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

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

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

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

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

then it would be contradictory. the act of announcing it to the students must play a crucial role. however. and to propose a different. Similar observations are made in [4] and [9]. but the statement that is actually vindicated is something like “the students will be psychologically surprised by the exam. These objections have convinced many to reject entirely the “purely logical” approach. For example. and that in the case of the teacher’s announcement. 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. However.” and such a statement does not permit the students’ argument to be carried out.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. As for the objection about the role of the act of making the announcement. “epistemological” approach. and so on—are taken into account only implicitly and not explicitly. and would remain so after the examination. whatever it means. the conclusion is that in order for the students to carry out their argument that the teacher’s announcement cannot be fulfilled. the belief or disbelief that the students have in the announcement. the first objection indicates a misunderstanding of the purely logical approach. in its definition of the word “surprise. Rather. Therefore the trouble cannot be attributed solely to the propositional content of the teacher’s announcement. albeit implicitly. However.” 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. The announcement appears to be vindicated afterwards. does not mean (c). and that therefore the students misinterpret the announcement when they make their argument. 7 . a more reasonable assumption is that the teacher’s announcement. 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. their assumption that they will remember the announcement during the course of the week. If the teacher intended (c) when making the announcement. It is therefore natural to ask if we can formalize the paradox in a way that lays bare these “epistemic” aspects. they must interpret the teacher’s announcement as saying something like (c). Before moving on to a discussion of the epistemological school. observe that the same sequence of words can have different meanings depending on context. The purely logical analysis seems to ignore this. then no paradox would have occurred. I want to point out that the objections can be met. The conclusion of the logical analysis is not that the teacher’s announcement is self-contradictory and is the source of the paradox. 3. it has one serious disadvantage: certain aspects of the paradox—the act of announcing the exam.

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

However. There are certain reasonable-sounding conditions that we might want to place on K: 9 . Carl. [22]. and that one or both of these assumptions should be discarded. 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.” This approach is essentially the one offered in [3]. [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. [24]. The easiest way to see the connection is to reduce the length of the week to one day. and Eric. 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. “There will be an exam tomorrow but you do not know that. [21]. see [28] and [16] for more discussion. The rest of the argument proceeds in the familiar way. The students argue that this is impossible. which suggests that rejecting these assumptions may be missing the point. and that that student will be surprised in the sense that he will not know he has been designated until they break formation. Suppose we we have a first-order language and we wish to introduce a knowledge predicate K. Exactly one of five students. consider the statement. 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). I do not discuss this in detail here since I feel it is of limited mathematical interest.announcement.” Clearly. so that the announcement becomes. and [29]. The teacher announces that the gold star is on the back of the student who must take the exam. 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. Eric cannot be designated because if he were he would see four silver stars and would know that he was designated. Don. 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. Then one star is secretly put on the back of each student. The students are shown four silver stars and one gold star. “It is raining but John Doe does not know that it is raining. Art. the problem remains even if those principles are rejected. A very interesting variant of the epistemological approach. even those who are less skeptical have reason to reject the assumption. Bob.” and the surprise exam paradox may be viewed as simply a more intricate version of this situation. [6]. Thus. is to be given an exam. For comparison. is a kind of hybrid of the logical and epistemological schools. that of Kaplan and Montague [15]. They prove a theorem called “the Paradox of the Knower” that is reminiscent of Tarski’s theorem on the indefinability of the truth predicate. This curious phenomenon is known as a “Moore paradox” or a “blindspot.

and (C). One might think that in this case. But since defection in the last round is certain. occasional cooperation would be superior to invariable defection—the idea being that a cooperative move in an early stage. defection is the best choice because the prisoner’s dilemma is a “one-shot” game. and if both players cooperate then they both earn a moderate payoff. encourages future cooperation that counterbalances earlier losses. [2]. but (C) can be weakened to the assumption that the logical conclusion of a particular explicitly given proof is known. Using a diagonalization argument. Game theory Some authors have made the fascinating suggestion that the surprise exam paradox may be related to the iterated prisoner’s dilemma.e. and the two players are still not allowed to communicate with each other. so the theorem is quite a strong one. i. 4. The Paradox of the Knower has inspired some sophisticated work in logic. The last round of an iterated prisoner’s dilemma is identical to the “one-shot” prisoner’s dilemma. This suggests considering the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. these assumptions cannot be satisfied. one that is better than any other strategy regardless of the opponent’s strategy): to defect. no such knowledge predicate is possible. then K(#Q). see [1]. since there is no hope of future cooperation. The payoffs in each round are as in the usual prisoner’s dilemma. If both players defect then both payoffs are zero. but at each round they do know and remember the results of all previous rounds. then the defector enjoys a large payoff and the cooperator suffers a large loss. there is no incentive for players to build up a cooperative relationship since they are guaranteed never to meet again. even if the opponent defects. in which there are n rounds instead of just one (and the fact that there are exactly n rounds is public knowledge).. we can construct a sentence S such that S ≡ K(#(∼S)). One might think at first that (C) is the dubious assumption since certainly nobody knows all the logical consequences of what he knows.. (C) if Q can be proved from P and K(#P). Hence the optimal last-round strategy is to defect. and then derive a contradiction by substituting this S for Q and A for P in (A). 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. (B) (A) is known. Consider the following “surprise examination” argument that even in the n-round prisoner’s dilemma. or [13]. Intuitively. Thus.(A) K(#Q) ⇒ Q. (B). the optimal strategy is invariable defection. K(#A). there is no incentive in the penultimate round to 10 . It is easy to show that each player has a dominant strategy (i. If one player defects and the other player cooperates. Unfortunately.e.

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

Cargile. Morgan Kaufmann. M. J. 8. and to all my friends who have patiently endured my ramblings on the paradox over the years. The paradox of the knower. 3. Logique et Analyse 15 (1972). 153–158.’ Mind 74 (1965). The prediction paradox. Monterey. 65 (1968). I am indebted to an unknown contributor to the rec. 2. whose enlightening and witty correspondence has had a lot of influence on this paper. pp. 550–563. Dale Jacquette.puzzles archive. Theoria 40 (1974). Acknowledgments The USENET newsgroup rec. J. A connection with the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat is discussed in [14] and [19]. Kamp. Anderson. Los Altos. 6. 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”). J. On Quine’s ‘so-called paradox. Phil.3169.puzzles has played an important role in my understanding of the surprise examination paradox. R.1713.1620. The surprise examination. Halpern. The knower’s paradox and representational theories of attitudes. Edman. J. N. References 1. 9. Asher and H. 0. Phil. Chapman and R. 5. [26]. 1986. C. 127–136. 131–147. J. 64 (1967). 0. 67 (1994). J. Smullyan [27] weaves Godel’s theorem. and [31]. the maintainer of the rec. Educational Theory 23 (1973). D. March 19–22. Further reading The literature contains a wide variety of other approaches to the surprise examination paradox. Y. and other “epistemic” and “doxastic” paradoxes into a delightful tapestry. Binkley.puzzles archive who compiled a list of about thirty references. I am grateful for the encouragement of Chris Cole. and 0. Thanks finally to Jim Propp for suggesting that I submit this paper to the MONTHLY. 7. P. 7. Clark [7] remarks that strictly mathematical analyses of the surprise exam are rare in the literature ¨ and he tries to fill this gap. 55–58. 338–355. the probabilities for each of the five days are about 0. ed. the surprise exam. reading these papers some five years ago constituted my first serious attempt to understand the paradox. Roy Sorensen. California. The surprise test paradox. 0.1844. 166–175. Cargile [5] is the first paper in the literature to mention game theory. 12 . brainteasers. The surprise examination in modal logic. 424–425. Phil. see [8]. and Martin Gardner have helped with my literature search. Clark. in Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the 1986 Conference. 6. How expected is the unexpected hanging? Math. Dietl. 505–525. and of Bill Taylor. Mag. Butler. For a five-day week. 4.The p’s may then be recovered from the q’s. 80 (1983). J. The examination paradox and formal prediction. California (1986). 5. Bosch. A. M.1654. J.

24. Amer. Phil. 464–465. Knopf. MA (1991). Sorensen. New York (1987). California. J. 16. A. R. Shaw. Sorensen. 17. MA 02139 tchowATalumDOTmitDOTedu 13 . 10 (1973). Monterey. Clarendon Press. A Mathematical Introduction to Logic. San Mateo. Papers 13 (1984). March 22–25. 65–67. Margalit and M. Studies 44 (1983). Loeser. Conditional blindspots and the knowledge squeeze: a solution to the prediction paradox. 38 (1988). D. 15. Blindspots. 21. 31–51. particularly o chapter 2.10. On a so-called paradox. D. Bar-Hillel. The prediction paradox resolved. W. Recalcitrant versions of the prediction paradox. 382–384. Cambridge. Game Theory. W. intentions. Australasian J. 65–68. 1089–1093. O. Kirkham. A. Synthese 94 (1993). 23. Montague. T. 296–297. P. Moses. Australasian J. H. and the prisoner’s dilemma. Doxastic paradox and reputation effects in iterated games. R. 69 (1982). A note on Schrodinger’s cat and the unexpected hanging paradox. Fudenberg and J. Koons. The paradox of the unexpected examination. A Goedelized formulation of the prediction paradox. British J. 13. 18. Operators in the paradox of the knower. Philosophia 13 (1983). Grim. Tirole. Smullyan. The liar in the prediction paradox. Y. 30. Olin. Phil. Physics 52 (1984). 217–242. 26. O’Beirne. 126–135. Can the unexpected never happen? New Scientist 10 (1961). T. A. 11. A. R. Three perspectives on Schrodinger’s cat. Expecting the unexpected. 25. 225–233. 12. MIT Press. L. The paradox of surprise examination. 161–164. Holtzman. 337–344. Mind 62 (1953). M. Enderton. F. Phil. 39 (1988). R. 20. J. Quart. 263–288. 79–90. 31. Academic Press. parts I–V. Morgan Kaufmann. Quart. Olin. ¨ 19. G. Quine. Phil. Amer. letters and replies. R. J. Logique et Analyse 21 (1978). D. Mind 101 (1992). 27. Formal Logic 1 (1960). 1 (1964). Oxford (1988). letters and replies. Williamson. Smith. 409–428. R. 597–598. Kaplan and R. ¨ 14. 60–72. 29. Phil. 111–116. Phil. C. A paradox regained. Forever Undecided: A Puzzle Guide to G¨ del. Kvart. 937 and 54 (1986). H. Quart. D. Phil. 32. 22. Tellabs Research Center One Kendall Square Cambridge. P. Phil. V. Sorensen. Predictions. Inexact knowledge. California (1992). Sci. ed. Notre Dame J. 397–401. Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the Fourth Conference (TARK 1992). Windt. Philosophia 21 (1991). 53 (1985). 355–362. J. 28. The surprise examination on the paradox of the heap. On paradoxes and a surprise exam. Mind 67 (1958). I. B. 1992. pp. Fitch. R. New York (1972). 43–56. 62 (1984). Amer.

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

Y. [Bos] J.). 517–527. Y. London. The surprise test paradox. Craig (ed. entry on surprise examination paradox. Monterey. J. 15 . The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Epistemische Paradoxien II. Routledge. On Quine’s ‘so-called paradox. 349–352. Erkenntnis 19 (1983). in Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the Fourth Conference (TARK 1992). MA (1992). San Mateo. [B-C] J. [BB1] J. 55–58. Bennett and J. Vom Henker. American Mathematical Monthly 107 (2000). Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. J. 179–186. California (1986). [Cl2] R. Blau and U. [D-S] J.). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Aud] R. California (1992). Basil Blackwell Ltd. New York (1998). Blau. The examination paradox and formal prediction. Oxford (1994). Dialectica 50 (1996). O’Connor’s “pragmatic paradoxes. Cargile. New York (1995). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Craig (ed. 169–193. vom Lugner und vom ihrem Ende. [Cr1] E. [Bun] B.[A-K] N. 424–425. Philosophical Studies 47 (1985). [Chi] C. 284–300. On the unexpected examination. 101–103. [Cha] T. Mind 78 (1969). K. M. California.). K. California. 229–242. Ayer. Morgan Kaufmann. Routledge. 85–87. Clark. Clark. The unexpected examination. Pragmatic paradox and rationality. 2002. March 19–22. [Clk] M. Reflection and truth. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24 (1994). 137. New York (2000). [BBM] D. 33–43. 191–199. Quine’s judge. [Coh] L. ed. Blau. Cargile. Sosa (eds. Cargile. 127–136. Logique et Analyse 15 (1972). Chow. entries on paradox and unexpected examination paradox. Binkley. Mr. Analysis 59 (1999). entries on The Unexpected Examination and The Designated Student. The backward induction argument for the finite iterated prisoner’s dilemma and the surprise exam paradox. Philosophical Studies 29 (1976). [Cas] J. Cambridge University Press. Reviews. 167–182. Quine and the surprise examination. [Bov] L. 1992. 73–84. Paradoxes involving conflicts of interest. Surprise maximization. March 22–25. Paradoxes: A Study in Form and Predication. Epistemische Paradoxien I. Cambridge University Press. epistemic. Paradoxes from A to Z. Morgan Kaufmann. Chapman and R. [Cl1] R. Journal of Symbolic Logic 30 (1965). 505–525. 243–248. M. Butler. New York (1979). American Mathematical Monthly e 107 (2000). Asher and H.). ed. entry on paradoxes. The surprise examination in modal logic. Blau and U. 41–51. Kamp. Cambridge. Mind 82 (1973). Bermudez. A Companion to Epistemology. Audi (ed. Austin. Case. J. [Blk] S. J. [Ca2] J. Borwein. [Cla] D. [Ca1] J. Journal of Philosophy 65 (1968).. ¨ [Bla] U. How expected is the unexpected hanging? Mathematics Magazine 67 (1994). Olin. 63–64. [Cr2] E. Routledge.” Mind 59 (1950). Monterey. Blau. The surprise examination or unexpected hanging paradox. The knower’s paradox and representational theories of attitudes. [Au1] A. Bosch. [Au2] A. Journal of Philosophy 64 (1967). Clark. epistemic. Y. Borwein and P. Bovens. entry on paradoxes. Analysis 57 (1997). American Mathematical Monthly 105 (1998). Dancy and E. Bunch. in Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the 1986 Conference. Chihara. 550–563. Van Nostrand. On a supposed antinomy. Clark. Los Altos. [BB2] J. Halpern. ´ [Ber] J. Dialectica 49 (1995). [Bin] R. Mathematical Fallacies and Paradoxes. Analysis 39 (1979). L. Blackburn. 27–44. Rationality and the backwards induction argument. 1986. [Aye] A. Mar´ chal. S. Moses. [Cho] T. entry on prediction paradox. [C-B] J. 34–37. J. New York (1982). Champlin. Cohen.’ Mind 74 (1965). Oxford University Press. 131–147. Austin. 125–126.

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