You will be hanged tomorrow, but you do not know that

As part of my plan to learn something new every day, I have been eagerly reading the daily emails I get from Highbrow. I'm just coming to the end of my second course, this one on brain-twisting paradoxes and am thoroughly enjoying it.

Anyway, today's email was a paradox that I've encountered before albeit in the form of the slightly less gruesome unexpected exam rather than an unexpected hanging.

I'll leave the juicy details for you to discover yourself - but it's one of those puzzles that gets you scratching your head and tying yourself in knots trying to figure it out.

Not that there is a generally accepted 'solution'.

Such is life in philosophy. It was an interesting return to part of my undergraduate degree where I had the pleasure of taking a course entitled (if I remember correctly - it was a while ago) Conceptual Problems of the Physical Sciences. It looks like it might now be encompassed by the current course Metaphysics, Epistemology and the Sciences.

It was a great revelation to take a break from mathematics for a year and do some history and philosophy. The philosophy in particular was eye-opening, filling the brain with all sorts of strange paradoxes and associated weirdness, making you question your own reality and other delicious titbits like that.

The usual way to resolve any of these paradoxes is to be particularly explicit about the assumptions you are bringing to the table. This itself can be quite enlightening. Then the crucial step is to try omitting one and seeing what happens to the paradox and how it gets resolved.

Typically, the omission of each assumption will lead to a resolution of the paradox, but usually with some unexpected and unwanted side-effects. The task then is to think hard about these new 'realities' and choose the assumption you feel most comfortable omitting.

I think generally a new philosophical school tends to spring up depending upon which assumption you might omit! And, of course, can lead to almost endless discussion. One thing that can certainly be said of philosophy is that rarely is the final word encountered on a topic!

I'd defintely recommend dipping into some of these fun little paradoxes that litter philosophy - if nothing else the scenarios are usually pretty amusing!

[Image credit: Daniel]