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A Procedural Solution to the Unexpected Hanging and Sorites Paradoxes

Stuart C. Shapiro
Mind
Vol. 107, No. 428 (Oct., 1998), pp. 751-761
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2659782
Page Count: 11
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A Procedural Solution to the Unexpected Hanging and Sorites Paradoxes
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Abstract

The paradox of the Unexpected Hanging, related prediction paradoxes, and the sorites paradoxes all involve reasoning about ordered collections of entities: days ordered by date in the case of the Unexpected Hanging; men ordered by the number of hairs on their heads the case of the bald man version of the sorites. The reasoning then assigns each entity a value that depends on the previously assigned value of one of the neighboring entities. The final result is paradoxical because it conflicts with the obviously correct, common-sensical value. The paradox is due to the serial procedure of assigning a value based on the newly assigned value of the neighbor. An alternative procedure is to assign each value based only on the original values of neighbors-a parallel procedure. That procedure does not give paradoxical answers.

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