Stalnaker on sleeping beauty

Philosophical Studies 155 (3):445-456 (2011)
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The Sleeping Beauty puzzle provides a nice illustration of the approach to self-locating belief defended by Robert Stalnaker in Our Knowledge of the Internal World (Stalnaker, 2008), as well as a test of the utility of that method. The setup of the Sleeping Beauty puzzle is by now fairly familiar. On Sunday Sleeping Beauty is told the rules of the game, and a (known to be) fair coin is flipped. On Monday, Sleeping Beauty is woken, and then put back to sleep. If, and only if, the coin landed tails, she is woken again on Tuesday after having her memory of the Monday awakening erased.1 On Wednesday she is woken again and the game ends. There are a few questions we can ask about Beauty’s attitudes as the game progresses. We’d like to know what her credence that the coin landed heads should be (a) Before she goes to sleep Sunday; (b) When she wakes on Monday; (c) When she wakes on Tuesday; and (d) When she wakes on Wednesday? Standard treatments of the Sleeping Beauty puzzle ignore (d), run together (b) and (c) into one (somewhat ill-formed) question, and then divide theorists into ‘halfers’ or ‘thirders’ depending on how they answer it. Following Stalnaker, I’m going to focus on (b) here, though I’ll have a little to say about (c) and (d) as well. I’ll be following orthodoxy in taking 1 2 to be the clear answer to (a), and in taking the correct answers to (b) and (c) to be independent of how the coin lands, though I’ll briefly question that assumption at the end. An answer to these four questions should respect two different kinds of constraints. The answer for day n should make sense ‘statically’. It should be a sensible answer to the question of what Beauty should do given what information she then has. And the answer should make sense ‘dynamically’. It should be a sensible answer to the question of how Beauty should have updated her credences from some earlier day, given rational credences on the earlier day. As has been fairly clear since the discussion of the problem in Elga (2000), Sleeping Beauty is puzzling because static and dynamic considerations appear to push in different directions..
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