Knowledge-of-own-factivity, the definition of surprise, and a solution to the Surprise Examination paradox

Cifma (2022)
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Fitch's Paradox and the Paradox of the Knower both make use of the Factivity Principle. The latter also makes use of a second principle, namely the Knowledge-of-Factivity Principle. Both the principle of factivity and the knowledge thereof have been the subject of various discussions, often in conjunction with a third principle known as Closure. In this paper, we examine the well-known Surprise Examination paradox considering both the principles on which this paradox rests and some formal characterisations of the surprise notion, crucial in this paradox. Standard formalizations of the Surprise Examination paradox in modal logic do not seem, at first glance, to depend on either factivity or knowledge-of-factivity, but we will argue that both factivity and knowledge-of-factivity play a key implicit role in the paradox. Namely, they are implicitly, perhaps unintentionally, used in order to simplify the definition of surprise. We analyze modal logical formalizations of three versions of the paradox concluding that the Surprise Examination paradox is the result of two flaws: the assumption of knowledge-of-factivity, and the over-simplification of the definition of "surprise" accordingly. By fixing these two flaws, the Surprise Examination paradox vanishes.

Author Profiles

Samuel Allen Alexander
Ohio State University (PhD)
Pierluigi Graziani
Università degli Studi di Urbino


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