least not with the same certainty that we can know many other things) naturally find this approach attractive. The significance of this variation is that in our preceding formalization we can let Ka mean “Art knows” and Kb mean “Bob knows” and then KaKb(‡) appears to be immediately plausible without reference to time or the KK principle. Exactly one of five students. Bob. [24]. [18]. because the statement that the students are supposed to “know” is a statement that says something about the students’ inability to “know” certain things. Don. the problem remains even if those principles are rejected. I do not discuss this in detail here since I feel it is of limited mathematical interest. “It is raining but John Doe does not know that it is raining. and Eric. They prove a theorem called “the Paradox of the Knower” that is reminiscent of Tarski’s theorem on the indefinability of the truth predicate. Suppose we we have a first-order language and we wish to introduce a knowledge predicate K. Thus. [22]. [6]. The students are shown four silver stars and one gold star. The students argue that this is impossible. even those who are less skeptical have reason to reject the assumption. that of Kaplan and Montague [15]. The teacher announces that the gold star is on the back of the student who must take the exam. The easiest way to see the connection is to reduce the length of the week to one day.” This approach is essentially the one offered in [3]. A very interesting variant of the epistemological approach. is a kind of hybrid of the logical and epistemological schools.” Clearly. There are certain reasonable-sounding conditions that we might want to place on K: 9 . Carl. [21]. Then one star is secretly put on the back of each student. and that one or both of these assumptions should be discarded. consider the statement. is to be given an exam. see [28] and [16] for more discussion. but I mention a brilliant variation of the paradox concocted by Sorensen [28]. John Doe cannot know the content of this statement even if the statement is true and it is uttered in his hearing by an extraordinarily reliable source. Eric cannot be designated because if he were he would see four silver stars and would know that he was designated.

Intuitively. occasional cooperation would be superior to invariable defection—the idea being that a cooperative move in an early stage. The prisoner’s dilemma is a two-player game in which each player has the choice of either defecting or cooperating and must make the choice without communicating with the other player and without prior knowledge of the other player’s choice. i. Unfortunately. even if the opponent defects. there is no incentive in the penultimate round to 10 . see [1]. defection is the best choice because the prisoner’s dilemma is a “one-shot” game. But since defection in the last round is certain. but (C) can be weakened to the assumption that the logical conclusion of a particular explicitly given proof is known. It is easy to show that each player has a dominant strategy (i. Using a diagonalization argument.. If both players defect then both payoffs are zero. Hence the optimal last-round strategy is to defect. One might think that in this case. in which there are n rounds instead of just one (and the fact that there are exactly n rounds is public knowledge). The Paradox of the Knower has inspired some sophisticated work in logic. we can construct a sentence S such that S ≡ K(#(∼S)). (C) if Q can be proved from P and K(#P). there is no incentive for players to build up a cooperative relationship since they are guaranteed never to meet again. and (C). then K(#Q). but at each round they do know and remember the results of all previous rounds. The payoffs in each round are as in the usual prisoner’s dilemma. or [13].. Thus. one that is better than any other strategy regardless of the opponent’s strategy): to defect. and the two players are still not allowed to communicate with each other. [2]. so the theorem is quite a strong one. 4. (B). then the defector enjoys a large payoff and the cooperator suffers a large loss. Consider the following “surprise examination” argument that even in the n-round prisoner’s dilemma. K(#A). One might think at first that (C) is the dubious assumption since certainly nobody knows all the logical consequences of what he knows.(A) K(#Q) ⇒ Q.e. encourages future cooperation that counterbalances earlier losses. and then derive a contradiction by substituting this S for Q and A for P in (A). If one player defects and the other player cooperates. no such knowledge predicate is possible. the optimal strategy is invariable defection. The last round of an iterated prisoner’s dilemma is identical to the “one-shot” prisoner’s dilemma. these assumptions cannot be satisfied. since there is no hope of future cooperation. (B) (A) is known. This suggests considering the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. Game theory Some authors have made the fascinating suggestion that the surprise exam paradox may be related to the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. and if both players cooperate then they both earn a moderate payoff.e.

(A Nash equilibrium is a situation in which if the strategies of all but one player are held fixed. and has substantially revised his analysis of the surprise exam as a result. A Nash equilibrium is a precise concept that captures some—though not all—of the connotations of the word “optimal. but it does not lead to an explicit contradiction. Narveson has shown that qn is given by the mutual recursions qn = exp(sn−1 − 1) sn = sn−1 − qn 11 . where n ranges from zero to m − 1. Nevertheless. the conclusion about invariable defection is counterintuitive. and so on until Friday. with probability p1 on Monday.m is independent of m. Thus. and so on.”) Therefore. cooperation is observed in the real world. see [17]. the optimal value of qn. One reason that the “surprise exam” argument we presented is not rigorous as it stands is that the word “optimal” is imprecise. an important disanalogy. I believe that the iterated prisoner’s dilemma is essentially distinct from the surprise examination paradox and is not just a variant. we conclude that perfect players always defect. the surprise on Tuesday is the log of the probability that the exam occurs on Tuesday given that it has not occurred on Monday. when the quiz becomes a certainty and its announcement no longer comes as a surprise. It is not difficult to adapt our argument to give a fully rigorous mathematical proof that in the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. Indeed. however. Here “surprise” is based on Shannon entropy. p2 on Tuesday. For some interesting ideas in this direction. The teacher’s goal is to find a probability distribution that maximizes the absolute value of the expected surprise when the quiz is announced. In the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. see [23]. A teacher gives a quiz every week. As one can easily show.cooperate. Finally. After all. for doing so cannot possibly encourage future cooperation. one might be able to exploit the parallel between the surprise examination and the iterated prisoner’s dilemma to obtain some new ideas for game theory.m be the probability that the exam occurs on the nth-to-the-last day of an m-day week given that it has not occurred on any previous days. and this suggests that the usual mathematical model of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma might ignore some crucial point. Proceeding by induction. Now set s0 = 0. Let qn. p. The analogy between this argument and the standard surprise examination argument is quite striking at first. so we drop the second subscript. 166]. the optimal strategy in the penultimate round is also defection. a Nash equilibrium is possible only if both players defect in every round. see [12. There is. Sorensen [30] has argued that the two are really the same. that player cannot do better by changing strategies. so the surprise on Monday is log p1 . I want to mention an unpublished idea of Karl Narveson that illustrates how the surprise exam paradox can inspire new mathematics.

Further reading The literature contains a wide variety of other approaches to the surprise examination paradox. R. 550–563. Roy Sorensen. J. March 19–22.puzzles archive who compiled a list of about thirty references. Phil. 1986. and [31]. 9. 4. Acknowledgments The USENET newsgroup rec. 505–525.’ Mind 74 (1965). J. I am indebted to an unknown contributor to the rec. 12 . Theoria 40 (1974). J. whose enlightening and witty correspondence has had a lot of influence on this paper. 64 (1967). The surprise examination. The examination paradox and formal prediction. 131–147. Some have seen connections between the surprise exam and the sorites paradox (“removing one grain of sand from a heap of sand leaves it a heap so zero grains of sand is still ¨ a heap”). Monterey.puzzles has played an important role in my understanding of the surprise examination paradox. On Quine’s ‘so-called paradox. J. Binkley. J. 65 (1968). Cargile. Butler. C. Cargile [5] is the first paper in the literature to mention game theory. brainteasers. Educational Theory 23 (1973). I am grateful for the encouragement of Chris Cole.The p’s may then be recovered from the q’s. Smullyan [27] weaves Godel’s theorem.1713. N. How expected is the unexpected hanging? Math. 8. Anderson. 7. see [8]. Y. Kamp. M.puzzles archive. P. 2. For a five-day week. D. and 0. Logique et Analyse 15 (1972). 80 (1983). The paradox of the knower. 153–158. M. Bosch. J. California (1986). 67 (1994). the maintainer of the rec. Dale Jacquette. J. Halpern. 127–136. the probabilities for each of the five days are about 0. J. ed. 0. 5. The surprise examination in modal logic. 55–58. Thanks finally to Jim Propp for suggesting that I submit this paper to the MONTHLY. and other “epistemic” and “doxastic” paradoxes into a delightful tapestry.3169. A. Mag. Dietl.1654. [26]. California. References 1. Clark. Chapman and R. pp. 7.1620. Clark [7] remarks that strictly mathematical analyses of the surprise exam are rare in the literature ¨ and he tries to fill this gap. and to all my friends who have patiently endured my ramblings on the paradox over the years. Phil. Edman. 166–175. 0. 0. 424–425. and Martin Gardner have helped with my literature search. The surprise test paradox. Morgan Kaufmann. the surprise exam. 5. reading these papers some five years ago constituted my first serious attempt to understand the paradox. 338–355. 6. Asher and H. Phil. The prediction paradox. A connection with the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat is discussed in [14] and [19].1844. and of Bill Taylor. in Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the 1986 Conference. Los Altos. 6. The knower’s paradox and representational theories of attitudes. 3.

79–90. 1 (1964). L. The liar in the prediction paradox. A paradox regained. 60–72. Philosophia 21 (1991). 17. Phil. 409–428. Quine. R. Physics 52 (1984). Amer. 217–242. D. A note on Schrodinger’s cat and the unexpected hanging paradox. J. Phil. Sorensen. 296–297. Philosophia 13 (1983). Moses. 263–288. Predictions. J. 111–116. A Mathematical Introduction to Logic. Can the unexpected never happen? New Scientist 10 (1961). Loeser. Academic Press. J. A. 355–362. A. 20. A. 39 (1988). H. Oxford (1988). Morgan Kaufmann. The prediction paradox resolved. W. Olin. 16. A. I. Three perspectives on Schrodinger’s cat. Amer. R. B. The paradox of surprise examination. 31. Phil. March 22–25. M. Fudenberg and J. Koons. Fitch. Logique et Analyse 21 (1978). Clarendon Press. G. 15. A Goedelized formulation of the prediction paradox. D.10. The paradox of the unexpected examination. Grim. T. and the prisoner’s dilemma. New York (1972). Phil. particularly o chapter 2. T. MA (1991). Conditional blindspots and the knowledge squeeze: a solution to the prediction paradox. On a so-called paradox. Amer. 12. 464–465. San Mateo. V. 43–56. Tellabs Research Center One Kendall Square Cambridge. pp. 24. Shaw. Operators in the paradox of the knower. H. R. California (1992). Olin. J. Tirole. Formal Logic 1 (1960). Monterey. 1992. Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the Fourth Conference (TARK 1992). ¨ 19. Phil. Kirkham. R. On paradoxes and a surprise exam. O’Beirne. 65–68. Kaplan and R. MIT Press. Sci. 25. Forever Undecided: A Puzzle Guide to G¨ del. Mind 62 (1953). 161–164. parts I–V. Studies 44 (1983). R. 1089–1093. 21. Phil. 22. Australasian J. 10 (1973). D. Williamson. 28. Papers 13 (1984). D. 29. Sorensen. Windt. Holtzman. Montague. ¨ 14. 26. Enderton. Phil. Phil. 13. Mind 101 (1992). 53 (1985). Synthese 94 (1993). British J. 23. The surprise examination on the paradox of the heap. 38 (1988). O. 382–384. Cambridge. Smith. Smullyan. 337–344. 11. 937 and 54 (1986). 397–401. New York (1987). Quart. W. 69 (1982). P. 126–135. Quart. Sorensen. Recalcitrant versions of the prediction paradox. Margalit and M. Expecting the unexpected. California. Doxastic paradox and reputation effects in iterated games. Quart. 31–51. P. Inexact knowledge. Kvart. 32. 30. letters and replies. MA 02139 tchowATalumDOTmitDOTedu 13 . ed. 65–67. Knopf. 18. Bar-Hillel. intentions. R. Game Theory. C. Australasian J. F. 62 (1984). Mind 67 (1958). Blindspots. 597–598. Y. Notre Dame J. 225–233. 27. R. letters and replies.

[And] C. [E-F]. 2000 version. I will try to update this bibliography continually. as should reviews and encyclopedia entries if they have substantial content. Alexander. and I would love to hear of any I have missed. Should one include dictionary/encyclopedia entries. [Ol6]. I am therefore making the bibliography freely available on the web instead. but I have not been able to obtain those notes. minor corrections have been made to the bibliographic entries for [Blk] and [Lei]. The paradox of the knower.The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox: An Exhaustive Bibliography Timothy Y. [Lee]. and translations of papers into other languages? What about papers on the “knower’s paradox” or other paradoxes that are regarded by some as being essentially the same as the surprise exam paradox although they appear superficially different? While I have not listed multiple editions and have usually excluded papers on “related paradoxes. Borderline cases always cause trouble for bibliographies that try to be exhaustive. and [So11] are handbook or encyclopedia entries. it has been hard to find all such items. saying that extensive bibliographies are not appropriate for MONTHLY articles.” I think translations should be included. However. 2005. but the MONTHLY refused to publish it. multiple editions of the same book. (If you have them. [Sav]. [Sob]. if you know of any references that are not listed here. [BBM] and [Frn] are new versions of papers previously listed as preprints. 338–355. P. I believe I came very close to succeeding. [Hil]. [Lev]. [Gea]. [GiS]. Hellerstein. S. and [V-E] are articles by authors not listed previously. Pragmatic paradoxes. Here is a guide to the changes from the April 29. K. Chow tchowATalumDOTmitDOTedu When writing [Cho]. [Pos]. Thurschwell for help in compiling this bibliography. [Clk]. [Met]. Journal of Philosophy 80 (1983). [Bla]. A. [Nai]. Burckel. Jamison. reviews of papers on the paradox. [Kea]. [BB2]. [Res]. Franceschi. [Ga8] and [Ga9] are new anthologies that reprint [Ga7]. [Sck]. J. B. I would like to thank N. [Go2]. [D-S]. Anderson. [M-H]. In addition to the acknowledgments I made in [Cho]. 14 . I tried very hard to compile an exhaustive bibliography for the surprise exam paradox. I would be most grateful if you would send me a copy!) References [Ale] P. [Hon]. [Ber]. R. please let me know! The list below was last updated September 15. [Edw]. [Mac]. [Cr2]. [Cr1]. I would also like to mention that one of the referees for [Cho] told me about some unpublished lecture notes of Saul Kripke that discuss the surprise exam paradox and connect it with the sorites. [Kra]. and E. Mind 59 (1950). and [Wi3] are additional works by authors already listed previously. [JK2]. [Fal]. 536–538.

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