Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



Paradoxes, epistemic

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The four primary epistemic paradoxes are the lottery, preface, knowability, and surprise examination paradoxes. The lottery paradox begins by imagining a fair lottery with a thousand tickets in it. Each ticket is so unlikely to win that we are justified in believing that it will lose. So we can infer that no ticket will win. Yet we know that some ticket will win. In the preface paradox, authors are justified in believing everything in their books. Some preface their book by claiming that, given human frailty, they are sure that errors remain. But then they justifiably believe both that everything in the book is true, and that something in it is false.

The knowability paradox results from accepting that some truths are not known, and that any truth is knowable. Since the first claim is a truth, it must be knowable. From these claims it follows that it is possible that there is some particular truth that is known to be true and known not to be true.

The final paradox concerns an announcement of a surprise test next week. A Friday test, since it can be predicted on Thursday evening, will not be a surprise yet, if the test cannot be on Friday, it cannot be on Thursday either. For if it has not been given by Wednesday night, and it cannot be a surprise on Friday, it will not be a surprise on Thursday. Similar reasoning rules out all other days of the week as well; hence, no surprise test can occur next week. On Wednesday, the teacher gives a test, and the students are taken completely by surprise.

Citing this article:
Kvanvig, Jonathan L.. Paradoxes, epistemic, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles