Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 274







A Defense of Abortion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Overview of the essay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Criticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Table of common criticisms and responses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Buridan's ass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Buridan's principle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Buridan's bridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The sophism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Buridan's solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Philosophers on the sophism and its solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Use of Buridan's bridge in literature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chicken or the egg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


History of the dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Scientic resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Chicken-and-egg problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Chinese room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Chinese room thought experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




Computer science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Complete argument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Replies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Citations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.5.10 Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Double-barreled question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Legal usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Ghost in the machine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Gilbert Ryle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



The Concept of Mind

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


God is dead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Explication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Death of God theological movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Hanlon's razor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Origins and etymology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Similar quotations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10 Loaded question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10.1 Defense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10.2 Historical examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10.3 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10.4 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.10.5 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11 Meaning of life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.1 Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .








0.11.2 Scientic inquiry and perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.3 Western philosophical perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.4 East Asian philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.5 Religious perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.6 In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.7 Popular views . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.8 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.9 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.11.10 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12 Murphy's law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.1 History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.2 Association with Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.3 Other variations on Murphy's law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.4 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.5 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.6 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.12.7 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13 Occam's razor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.1 History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.2 Justications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.3 Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.4 Controversial aspects of the razor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.5 Anti-razors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.6 In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.7 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.8 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.9 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.10 Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.13.11 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14 Paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.1 Logical paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.2 Quine's classication of paradoxes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.3 Paradox in philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.4 Paradox in medicine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.5 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.6 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.14.7 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15 Philosophic burden of proof . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15.1 Holder of the burden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15.2 In public discourse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15.3 Proving a negative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



0.15.4 Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15.5 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.15.6 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.16 Plank of Carneades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.16.1 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.16.2 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17 Poisoning the well . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17.1 Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17.2 Structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17.3 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17.4 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.17.5 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18 Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18.1 Original context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18.2 Reference to political power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18.3 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18.4 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.18.5 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.19 Ship of Theseus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.19.1 Variations of the paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.19.2 Proposed resolutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.19.3 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.19.4 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20 Thought experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.2 Variety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.3 Origins and use of the literal term . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.4 Uses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.5 In science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.6 Relation to real experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.7 Causal reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.8 Seven Types

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.9 In philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.10 Famous thought experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.11 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.12 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.13 Signicant articles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.14 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.20.15 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.21 Time travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


0.21.1 History of the time travel concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



0.21.2 Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100

0.21.3 Time travel to the past in physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
0.21.4 Time travel to the future in physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
0.21.5 Other ideas from mainstream physics

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

0.21.6 Philosophical understandings of time travel

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106

0.21.7 Ideas from ction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

0.21.8 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
0.21.9 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
0.21.10 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
0.21.11 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
0.22 Turtles all the way down . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
0.22.1 History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
0.22.2 Notable modern allusions or variations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
0.22.3 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
0.22.4 Footnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123




Crocodile dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124

Double bind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124


Explanation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125


History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125


Complexity in communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126


Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126


Phrase examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126


Positive double binds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127


Theory of logical types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127


Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

1.2.10 Evolution of Species as a Logical Level Distinct from Survival of the Individual

. . . . . . 128

1.2.11 Usage in Zen Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128

1.2.12 Girard's mimetic double bind

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129

1.2.13 Neuro-linguistic programming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129

1.2.14 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
1.2.15 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
1.2.16 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
1.2.17 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131

Euthyphro dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131


The dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131


In philosophical theism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131


In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137








See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142

False dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142


Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143

Prisoner's dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143


Strategy for the classic prisoners' dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144


Generalized form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144


The iterated prisoners' dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145


Real-life examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148


Related games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

Samaritan's dilemma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

Trolley problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153


Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154


Related problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154


In cognitive science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156


In neuroethics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156


Psychology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156


Views of professional philosophers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156


As urban legend . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156


Implications for autonomous vehicles


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156

1.7.10 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

1.7.11 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157



Argumentum ad populum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158


Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158


Explanation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158


Exceptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159











Reversals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160

Association fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160


Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160


Guilt by association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


Honor by association . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


Galileo Gambit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162

Fallacy of division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162

Ignoratio elenchi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164

List of fallacies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164


Formal fallacies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164


Informal fallacies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165


Conditional or questionable fallacies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173

Nirvana fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173


History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173


Perfect solution fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174

Psychologist's fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174


Alternative statements of the fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174

Texas sharpshooter fallacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174


Structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174



Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176





Coastline paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177


Mathematical aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178




See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Fermi paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179


Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179


Basis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180


Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181


Drake equation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181


Empirical resolution attempts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182


Explaining the paradox hypothetically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185


In science ction and other media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194

3.2.10 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195

3.2.11 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
3.2.12 Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
3.2.13 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199


Grandfather paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199


Scientic theories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200


Theories in science ction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201


Other considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203

Liar paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203


History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203


Explanation of the paradox and variants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204


Possible resolutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205


Logical structure of the liar paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206


Applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206


In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207


Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208

3.4.10 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208


List of paradoxes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208


Logic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208


Mathematics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 210


Decision theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212


Physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213


Biology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215


Chemistry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216


Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216


Linguistics and Articial Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216


Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216

3.5.10 Mysticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217

3.5.11 Economics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
3.5.12 Perception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
3.5.13 Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
3.5.14 History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
3.5.15 Psychology and sociology
3.5.16 Miscellaneous

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219

3.5.17 See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219

3.5.18 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219


Sorites paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220


The original formulation and variations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220


Proposed resolutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221


In popular culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 222


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223


Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224

Unexpected hanging paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224


Description of the paradox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224


The logical school . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225


The epistemological school . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227



Blind men and an elephant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228


The story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228


Jain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228


Buddhist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229


Su Muslim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229


Hindu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230


John Godfrey Saxe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230


Modern treatments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231

4.1.10 External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231


Camel's nose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231






References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

Parable of the broken window . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233


The parable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233


Diering interpretations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233


Criticisms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235

The Gift of the Magi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235


Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236


Adaptations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237

The Lady, or the Tiger? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237


Plot summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237


Other works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238


Further reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238

Three men make a tiger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238


Origin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239


See also . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239


References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239


External links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses



Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 240


Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258


Content license . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263


0.1 A Defense of Abortion

"A Defense of Abortion" is a moral philosophy paper
by Judith Jarvis Thomson rst published in 1971. Granting for the sake of argument that the fetus has a right
to life, Thomson uses thought experiments to argue that
the pregnant woman's right to control her own body and
its life-support functions trumps the fetus' right to life,
and that induced abortion is therefore morally permissible. Her argument has many critics on both sides of the
abortion debate,* [1] yet continues to receive defense.* [2]
Thomson's imaginative examples and controversial conclusions have made A Defense of Abortionperhaps
the most widely reprinted essay in all of contemporary
philosophy".* [3]


Overview of the essay

The Violinist
In A Defense of Abortion, Thomson grants for the
sake of argument that the fetus has a right to life, but defends the permissibility of abortion by appeal to a thought
You wake up in the morning and nd yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious
violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He
has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment,
and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed
all the available medical records and found
that you alone have the right blood type to
help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and
last night the violinist's circulatory system was
plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be
used to extract poisons from his blood as well
as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now,
he will die; but] in nine months he will have
recovered from his ailment, and can safely be
unplugged from you.* [4]

who carries her pregnancy to term is a 'Good Samaritan'
who goes beyond her obligations.* [6]
Third-party participation the expanding child
Thomson criticizes the common method of deducing a
womans right to abort from the permissibility of a third
party committing the abortion. In almost all instances, a
womans right to abortion may hinge on the doctors
willingness to perform it. If the doctor refuses, then the
woman is denied her right. To base the womans right
on the accordance or refusal of a doctor, she says, is to
ignore the mothers full personhood, and subsequently,
her rights to her body. Thomson presents the hypothetical
example of the expanding child:
Suppose you nd yourself trapped in a tiny
house with a growing child. I mean a very tiny
house, and a rapidly growing childyou are
already up against the wall of the house and
in a few minutes youll be crushed to death.
The child on the other hand wont be crushed
to death; if nothing is done to stop him from
growing hell be hurt, but in the end hell
simply burst open the house and walk out a free
man.* [7]
Thomson concedes that a third party indeed cannot make
the choice to kill either the person being crushed or the
child. However, this does not mean that the person being
crushed cannot act in self-defense and attack the child
to save his or her own life. To liken this to pregnancy,
the mother can be thought to be the house, the fetus the
growing-child. In such a case, the mothers life is being
threatened, and the fetus is the one who threatens it. Because for no reason should the mothers life be threatened, and also for no reason is the fetus threatening it,
both are innocent, and thus no third party can intervene.
But, Thomson says, the person threatened can intervene,
by which justication a mother can rightfully abort.* [8]

Continuing, Thomson returns to the expanding child

Thomson takes it that you may now permissibly unplug example and points out:
yourself from the violinist even though this will cause his
death: the right to life, Thomson says, does not include
For what we have to keep in mind is that the
the right to use another person's body, and so by unplugmother and the unborn child are not like two
ging the violinist you do not violate his right to life but
tenants in a small house, which has, by unfortumerely deprive him of somethingthe use of your body
nate mistake, been rented to both: the mother
to which he has no right. "[I]f you do allow him to go
owns the house. The fact that she does adds to
on using your kidneys, this is a kindness on your part, and
the oensiveness of deducing that the mother
not something he can claim from you as his due.* [5]
can do nothing from the supposition that third
parties can do nothing. But it does more than
For the same reason, Thomson says, abortion does not
this: it casts a bright light on the supposition
violate the fetus's legitimate rights, but merely deprives
that third parties can do nothing.* [9]
the fetus of somethingthe use of the pregnant woman's
body and life-support functionsto which it has no right.
Thus, by choosing to terminate her pregnancy, a woman If we say that no one may help the mother obtain an abordoes not violate any moral obligation; rather, a woman tion, we fail to acknowledge the mothers right over her


body (or property). Thomson says that we are not personally obligated to help the mother but this does not rule out
the possibility that someone else may act. As Thomson
reminds, the house belongs to the mother; similarly, the
body which holds a fetus also belongs to the mother.* [10]

The most common objection is that Thomson's argument

can justify abortion only in cases of rape. In the violinist
scenario, you were kidnapped: you did nothing to cause
the violinist to be plugged in, just as a woman who is
pregnant due to rape did nothing to cause her pregnancy.
But in typical cases of abortion, the pregnant woman had
intercourse voluntarily, and thus has either tacitly conPregnancy resulting from voluntary intercourse sented to allow the fetus to use her body (the tacit conpeople-seeds
sent objection),* [13] or else has a duty to sustain the fetus because the woman herself caused the fetus to stand
To illustrate an example of pregnancy due to voluntary in need of her body (the responsibility objection).* [14]
intercourse, Thomson presents the people-seedssitu- Other common objections turn on the claim that the feation:
tus is the pregnant woman's child whereas the violinist is a
stranger (the stranger versus ospring objection),* [15]
Again, suppose it were like this: people-seeds
or that abortion kills the fetus whereas unplugging the vidrift about in the air like pollen, and if you
olinist merely lets him die (the killing versus letting die
open your windows, one may drift in and take
objection).* [15]
root in your carpets or upholstery. You don
Defenders of Thomson's argument* [16] reply that the alt want children, so you x up your windows
leged disanalogies between the violinist scenario and typwith ne mesh screens, the very best you can
ical cases of abortion do not matter, either because the
buy. As can happen, however, and on very,
factors that critics appeal to are not genuinely morally relvery rare occasions does happen, one of the
evant, or because those factors are morally relevant but do
screens is defective; and a seed drifts in and
not apply to abortion in the way that critics have claimed.
takes root. [11]
A summary of common objections and responses is given
Here, the people-seeds ying through the window repre- below.
sent conception, despite the mesh screen, which functions
as contraception. The woman does not want a people0.1.3 Table of common criticisms and reseed to root itself in her house, and so she even takes the
measure to protect herself with the best mesh screens.
However, in the event that one nds its way in, unwelcome as it may be, does the simple fact that the woman Less common objections to Thomson's argument (and the
knowingly risked such an occurrence when opening her pro-choice responses) include:
window deny her the ability to rid her house of the intruder? Thomson notes that some may argue the arma the naturalarticial objection:* [32] pregnancy is
tive to this question, claiming that ...after all you could
a natural process that is biologically normal to the
have lived out your life with bare oors and furniture, or
human species. The joined condition of the violinwith sealed windows and doors.* [11] But by this logic,
ist and donor, in contrast, represents an extreme and
she says, any woman could avoid pregnancy due to rape
unusual form of "life support" that can only proceed
by simply having a hysterectomy an extreme procedure
in the presence of surgical intervention. This diersimply to safeguard against such a possibility. Thomson
ence is morally relevant and therefore the two situconcludes that although there may be times when the fetus
ations should not be used to model each other. The
does have a right to the mother's body, certainly in most
pro-choice response would be to point out that what
cases the fetus does not have a right to the mother's body.
is natural is not necessarily better or more legitimate
This analogy raises the issue of whether all abortions are
than what is not. Cancer is natural and the surgery
unjust killing.* [11]
which cures cancer is unnatural;



Critics of Thomson's argument (see the table below) generally grant the permissibility of unplugging the violinist,
but seek to block the inference that abortion is permissible by arguing that there are morally relevant dierences
between the violinist scenario and typical cases of abortion. One notable exception being that of Peter Singer
who claims that, despite our intuitions, a utilitarian calculus would imply that one is morally obliged to stay connected to the violinist.* [12]

the conjoined twins objection:* [33] the relationship between conjoined twins represents a more
complete analogy to pregnancy than the relationship
between the violinist and the kidney donor. Because
the fatal separation of conjoined twins is immoral,
so is abortion. The pro-choice response would be
to state that conjoined twins have equal claims to
their shared organs, since they were conceived at
the same time, in contrast to the fetus/prenatal ospring, who was conceived after his/her/its mother
and whose claim to her body is thus inferior to that
of the woman;* [34]


the dierent burdens objection:* [35] supporting

the violinist is a much greater burden than normal
pregnancy, and so unplugging the violinist is morally
permissible whereas aborting the fetus is not. A reply to this objection would be to point out that childbirth is a great burden, often requiring major surgery
and, in the absence of sophisticated medical/surgical
care, a signicant risk to the woman's life;
the articiality objection:* [36] our intuitions on
bizarre thought experiments of the sort used by
Thomson are unreliable and provide no warrant for
the conclusions they are intended to support. The
pro-choice response would be that this is a thought
experiment and thus it is not meant to be realistic;

[17] Thomson 1971: 5759

[18] Boonin 2003: 154164
[19] Boonin 2003: 164167
[20] Boonin 2003: 167188
[21] Thomson 1971: 5559
[22] Thomson 1971: 6465; Boonin 2003: 228234
[23] Boonin 2003: 249254
[24] Boonin 2003: 247249
[25] Boonin 2003: 233 n 60
[26] McMahan 2002: 3834; Boonin 2003: 193

the duty to sustain the violinist objection: [37] [27] Boonin 2003: 189 n 41, noting however that this is an ad
despite the common intuition, one does have an oblihominem reply
gation to support the violinist, and likewise the fetus.

[28] Thomson 1971: 156159

Of course, critics of Thomson's analogy have replies to

these responses,* [32] and so the debate goes back and


See also

Abortion debate



[1] e.g., Schwarz 1990, Beckwith 1993 and Lee 1996 on the
pro-life side; Tooley 1972, Warren 1973, Steinbock 1992
and McMahan 2002 on the pro-choice side
[2] Kamm 1992; Boonin 2003: ch 4
[3] Parent 1986: vii
[4] Thomson 1971: 4849.
[5] Thomson 1971: 55
[6] Thomson 1971: 63; Boonin 2003: 133134
[7] Thomson 1971: 52
[8] Thomson 1971: 5253
[9] Thomson 1971: 53
[10] Thomson 1971: 54
[11] Thomson 1971: 59
[12] Singer 2011:134
[13] e.g. Warren 1973; Steinbock 1992
[14] e.g. Beckwith 1993; McMahan 2002
[15] e.g. Schwarz 1990; Beckwith 1993; McMahan 2002
[16] Boonin 2003: 133281

[29] Boonin 2003: 199211

[30] e.g. Finnis 1973; Schwarz 1990; Lee 1996; Lee and
George 2005
[31] Boonin 2003: 222227
[32] Parks 2006
[33] Himma 1999, Parks 2006
[34] Boonin 2003: 245246
[35] Schwarz 1990
[36] Wiland 2000: 467.The story of the unconscious violinist, some argue, is a complete ction. There is no Society
of Music Lovers, there are no famous violinists in need
of kidney transplants, and there are no kidnappers forcing
others to donate their bodies for the good of another.
[37] Hershenov 2001, Smith and Brogaard 2001

0.1.6 References
Beckwith, F. 1993. Politically Correct Death. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books, ch 7.
Boonin, D. 2003. A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch 4.
Finnis, J.. The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion
. Philosophy and Public Aairs 2:2 (Winter 1973):
117145. JSTOR 2265137
Hershenov, D.Abortions and Distortions. Social
Theory and Practice 27:1 (January 2001): 129148.
Kamm, F. 1992. Creation and Abortion. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Lee, P. 1996. Abortion and Unborn Human Life.
Washington, DC: Catholic University of America
Press, ch 4.

Lee, P and R George.The Wrong of Abortion. In
A Cohen and C Wellman, eds. 2005. Contemporary
Debates in Applied Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell: 13
26, at 2021.
McMahan, J. 2002. The Ethics of Killing. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Parent, W. 1986. Editor's introduction. In J
Thomson. Rights, Restitution, and Risk. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press: viix.
Parks, B. D.The Natural-Articial Distinction and
Conjoined Twins: A Response To Judith Thomson's
Argument for Abortion Rights. National Catholic
Bioethics Quarterly 6:4 (Winter 2006): 671680
Schwarz, S. 1990. The Moral Question of Abortion.
Chicago: Loyola University Press, ch 8.
Singer, P. 2011. Practical Ethics. New York, Cambridge University Press, ch 6.

Political cartoon c. 1900, showing the United States Congress

as Buridan's ass (the two hay piles version), hesitating between a
Panama route or a Nicaragua route for an Atlantic-Pacic canal.

Smith, B. and Brogaard, B. 2001. Living High

0.2 Buridan's ass
and Letting Die. Philosophy 76 (3):435-442
(2001) doi:10.1017/S0031819101000377, JSTOR
Buridan's ass is an illustration of a paradox in philoso3751780
phy in the conception of free will.
Steinbock, B. 1992. Life Before Birth: The Moral It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass that
and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses. Oxford: is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway
Oxford University Press, at 78.
between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the
paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is
Thomson, J. A Defense of Abortion. Philosocloser, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it canphy and Public Aairs 1:1 (Autumn 1971): 4766.
not make any rational decision to choose one over the
JSTOR 2265091
other.* [1] The paradox is named after the 14th century
Thomson, J.Rights and Deaths. Philosophy and French philosopher Jean Buridan, whose philosophy of
Public Aairs 2:2 (Winter 1973): 146159. JSTOR moral determinism it satirizes. A common variant of the
paradox substitutes two identical piles of hay for the hay
and water; the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies
Tooley, M.Abortion and Infanticide. Philosophy of hunger.
and Public Aairs 2:1 (Autumn 1972): 3765, at
5253. JSTOR 2264919

0.2.1 History

Warren, M. On the Moral and Legal Status of

Abortion. Monist 57:1 (1973): 4361. JSTOR The paradox predates Buridan; it dates to antiquity, being
found in Aristotle's On the Heavens.* [2] Aristotle, in ridi27902294
culing the Sophist idea that the Earth is stationary simply
Wiland, E. Unconscious violinists and the because it is circular and any forces on it must be equal in
use of analogies in moral argument. Jour- all directions, says that is as ridiculous as saying that* [2]
nal of Medical Ethics 26 (2000): 466468.
...a man, being just as hungry as thirsty, and
placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remain where he is and starve to death.
0.1.7 External links
Aristotle, On the Heavens, ca.350 BCE
A Defense of Abortion, full text
Francis Beckwith's website, contains PDFs of a
number of his critiques

However, the Greeks only used this paradox as an analogy in the context of discussions of the equilibrium of
physical forces.* [2]


The 12th century Persian Islamic scholar and philosopher Al-Ghazali discusses the application of this paradox
to human decision making, asking whether it is possible
to make a choice between equally good courses without
grounds for preference.* [2] He takes the attitude that free
will can break the stalemate.
Suppose two similar dates in front of a
man, who has a strong desire for them but who
is unable to take them both. Surely he will take
one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to dierentiate between two
similar things.
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali,The Incoherence
of the Philosophers 1100* [3]

would die of hunger and thirst. If I am asked,
whether such a one should not rather be considered an ass than a man; I answer, that I do
not know, neither do I know how a man should
be considered, who hangs himself, or how we
should consider children, fools, madmen, &c.
Baruch Spinoza, Ethics, book 2, proposition 49, scholium

Other writers have opted to deny the validity of the illustration. A typical counter-argument is that rationality as
described in the paradox is so limited as to be a straw man
version of the real thing, which does allow the consideration of meta-arguments. In other words, it is entirely rational to recognize that both choices are equally good and
arbitrarily (randomly) pick one instead of starving. This
Moorish Islamic philosopher Averroes (11261198), in counter-argument is sometimes used as an attempted justication for faith or intuitivity (called by Aristotle noetic
commentary on Ghazali, takes the opposite view.* [2]
or noesis). The argument is that, like the starving ass,
Although Buridan nowhere discusses this specic prob- we must make a choice in order to avoid being frozen in
lem, its relevance is that he did advocate a moral deter- endless doubt. Other counter-arguments exist.
minism whereby, save for ignorance or impediment, a human faced by alternative courses of action must always According to Edward Lauzinger, Buridan's ass fails to inchoose the greater good. In the face of equally good al- corporate the latent biases that humans always bring with
ternatives Buridan believed a rational choice could not be them when making decisions. [5]
made.* [4]
Should two courses be judged equal, then
the will cannot break the deadlock, all it can
do is to suspend judgement until the circumstances change, and the right course of action
is clear.
Jean Buridan, 1340

0.2.3 Buridan's principle

The situation of Buridan's ass was given a mathematical basis in a 1984 paper by American computer scientist Leslie Lamport, in which Lamport presents an argument that, given certain assumptions about continuity in
a simple mathematical model of the Buridan's ass problem, there will always be some starting conditions under
Later writers satirised this view in terms of an ass which, which the ass will starve to death, no matter what strategy
confronted by both food and water must necessarily die it takes.
of both hunger and thirst while pondering a decision.
Lamport calls this result Buridans principle":



A discrete decision based upon an input having

a continuous range of values cannot be made
within a bounded length of time.* [6]

Some proponents of hard determinism have granted the

unpleasantness of the scenario, but have denied that it
illustrates a true paradox, since one does not contradict
oneself in suggesting that a man might die between two Application to digital logic: Metastability
equally plausible routes of action. For example, in his
Ethics, Benedict de Spinoza suggests that a person who Main article: Metastability in electronics
sees two options as truly equally compelling cannot be
fully rational:
A version of Buridan's principle actually occurs in
electrical engineering. Specically, the input to a digital
[I]t may be objected, if man does not act
logic gate must convert a continuous voltage value into
from free will, what will happen if the inceneither a 0 or a 1 which is typically sampled and then
tives to action are equally balanced, as in the
processed. If the input is changing and at an intermecase of Buridan's ass? [In reply,] I am quite
diate value when sampled, the input stage acts like a
comparator. The voltage value can then be likened to
ready to admit, that a man placed in the equithe position of the ass, and the values 0 and 1 represent
librium described (namely, as perceiving noththe bales of hay. Like the situation of the starving ass,
ing but hunger and thirst, a certain food and a
there exists an input on which the converter cannot make
certain drink, each equally distant from him)


a proper decision, resulting in a metastable state. Having the converter make an arbitrary choice in ambiguous
situations does not solve the problem, as the boundary
between ambiguous and unambiguous values introduces
another binary decision with its own metastable state.

[4] Kinniment, David J. (2008). Synchronization and Arbitration in Digital Systems. John Wiley & Sons. p. 3. ISBN
[5]Thought and Process, Lauzinger, Edward, 1994

The metastability problem is a signicant issue in digital [6] Leslie Lamport (December 1984).Buridan's Principle
. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
circuit design, and metastable states are a possibility
wherever asynchronous inputs (digital signals which are
not synchronized to a clock signal) occur. The ultimate
reason the problem is manageable is that the probabil- 0.2.7 Bibliography
ity of a metastable state persisting longer than a given
The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). 2006.
time interval t is an exponentially declining function of t.
In electronic devices, the probability of such an unde Knowles, Elizabeth (2006). The Oxford Dictionary
cidedstate lasting longer than a few nanoseconds, while
of Phrase and Fable.
always possible, is innitesimal. Similar scaling laws in
the operation of neurons may explain why Buridan Mawson, T.J. (2005). Belief in God. New York,
states of indecision are not often observed in human beNY: Oxford University (Clarendon) Press. p. 201.
Rescher, Nicholas (1959/60). Choice Without
Preference: A Study of the History and of the Logic
0.2.4 In popular culture
of the Problem ofBuridans Ass"". Kant-Studien
51: 14275. Check date values in: |date= (help)
Buridan'sglassappears in the fantasy novelZelda
Zupko, Jack (2003). John Buridan: Portrait of a
Pryce: The Razor's Edge(2013) by Joseph Robert
Fourteenth-Century Arts Master. Notre Dame, InLewis as a physical device with thearcaneability
diana: University of Notre Dame Press. pp. 258,
to paralyze a person with two conicting impulses or


See also

Ullmann-Margalit, E.; Morgenbesser, S. (1977).

Picking and Choos-ing. Social Research 44: 757

Analysis paralysis
Dining philosophers problem
Hobson's choice
Lagrangian point
Metastability in electronics
Morton's fork
Search cost
Spontaneous symmetry breaking



[1] Buridan's ass: Oxford Companion to Phrase and Fable

. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
[2] Rescher, Nicholas (2005). Cosmos and Logos: Studies
in Greek Philosophy. Ontos Verlag. pp. 9399. ISBN
[3] Kane, Robert (2005). A Contemporary Introduction to
Free Will. New York: Oxford. p. 37.

0.2.8 External links

Vassiliy Lubchenko (August 2008). Competing
interactions create functionality through frustration
. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105 (31): 10635
6. doi:10.1073/pnas.0805716105. PMC 2504771.
PMID 18669666.

0.3 Buridan's bridge

Buridan's Bridge (also known as Sophism 17) is described by Jean Buridan, one of the most famous and
inuential philosophers of the Late Middle Ages, in
his book Sophismata. Sophism 17 is a self-referenced
paradox that involves a proposition pronounced about an
event that might or might not happen in the future.

0.3.1 The sophism

The sophism is:
Imagine the following scenario:


0.3.2 Buridan's solution

In order to solve the paradox Buridan proposes three
1. Is the proposition uttered by Socrates: You are
going to throw me into the watertrue, or is it false?
2. Is Plato's promise true or is it false?
3.What ought Plato to do to fulll his promise?"* [3]
In response to the rst question Buridan states that it is
impossible to determine if Socrates' proposition is true
or false. This is because the proposition You are going
to throw me into the wateris a future contingent that
could be true or false depending on what Plato is going
to do. Dr. Joseph W. Ulatowski says that Buridan apparently used Aristotle's thesis about whattruthis to come
up with this response. Aristotle believed that a proposition is true if and only if it is veried by the state of things
as they currently are. Contradicting the principle of bivalence, Buridan implies a system of three-valued logic in
which there are three truth values--true, false, and some
indeterminate third value.* [3]
In determining the truth value of Plato's conditional
promise, Buridan suggests that Plato's promise was false,
and that because Plato gave his promise carelessly he is
not obligated to fulll the promise.* [3]
In discussing the third question,What ought Plato to do
to fulll his promise, Buridan states that Plato should
not have given a conditional promise in the rst place.
One proposed humorous solution for the Buridan's bridge He also suggests that Plato could have made sure that the
sophism is to let Socrates cross the bridge and then throw him condition was formulated in such a way that it would not
cause a contradiction; because Plato cannot fulll his coninto the water on the other side.
ditional promise without violating it, he is not obligated
to fulll the promise. Ulatowski points out that this is the
contrapositive of the principle stated by Immanuel Kant:
ought implies can.* [3]
Socrates wants to cross a river and comes
to a bridge guarded by Plato, who says:
Plato: Socrates, if in the rst proposition which
0.3.3 Philosophers on the sophism and its
you utter, you speak the truth, I will permit you
to cross. But surely, if you speak falsely, I shall
throw you into the water.
In his solution to the sophism, Walter Burley applied the
Socrates: You will throw me into the water.* [1]
principle nothing is true unless at this instant(nihil
est verum nisi in hoc instanti) and concluded that if a
proposition is true it must be true now.* [4]
Socrates's response puts Plato in a dicult situation. He
could not throw Socrates into the water, because if he
did he would violate his promise to let Socrates to cross
the bridge if he speaks the truth. On the other hand, if
Plato allows Socrates to cross the bridge it would mean
that Socrates spoke untruth when he replied: You are
going to throw me into the water. In that case Socrates
should have been thrown into the water. In other words,
Socrates could be allowed to cross the bridge if and only
if he could not be.* [2]

Dr. Dale Jacquette of the University of Bern says that

Plato can either permit Socrates to pass or have him
seized and thrown into the river without violating his conditional vow. Jacquette argues that Plato's conditional
promise was given only in regards of Socrates's proposition being clearly and unconditionally either true or false.
To prove his point Jacquette asks, what would Plato have
to do if Socrates had said nothing and wasas silent as a
Sphinx", or if he uttered something that could not be either proven orundisproven, something like Goldbach's


conjecture. Jacquette concludes that Plato's conditional Sancho comes up with the moral solution:
promise was true, and Socrates's proposition is neither
true simpliciter nor false simpliciter", and therefore Plato
...there is the same reason for this passenwould be right regardless of the choice that he made.* [3]
ger dying as for his living and passing over the
bridge; for if the truth saves him the falsehood
In his book Paradoxes from A to Z Professor Michael
equally condemns him; and that being the case
Clark comes to the conclusion that if Plato is an honorit is my opinion you should say to the gentlemen
able man, Socrates should not get wet under any circumwho sent you to me that as the arguments for
stances. Clark argues that Socrates could say, Either
condemning him and for absolving him are exI am speaking falsely, and you will throw me in, or I am
actly balanced, they should let him pass freely,
speaking truly, and you won't throw me in. Clark says
as it is always more praiseworthy to do good
that if this sentence is true, then it means that the rst althan to do evil.* [6]
ternativeis ruled out, leaving us only with the second
one. If this sentence is false, it means that both alternatives are false, and because Socrates spoke falselyit will
0.3.5 References
be falseto throw him into the river.* [5]
Dr. Joseph W. Ulatowski believes that since the truth
value in Plato's conditional promise and even more so
in Socrates's proposition is indeterminate, it means that
Plato ought to err on the side of caution with respect
to the future contingency and allow Socrates to cross the
bridge.* [3] In the same work Ulatowski oers a couple
of humorous solutions to the paradox. Plato, Ulatowski
says, could let Socrates to cross the bridge, and then throw
him into water on the other side. Or both Plato and
Socrates could combine their eorts and forcibly eject
Buridan himself from Buridan's bridge.* [3]


Use of Buridan's bridge in literature

Buridan's bridge sophism was used by Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote,* [5] when Sancho was presented
with the Buridan's bridge dilemma: A man who was going to cross the bridge was asked to respond truthfully
where he was going or otherwise to face a death by hanging. The manswore and said that by the oath he took he
was going to die upon that gallows that stood there, and
nothing else.* [6]
Sancho summarizes the situation by saying: the man
swears that he is going to die upon the gallows; but if
he dies upon it, he has sworn the truth, and by the law
enacted deserves to go free and pass over the bridge; but
if they don't hang him, then he has sworn falsely, and by
the same law deserves to be hanged. He then comes up
with the solution, that of this man they should let pass
the part that has sworn truly, and hang the part that has
lied; and in this way the conditions of the passage will
be fully complied with.* [6] After Sancho makes this
statement, the person who was asking for advice reasons
with him:
But then, senor governor,replied the
querist, the man will have to be divided into
two parts; and if he is divided of course he will
die; and so none of the requirements of the law
will be carried out, and it is absolutely necessary to comply with it.* [6]

[1] Swart, Henritte de; Henk Verkuyl (August 1999).

Tense and Aspect in Sentence and Discourse. Utrecht:
ESSLLI Summer School. pp. 5657. CiteSeerX:
[2] Dale Jacquette (1991). Buridan's Bridge. Philosophy
66 (258). doi:10.1017/s0031819100065116. JSTOR
[3] Ulatowski, Joseph W. (2003). A Conscientious Resolution of the Action Paradox on Buridan's Bridge.
Southwest Philosophical Studies 25: 8594. Retrieved 11
February 2011.
[4] hrstrm, Peter; Per F. V. Hasle (1995). Temporal Logic:
From Ancient Ideas to Articial Intelligence. Springer. p.
38. ISBN 978-0-7923-3586-3. Retrieved 11 February
[5] Clark, Michael (May 16, 2007). Paradoxes from A to Z
(2 ed.). Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-415-42082-2.
Retrieved 11 February 2011.
[6] Cervantes, Miguel de. LI: Of the Progress of Sancho's
Government, and Other Such Entertaining Matters. Don
Quixote. Free Library. Retrieved 22 February 2011.

0.4 Chicken or the egg

The chicken or the egg causality dilemma is commonly
stated as which came rst, the chicken or the egg?" To
ancient philosophers, the question about the rst chicken
or egg also evoked the questions of how life and the
universe in general began.* [1]
From a modern scientic perspective, the chicken egg
came rst because the genetic recombination that produced the rst chicken(though that may be an arbitrary denition in a breeding population undergoing
speciation) occurred in germ-line cells in a non-chicken
ancestor. Another literal answer is thatthe eggin general came rst, because egg-laying species pre-date the
existence of chickens. To others, the chicken came rst,
seeing as chickens are merely domesticated red junglefowls.


could be a rst bird or egg and concluded that both the
bird and egg must have always existed:
If there has been a rst man he must have
been born without father or mother which is
repugnant to nature. For there could not have
been a rst egg to give a beginning to birds, or
there should have been a rst bird which gave
a beginning to eggs; for a bird comes from an
egg.* [2]
The same he held good for all species, believing, with
Plato, that everything before it appeared on earth had
rst its being in spirit.* [3]

Illustration from Tacuina sanitatis, 14th century

Cultural references to the chicken and egg intend to point

out the futility of identifying the rst case of a circular
cause and consequence. The metaphorical view sets a
metaphysical ground to the dilemma. To better understand its metaphorical meaning, the question could be reformulated as: Which came rst, X that can't come
without Y, or Y that can't come without X?"

Plutarch (46126) referred to a hen rather than simply

a bird. Plutarch discussed a series of arguments based
on questions posed in a symposium. Under the section
entitled Whether the hen or the egg came rst, the
discussion is introduced in such a way suggesting that the
origin of the dilemma was even older:
...the problem about the egg and the hen,
which of them came rst, was dragged into our
talk, a dicult problem which gives investigators much trouble. And Sulla my comrade said
that with a small problem, as with a tool, we
were rocking loose a great and heavy one, that
of the creation of the world...* [4]* [5]* [6]

Macrobius (early 5th century), a Roman philosopher,

An equivalent situation arises in engineering and science
found the problem to be interesting:
known as circular reference, in which a parameter is required to calculate that parameter itself. Examples are
You jest about what you suppose to be a
Van der Waals equation and the Colebrook equation.
triviality, in asking whether the hen came rst
from an egg or the egg from a hen, but the point
should be regarded as one of importance, one
0.4.1 History of the dilemma
worthy of discussion, and careful discussion at
that.* [7]* [8]
In System of Nature by Baron D'Holbach (1770, translated into English in 1797), he asks was the animal anterior to the egg, or did the egg precede the animal?" (part
1, chapter 6).

A chick hatching from an egg

Stephen Hawking and Christopher Langan argue that the

egg came before the chicken,* [9]* [10] though the real importance of the question has faded since Darwin's On the
Origin of Species and the accompanying Theory of Evolution, assuming the question intended eggto mean
an egg in general rather than an egg that hatches into a
chicken. According to Popular Science, the egg came rst
as it evolved prior to birds.* [11]

Ancient references to the dilemma are found in the writ0.4.2 Scientic resolution
ings of classical philosophers. Their writings indicate that
the proposed problem was perplexing to them and was A simple explanation of why the egg came rst was by
commonly discussed by others of their time as well.
Roy A. Sorensen in his one-page-article in 1992. He arAristotle (384322 BC) was puzzled by the idea that there gued that although it is indeterminate which animal was

the rst chicken, the question of whether the chicken
or the chicken egg came rst has a determinate answer.
Since an animal does not evolve into another species during its lifetime, and since organisms can fail to breed
true, it is biologically necessary that the chicken egg came
rst.* [12]


Logically the nal conclusion can be drawn that the egg

indeed came before the chicken, as a bird that was not a
chicken could accumulate germline mutations in a single
sperm or ovum to produce the rst genetically identiable
chicken, but a non-chicken egg is much less likely to proEvolution changes species over time via mutation and sex- duce a non-chicken which accumulates enough identical
ual reproduction. Since DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) somatic cell mutations across its cells to create a chicken
can be modied before and after birth,* [13] it can be ar- spontaneously.
gued that a mutation must have taken place at conception
or within an egg such that a creature similar to a chicken,
but not a chicken, laid the rst chicken eggs. These eggs 0.4.3 Chicken-and-egg problem
then hatched into chickens that inbred to produce a living population.* [14]* [15] Hence, in this light, both the The term chicken-and-egg problemis further comchicken and the structure of its egg evolved simultane- monly used to describe a situation that is not a philosophously from birds that, while not of the same exact species, ical dilemma, but one in which it is impossible to reach
gradually became more and more like present-day chick- a certain desired outcome because a necessary precondition is not satised, while to meet that precondition in
ens over time.
turn requires that the desired outcome has already been
However, no one mutation in one individual can be con- realized. For example, it has been argued that the transsidered as constituting a new species. A speciation event formation to alternative fuels for vehicles faces a chickeninvolves the separation of one population from its parent and-egg problem: it is not economical for individuals
population, so that interbreeding ceases; this is the pro- to purchase vehicles using alternative fuels absent sucess whereby domesticated animals are genetically sep- cient refueling stations, and it is not economical for fuel
arated from their wild forebears. The whole separated dealers to open stations absent sucient alternative fuel
group can then be recognized as a new species.
vehicles.* [17] This is closely related to the economic
The modern chicken was believed to have descended concept of vicious circle, but in this kind of situation one
from another closely related species of birds, the red jun- that becomes a virtuous circle upon reaching a tipping
glefowl, but recently discovered genetic evidence suggests point.
that the modern domestic chicken is a hybrid descendant
of both the red junglefowl and the grey junglefowl.* [16]
Assuming the evidence bears out, a hybrid is a compelling 0.4.4 See also
scenario that the chicken egg, based on the second de Bootstrapping, a technique in computer programnition, came before the chicken.
ming used to avoid chicken-and-egg scenarios where
This implies that the egg existed before the chicken, but
two programs are mutually needed for compiling or
that the chicken egg did not exist until an arbitrary threshloading each other
old was crossed that dierentiates a modern chicken from
Catch-22 (logic)
its ancestors. Even if such a threshold could be dened,
an observer would be unlikely to identify that the thresh Circular cause and consequence
old had been crossed until the rst chicken had been
hatched and hence the rst chicken egg could not be iden Cosmogony
tied as such.
Evolutionary biology
A simple view is that at whatever point the threshold was
crossed and the rst chicken was hatched, it had to hatch
Feedback loop
from an egg. The type of bird that laid that egg, by def Grandfather paradox
inition, was on the other side of the threshold and therefore not a chickenit may be viewed as a proto-chicken
Omphalos hypothesis
or ancestral chicken of some sort, from which a genetic
variation or mutation occurred that resulted in the egg be On the Origin of Species
ing laid containing the embryo of the rst chicken. In
Predestination paradox
this light, the argument is settled and the 'egg' had to
have come rst. However, whether this was dened as
a chicken egg or proto-chicken egg is debatable. So technically the egg came before the chicken, but the chicken 0.4.5 References
may have come before the chicken egg. So it depends on
whether the question isWhat came rst, the chicken or [1] Theosophy (September 1939). Ancient Landmarks:
Plato and Aristotle. Theosophy 27 (11): 483491.
the eggor what came rst, the chicken or the chicken
Archived from the original on February 2013.



[2] Franois Fnelon: Abrg des vies des anciens philosophes, a computer running a program to have a mindand
Paris 1726, p. 314 (French). Translation: Lives of the consciousness* [lower-alpha 1] in the same sense that
ancient philosophers, London 1825, p. 202 (English)
people do, simply by virtue of running the right program.
[3] Blavatsky, H.P. (1877). Isis Unveiled. pp. I, 426428.
[4] Plutarch (1976). Plutarch's Moralia: Table-talk : Books
I-III. Heinemann.
[5] Renaud, Gabriel (2005). Protein Secondary Structure
Prediction using inter-residue contacts. pp. 71.
[6] Pluatarch,

, ,
, 635e-638a.
[7] Smith, Page; Charles Daniel (2000). The Chicken Book.
University of Georgia Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-8203-2213X.
[8] Macrobius, Saturnalia, VII, 16.
[9] Archives: Meeting Dr. Stephen Hawking. The Bridge
School. 2005. Archived from the original on 2012-12-30.
Retrieved 2012-12-30.
[10] Christopher Michael Langan (2001). Which Came
First.... Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe.
megafoundation.org. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
[11] Engber, Daniel (2013). FYI: Which Came First, The
Chicken Or The Egg?". Popular Science (Bonnier Corporation) 282 (3): 78. Retrieved 15 February 2013.


The experiment is intended to help refute a philosophical

position that Searle named "strong AI":
The appropriately programmed computer
with the right inputs and outputs would thereby
have a mind in exactly the same sense human
beings have minds.* [lower-alpha 2]
To contest this view, Searle writes in his rst description
of the argument: Suppose that I'm locked in a room
and ... that I know no Chinese, either written or spoken
. He further supposes that he has a set of rules in English
that enable me to correlate one set of formal symbols
with another set of formal symbols, that is, the Chinese
characters. These rules allow him to respond, in written
Chinese, to questions, also written in Chinese, in such
a way that the posers of the questions who do understand Chinese are convinced that Searle can actually
understand the Chinese conversation too, even though he
cannot. Similarly, he argues that if there is a computer
program that allows a computer to carry on an intelligent
conversation in a written language, the computer executing the program would not understand the conversation

The experiment is the centerpiece of Searle's Chinese room argument which holds that a program
Roy A. Sorensen. 1992. The Egg came before the
give a computer a "mind", "understanding"
chicken. Oxford University Press.
or "consciousness", regardless of how intelligently it
Adel, Waleed. Revealed: Scientists editDNA to may make it behave.
The argument is directed
correct adult genes and cure diseases. Steve Connor. against the philosophical positions of functionalism and
Retrieved 2014-04-22.
computationalism,* [1] which hold that the mind may be
CNN (May 26, 2006).Chicken and egg debate unscram- viewed as an information processing system operating on
formal symbols. Although it was originally presented
bled. CNN.com. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
in reaction to the statements of articial intelligence reHowStuWorks. Which came rst, the chicken or the searchers, it is not an argument against the goals of AI
egg?". HowStuWorks. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
research, because it does not limit the amount of intelli*
Eriksson J, Larson G, Gunnarsson U, Bed'hom B, Tixier- gence a machine can display. [2] The argument applies
Boichard M et al. (January 23, 2008). Identication only to digital computers and does not apply to machines
of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the in general. [3] This kind of argument against AI was deDomestic Chicken. PLoS Genetics, e10.eor. preprint scribed by John Haugeland as the hollow shellargu(2008): e10. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000010.eor. ment.* [4]
Retrieved 2008-02-20.

[17] Saving Energy in U.S. Transportation. U.S. Congress Ofce of Technology Assessment. 1994. OTA-ETI-589.

0.5 Chinese room

Searle's argument rst appeared in his paper Minds,

Brains, and Programs, published in Behavioral and
Brain Sciences in 1980. It has been widely discussed in
the years since.* [5]

0.5.1 Chinese room thought experiment

For the British video game development studio, see The Searle's thought experiment begins with this hypothetical
Chinese Room.
premise: suppose that articial intelligence research has
succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it
The Chinese room is a thought experiment presented by understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input
John Searle to challenge the claim that it is possible for and, by following the instructions of a computer program,

produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as
output. Suppose, says Searle, that this computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes
the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker
that the program is itself a live Chinese speaker. To all
of the questions that the person asks, it makes appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be
convinced that he is talking to another Chinese-speaking
human being.
The question Searle wants to answer is this: does the machine literally understandChinese? Or is it merely
simulating the ability to understand Chinese?* [6]* [loweralpha 3] Searle calls the rst position "strong AI" and the
latter weak AI.* [lower-alpha 4]
Searle then supposes that he is in a closed room and has
a book with an English version of the computer program,
along with sucient paper, pencils, erasers, and ling
cabinets. Searle could receive Chinese characters through
a slot in the door, process them according to the program's instructions, and produce Chinese characters as
output. If the computer had passed the Turing test this
way, it follows, says Searle, that he would do so as well,
simply by running the program manually.
Searle asserts that there is no essential dierence between
the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment.
Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing
a behavior which is then interpreted as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle would not be able
to understand the conversation. (I don't speak a word
of Chinese,* [9] he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it
follows that the computer would not be able to understand
the conversation either.

nal's most inuential target article,* [5] generating an
enormous number of commentaries and responses in the
ensuing decades. David Cole writes that the Chinese
Room argument has probably been the most widely discussed philosophical argument in cognitive science to appear in the past 25 years.* [13]
Most of the discussion consists of attempts to refute it.
The overwhelming majority,notes BBS editor Stevan
Harnad,* [lower-alpha 6] still think that the Chinese
Room Argument is dead wrong.* [14] The sheer volume
of the literature that has grown up around it inspired Pat
Hayes to quip that the eld of cognitive science ought to
be redened asthe ongoing research program of showing Searle's Chinese Room Argument to be false.* [15]
Searle's paper has becomesomething of a classic in cognitive science,according to Harnad.* [14] Varol Akman
agrees, and has described his paper as an exemplar of
philosophical clarity and purity.* [16]

0.5.3 Philosophy
Although the Chinese Room argument was originally presented in reaction to the statements of AI researchers,
philosophers have come to view it as an important part of
the philosophy of mind. It is a challenge to functionalism
and the computational theory of mind,* [lower-alpha 7]
and is related to such questions as the mindbody problem, the problem of other minds, the symbol-grounding
problem, and the hard problem of consciousness.* [loweralpha 1]

Searle argues that without understanding(or Strong AI

"intentionality"), we cannot describe what the machine is
doing as thinkingand since it does not think, it does Searle identied a philosophical position he callsstrong
not have a mindin anything like the normal sense of AI":
the word. Therefore he concludes that strong AIis
The appropriately programmed computer
with the right inputs and outputs would thereby
have a mind in exactly the same sense human
0.5.2 History
beings have minds.* [lower-alpha 2] and is also
quoted in Daniel Dennett's Consciousness ExGottfried Leibniz made a similar argument in 1714, usplained.* [19] Searle's original formulation was
ing the thought experiment of expanding the brain until
The appropriately programmed computer reit was the size of a mill.* [10] Leibniz found it dicult to
ally is a mind, in the sense that computers given
imagine that a mindcapable of perceptioncould
the right programs can be literally said to unbe constructed using only mechanical processes.* [lowerderstand and have other cognitive states.* [20]
alpha 5] In 1974, Lawrence Davis imagined duplicating
Strong AI is dened similarly by Stuart Rusthe brain using telephone lines and oces staed by peosell and Peter Norvig: The assertion that
ple, and in 1978 Ned Block envisioned the entire populamachines could possibly act intelligently (or,
tion of China involved in such a brain simulation. This
perhaps better, act as if they were intelligent)
thought experiment is called the China brain, also the
is called the 'weak AI' hypothesis by philosoChinese Nationor the Chinese Gym.* [11]
phers, and the assertion that machines that do
The Chinese room was introduced in Searle's 1980 paper
so are actually thinking (as opposed to simulatMinds, Brains, and Programs, published in Behavioral
ing thinking) is called the 'strong AI' hypotheand Brain Sciences.* [12] It eventually became the joursis.* [2]</ref>


The denition hinges on the distinction between simulating a mind and actually having a mind. Searle writes that
according to Strong AI, the correct simulation really is a
mind. According to Weak AI, the correct simulation is a
model of the mind.* [7]

computers can have mental states and help to explain
the mind);
implementationindependent in other words, it is the software
that determines the computational state, not the
hardware (which is why the brain, being hardware,
is irrelevant); and that

The position is implicit in some of the statements of

early AI researchers and analysts. For example, in 1955,
AI founder Herbert A. Simon declared that there are
now in the world machines that think, that learn and
create* [21]* [lower-alpha 8] and claimed that they had
Since implementation is unimportant, the only emsolved the venerable mindbody problem, explaining
pirical data that matters is how the system functions;
how a system composed of matter can have the prophence the Turing test is denitive.
erties of mind. [22] John Haugeland wrote that AI
wants only the genuine article: machines with minds, in
the full and literal sense. This is not science ction, but
real science, based on a theoretical conception as deep as Strong AI vs. biological naturalism
it is daring: namely, we are, at root, computers ourselves.
Searle holds a philosophical position he calls "biological
Searle also ascribes the following positions to advocates naturalism": that consciousness [lower-alpha 1] and
understanding require specic biological machinery that
of strong AI:
is found in brains. He writes brains cause minds
[3] and that actual human mental phenomena [are]
AI systems can be used to explain the mind; [lowerdependent on actual physicalchemical properties of acalpha 4]
tual human brains.* [33] Searle argues that this machin The study of the brain is irrelevant to the study of ery (known to neuroscience as the "neural correlates of
consciousness") must have some (unspecied) causal
the mind;* [lower-alpha 9] and
powersthat permit the human experience of conscious The Turing test is adequate for establishing the ex- ness.* [34] Searle's faith in the existence of these powers
istence of mental states.* [lower-alpha 10]
has been criticized.* [lower-alpha 12]
Strong AI as computationalism or functionalism
In more recent presentations of the Chinese room argument, Searle has identied strong AIas computer functionalism" (a term he attributes to Daniel Dennett).* [1]* [28] Functionalism is a position in modern
philosophy of mind that holds that we can dene mental phenomena (such as beliefs, desires, and perceptions)
by describing their functions in relation to each other and
to the outside world. Because a computer program can
accurately represent functional relationships as relationships between symbols, a computer can have mental phenomena if it runs the right program, according to functionalism.
Stevan Harnad argues that Searle's depictions of strong AI
can be reformulated asrecognizable tenets of computationalism, a position (unlikestrong AI) that is actually
held by many thinkers, and hence one worth refuting.
[29] Computationalism* [lower-alpha 11] is the position
in the philosophy of mind which argues that the mind can
be accurately described as an information-processing system.
Each of the following, according to Harnad, is a tenet
of computationalism:* [32]
Mental states are computational states (which is why

Searle does not disagree that machines can have consciousness and understanding, because, as he writes,we
are precisely such machines.* [3] Searle holds that the
brain is, in fact, a machine, but the brain gives rise to
consciousness and understanding using machinery that is
non-computational. If neuroscience is able to isolate the
mechanical process that gives rise to consciousness, then
Searle grants that it may be possible to create machines
that have consciousness and understanding. However,
without the specic machinery required, Searle does not
believe that consciousness can occur.
Biological naturalism implies that one cannot determine
if the experience of consciousness is occurring merely
by examining how a system functions, because the specic machinery of the brain is essential. Thus, biological naturalism is directly opposed to both behaviorism
and functionalism (including computer functionalism
orstrong AI).* [35] Biological naturalism is similar to
identity theory (the position that mental states areidentical toor composed ofneurological events), however, Searle has specic technical objections to identity
theory.* [36]* [lower-alpha 13] Searle's biological naturalism and strong AI are both opposed to Cartesian dualism,* [35] the classical idea that the brain and mind are
made of dierentsubstances. Indeed, Searle accuses
strong AI of dualism, writing thatstrong AI only makes
sense given the dualistic assumption that, where the mind
is concerned, the brain doesn't matter.* [24]



Searle's original presentation emphasized understandingthat is, mental states with what philosophers
call "intentionality"and did not directly address other
closely related ideas such as consciousness. However, in more recent presentations Searle has included
consciousness as the real target of the argument.* [1]
Computational models of consciousness
are not sucient by themselves for consciousness. The computational model for
consciousness stands to consciousness in the
same way the computational model of anything
stands to the domain being modelled. Nobody
supposes that the computational model of
rainstorms in London will leave us all wet.
But they make the mistake of supposing that
the computational model of consciousness is
somehow conscious. It is the same mistake in
both cases.* [37]
John R. Searle, Consciousness and Language, p. 16

Strong AI vs. AI research

Searle's arguments are not usually considered an issue for
AI research. Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig observe that
most AI researchers don't care about the strong AI hypothesisas long as the program works, they don't care
whether you call it a simulation of intelligence or real intelligence.* [2] The primary mission of articial intelligence research is only to create useful systems that act
intelligently, and it does not matter if the intelligence is
merelya simulation.
Searle does not disagree that AI research can create machines that are capable of highly intelligent behavior. The
Chinese room argument leaves open the possibility that a
digital machine could be built that acts more intelligent
than a person, but does not have a mind or intentionality
in the same way that brains do. Indeed, Searle writes that
the Chinese room argument ... assumes complete success on the part of articial intelligence in simulating human cognition.* [40]

Searle'sstrong AIshould not be confused with "strong

AI" as dened by Ray Kurzweil and other futurists,* [41]
who use the term to describe machine intelligence that
rivals or exceeds human intelligence. Kurzweil is conDavid Chalmers writes it is fairly clear that con- cerned primarily with the amount of intelligence dissciousness is at the root of the matterof the Chinese played by the machine, whereas Searle's argument sets no
limit on this. Searle argues that even a super-intelligent
room.* [38]
machine would not necessarily have a mind and conColin McGinn argues that that the Chinese room provides
strong evidence that the hard problem of consciousness
is fundamentally insoluble. The argument, to be clear, is
not about whether a machine can be conscious, but about Symbol processing
whether it (or anything else for that matter) can be shown
to be conscious. It is plain that any other method of prob- The Chinese room (and all modern computers) manipuing the occupant of a Chinese room has the same di- late physical objects in order to carry out calculations and
culties in principle as exchanging questions and answers do simulations. AI researchers Allen Newell and Herbert
in Chinese. It is simply not possible to divine whether a A. Simon called this kind of machine a physical symbol
conscious agency inhabits the room or some clever simu- system. It is also equivalent to the formal systems used in
lation.* [39]
the eld of mathematical logic. Searle emphasizes the
Searle argues that this is only true for an observer outside of the room. The whole point of the thought experiment is to put someone inside the room, where they can
directly observe the operations of consciousness. Searle
claims that from his vantage point within the room there
is nothing he can see that could imaginably give rise to
consciousness, other than himself, and clearly he does not
have a mind that can speak Chinese.


Computer science

The Chinese room argument is primarily an argument in

the philosophy of mind, and both major computer scientists and articial intelligence researchers consider it irrelevant to their elds.* [2] However, several concepts developed by computer scientists are essential to understanding the argument, including symbol processing, Turing
machines, Turing completeness, and the Turing test.

fact that this kind of symbol manipulation is syntactic

(borrowing a term from the study of grammar). The computer manipulates the symbols using a form of syntax
rules, without any knowledge of the symbol's semantics
(that is, their meaning).
Chinese room as a Turing machine
The Chinese room has a design analogous to that of a
modern computer. It has a Von Neumann architecture,
which consists of a program (the book of instructions),
some memory (the papers and le cabinets), a CPU which
follows the instructions (the man), and a means to write
symbols in memory (the pencil and eraser). A machine
with this design is known in theoretical computer science
as "Turing complete", because it has the necessary machinery to carry out any computation that a Turing machine can do, and therefore it is capable of doing a step-


by-step simulation of any other digital machine, given
enough memory and time. Alan Turing writes,all digital
computers are in a sense equivalent.* [42] The widely accepted Church-Turing thesis holds that any function computable by an eective procedure is computable by a Turing machine. In other words, the Chinese room can do
whatever any other digital computer can do (albeit much,
much more slowly).
There are some critics, such as Hanoch Ben-Yami, who
argue that the Chinese room can not simulate all the abilities of a digital computer, such as being able to determine
the current time.* [43]
A dierent argument is that this computer metaphor lies
precisely at the crux of the debate because it fuels the intuitions of critics such as Searle, Penrose, and others who
are essentially reacting against the notion of programmability. The common view that an external program always governs a computer is understandable because the
usual meaning ofcomputercorresponds to a universal
Turing machine. However, universal programmability is
a red herring. It is merely a convenient way to instantiate general Turing machines, which are not always programmable. Thus, the Chinese Room argument critiques
rote program-interpretation, but it is incomplete because
it does not also address the program's own Turing machine computation (cf. the systems reply, below). Consequently, philosophical discussions about computers
should focus on general Turing computability without the
distraction of universal programmability.* [44]
Turing test
Main article: Turing test
The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit
intelligent behaviour. In Alan Turing's original illustrative example, a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with a human and a machine designed
to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a
human being. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from
the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.


A program uses syntax to manipulate symbols and pays no attention
to the semantics of the symbols. It
knows where to put the symbols and
how to move them around, but it
doesn't know what they stand for or
what they mean. For the program,
the symbols are just physical objects like any others.
(A2) Minds




Unlike the symbols used by a program, our thoughts have meaning:

they represent things and we know
what it is they represent.
(A3) Syntax by itself is neither constitutive
of nor sucient for semantics.
This is what the Chinese room
thought experiment is intended to
prove: the Chinese room has syntax (because there is a man in there
moving symbols around). The Chinese room has no semantics (because, according to Searle, there
is no one or nothing in the room
that understands what the symbols
mean). Therefore, having syntax is
not enough to generate semantics.
Searle posits that these lead directly to this conclusion:
(C1) Programs are neither constitutive of nor
sucient for minds.
This should follow without controversy from the rst three: Programs don't have semantics. Programs have only syntax, and syntax
is insucient for semantics. Every
mind has semantics. Therefore programs are not minds.

Complete argument

Searle has produced a more formal version of the argument of which the Chinese Room forms a part. He presented the rst version in 1984. The version given below
is from 1990.* [45]* [lower-alpha 14] The only part of the
argument which should be controversial is A3 and it is
this point which the Chinese room thought experiment is
intended to prove.* [lower-alpha 15]
He begins with three axioms:
(A1) Programs are formal (syntactic).

This much of the argument is intended to show that

articial intelligence can never produce a machine with a
mind by writing programs that manipulate symbols. The
remainder of the argument addresses a dierent issue. Is
the human brain running a program? In other words, is
the computational theory of mind correct?* [lower-alpha
7] He begins with an axiom that is intended to express
the basic modern scientic consensus about brains and
(A4) Brains cause minds.



Searle claims that we can deriveimmediatelyandtrivially* [34] that:

Those that contend that Searle's argument is misleading

(C2) Any other system capable of causing

minds would have to have causal powers (at
least) equivalent to those of brains.

Those that argue that the argument makes false

assumptions about subjective conscious experience
and therefore proves nothing

Brains must have something that

causes a mind to exist. Science has
yet to determine exactly what it is,
but it must exist, because minds exist. Searle calls it causal powers
. Causal powersis whatever the
brain uses to create a mind. If anything else can cause a mind to exist, it must haveequivalent causal
powers.Equivalent causal powersis whatever else that could be
used to make a mind.
And from this he derives the further conclusions:
(C3) Any artifact that produced mental phenomena, any articial brain, would have to be
able to duplicate the specic causal powers of
brains, and it could not do that just by running
a formal program.
This follows from C1 and C2: Since
no program can produce a mind,
andequivalent causal powersproduce minds, it follows that programs do not have equivalent
causal powers.
(C4) The way that human brains actually produce mental phenomena cannot be solely by
virtue of running a computer program.
Since programs do not haveequivalent causal powers, equivalent causal powersproduce minds,
and brains produce minds, it follows that brains do not use programs to produce minds.



Replies to Searle's argument may be classied according

to what they claim to show:* [lower-alpha 16]
Those that identify who speaks Chinese
Those that demonstrate how meaningless symbols
can become meaningful
Those that suggest that the Chinese room should be
redesigned in some way

Some of the arguments (robot and brain simulation, for

example) fall into multiple categories.
Systems and virtual mind replies: nding the mind
These replies attempt to answer the question: since
the man in the room doesn't speak Chinese, where is
the mindthat does? These replies address the key
ontological issues of mind vs. body and simulation vs.
reality. All of the replies that identify the mind in the
room are versions of the systems reply.
Systems reply * [50]* [lower-alpha 17] The basic systems replyargues that it is thewhole systemthat
understands Chinese. While the man understands
only English, when he is combined with the program, scratch paper, pencils and le cabinets, they
form a system that can understand Chinese. Here,
understanding is not being ascribed to the mere individual; rather it is being ascribed to this whole system of which he is a partSearle explains.* [27] The
fact that man does not understand Chinese is irrelevant, because it is only the system as a whole that
Searle notes that (in this simple version of the
reply) thesystemis nothing more than a collection of ordinary physical objects; it grants
the power of understanding and consciousness
to the conjunction of that person and bits
of paper* [27] without making any eort to
explain how this pile of objects has become a
conscious, thinking being. Searle argues that
no reasonable person should be satised with
the reply, unless they are under the grip of
an ideology.* [27]
Searle then responds by simplifying this list of
physical objects: he asks what happens if the
man memorizes the rules and keeps track of
everything in his head? Then the whole system consists of just one object: the man himself. Searle argues that if the man doesn't understand Chinese then the system doesn't understand Chinese either because nowthe systemandthe manboth describe exactly the
same object.* [27] Critics of Searle's response
argue that the program has allowed the man to
have two minds in one head.


More sophisticated versions of the systems reply try to
identify more precisely what the systemis and they
dier in exactly how they describe it. According to these
replies, the mind that speaks Chinesecould be such
things as: the software, a program, a running
program, a simulation of theneural correlates of consciousness, the functional system, a simulated
mind, an "emergent property, or a virtual mind
(Marvin Minsky's version of the systems reply, described
From mathematics, the theory of computation and Turing
machines upholds part of the systems reply by accounting for the two computations that are known to be occurring within the room, namely (1) the computation for
universal programmability (which is the function instantiated by the person and note-taking materials independently from any particular program contents) and (2) the
computation of the Turning machine that is described by
the program (which is instantiated by everything including the specic program).* [52] (To better see the second
computation, just imagine that the program describes the
algorithm for integer addition. The person would still execute their own universal computation in exactly the same
automatic, rote, formal way, impervious to this program's
overall function. Yet, now we know two things: (1) the
computation of integer addition is actually occurring in
the room and (2) the person is not the primary thing responsible for it.)

simulation, and writes: No one supposes that
computer simulations of a ve-alarm re will
burn the neighborhood down or that a computer simulation of a rainstorm will leave us
all drenched.* [58] Nicholas Fearn responds
that, for some things, simulation is as good as
the real thing. When we call up the pocket
calculator function on a desktop computer, the
image of a pocket calculator appears on the
screen. We don't complain that 'it isn't really
a calculator', because the physical attributes of
the device do not matter.* [59] The question
is, is the human mind like the pocket calculator, essentially composed of information? Or
is the mind like the rainstorm, something other
than a computer, and not realizable in full by a
computer simulation? (The issue of simulation
is also discussed in the article synthetic intelligence.)
These replies provide an explanation of exactly who it
is that understands Chinese. If there is something besides the man in the room that can understand Chinese,
Searle can't argue that (1) the man doesn't understand
Chinese, therefore (2) nothing in the room understands
Chinese. This, according to those who make this reply,
shows that Searle's argument fails to prove that strong
AIis false.* [lower-alpha 19]

The theory of computation thus formally explains the

open possibility that the second computation in the Chinese Room could entail a human-equivalent semantic understanding of the Chinese inputs. It does not prove that
such an understanding exists because the theory does not
address the Turing Test. But it does show why the focus
belongs on the program's Turing machine rather than on
the person's.* [53]

However, the replies, by themselves, do not prove that

strong AI is true, either: they provide no evidence that the
system (or the virtual mind) understands Chinese, other
than the hypothetical premise that it passes the Turing
Test. As Searle writes the systems reply simply begs
the question by insisting that system must understand Chinese.* [27]

Virtual mind reply * [lower-alpha 18] The term

"virtual" is used in computer science to describe an
object that appears to exist ina computer (or
computer network) only because software makes it
appear to exist. The objects insidecomputers
(including les, folders, and so on) are all virtual
, except for the computer's electronic components.
Similarly, Minsky argues, a computer may contain
amindthat is virtual in the same sense as virtual
machines, virtual communities and virtual reality.

Robot and semantics replies: nding the meaning

To clarify the distinction between the simple

systems reply given above and virtual mind
reply, David Cole notes that two simulations
could be running on one system at the same
time: one speaking Chinese and one speaking
Korean. While there is only one system, there
can be multiplevirtual minds,thus thesystemcan not be the mind.* [57]
Searle responds that such a mind is, at best, a

As far as the person in the room is concerned, the symbols are just meaningless squiggles.But if the Chinese room really understandswhat it is saying, then
the symbols must get their meaning from somewhere.
These arguments attempt to connect the symbols to the
things they symbolize. These replies address Searle's concerns about intentionality, symbol grounding and syntax
vs. semantics.
Robot reply * [61]* [lower-alpha 20] Suppose that instead of a room, the program was placed into a
robot that could wander around and interact with its
environment. This would allow a "causal connectionbetween the symbols and things they represent. Hans Moravec comments: 'If we could graft
a robot to a reasoning program, we wouldn't need
a person to provide the meaning anymore: it would
come from the physical world.* [63]* [lower-alpha


Searle's reply is to suppose that, unbeknownst
to the individual in the Chinese room, some
of the inputs came directly from a camera
mounted on a robot, and some of the outputs
were used to manipulate the arms and legs of
the robot. Nevertheless, the person in the room
is still just following the rules, and does not
know what the symbols mean. Searle writeshe
doesn't see what comes into the robot's eyes.
[65] (See Mary's room for a similar thought

speakers it speaks to, through the programmers who gave

it world knowledge, and through the cameras and other
sensors that roboticists can supply.

Searle says that the symbols only have a derivedmeaning, like the meaning of words in
books. The meaning of the symbols depends
on the conscious understanding of the Chinese speakers and the programmers outside the
room. The room, according to Searle, has no
understanding of its own.* [lower-alpha 23]

Searle replies that such a simulation does not

reproduce the important features of the brain
its causal and intentional states. Searle is
adamant thathuman mental phenomena [are]
dependent on actual physicalchemical properties of actual human brains.* [24] Moreover,
he argues:

Commonsense knowledge / contextualist reply.

[64]* [lower-alpha 24] Some have argued that
the meanings of the symbols would come from a
vast backgroundof commonsense knowledge
encoded in the program and the ling cabinets.
This would provide a "context" that would give the
symbols their meaning.

[I]magine that instead of a monolingual

man in a room shuing symbols we have the
man operate an elaborate set of water pipes
with valves connecting them. When the man
receives the Chinese symbols, he looks up in
the program, written in English, which valves
he has to turn on and o. Each water connection corresponds to a synapse in the Chinese brain, and the whole system is rigged up
so that after doing all the right rings, that is
after turning on all the right faucets, the Chinese answers pop out at the output end of the
series of pipes. Now where is the understanding in this system? It takes Chinese as input, it
simulates the formal structure of the synapses
of the Chinese brain, and it gives Chinese as
output. But the man certainly doesn't understand Chinese, and neither do the water pipes,
and if we are tempted to adopt what I think is
the absurd view that somehow the conjunction
of man and water pipes understands, remember that in principle the man can internalize the
formal structure of the water pipes and do all
the neuron ringsin his imagination.* [12]

Brain simulation and connectionist replies: redesigning the room

These arguments are all versions of the systems reply that

identify a particular kind of system as being important;
they identify some special technology that would create
conscious understanding in a machine. (Note that the
commonsense knowledgereplies above
Derived meaning * [66]* [lower-alpha 22] Some re- also specify a certain kind of system as being important.)
spond that the room, as Searle describes it, is
connected to the world: through the Chinese
Brain simulator reply * [72]* [lower-alpha 26] Suppose
speakers that it is talkingto and through the
that the program simulated in ne detail the action
programmers who designed the knowledge base in
of every neuron in the brain of a Chinese speaker.
his le cabinet. The symbols Searle manipulates
This strengthens the intuition that there would be no
are already meaningful, they're just not meaningful
signicant dierence between the operation of the
to him.
program and the operation of a live human brain.

Searle agrees that this background exists, but

he does not agree that it can be built into programs. Hubert Dreyfus has also criticized the
idea that thebackgroundcan be represented
symbolically.* [69]
To each of these suggestions, Searle's response is the
same: no matter how much knowledge is written into the
program and no matter how the program is connected
to the world, he is still in the room manipulating symbols according to rules. His actions are syntactic and
this can never explain to him what the symbols stand
for. Searle writes syntax is insucient for semantics.
[70]* [lower-alpha 25]
However, for those who accept that Searle's actions simulate a mind, separate from his own, the important question is not what the symbols mean to Searle, what is important is what they mean to the virtual mind. While
Searle is trapped in the room, the virtual mind is not:
it is connected to the outside world through the Chinese

Two variations on the brain simulator reply are:

China brain * [74]* [lower-alpha 27] What if
we ask each citizen of China to simulate


one neuron, using the telephone system to
simulate the connections between axons
and dendrites? In this version, it seems
obvious that no individual would have any
understanding of what the brain might be
Brain replacement scenario * [76]* [loweralpha 28] In this, we are asked to
imagine that engineers have invented a
tiny computer that simulates the action
of an individual neuron. What would
happen if we replaced one neuron at a
time? Replacing one would clearly do
nothing to change conscious awareness.
Replacing all of them would create a digital computer that simulates a brain. If
Searle is right, then conscious awareness
must disappear during the procedure
(either gradually or all at once). Searle's
critics argue that there would be no point
during the procedure when he can claim
that conscious awareness ends and mindless simulation begins.* [lower-alpha
29] (See Ship of Theseus for a similar
thought experiment.)

Or they may be claiming that (2) it is easier to see that the
Chinese room has a mind if we visualize this technology
as being used to create it.
In the rst case, where features like a robot body or
a connectionist architecture are required, Searle claims
that strong AI (as he understands it) has been abandoned.* [lower-alpha 32] The Chinese room has all the
elements of a Turing complete machine, and thus is capable of simulating any digital computation whatsoever.
If Searle's room can't pass the Turing test then there is no
other digital technology that could pass the Turing test.
If Searle's room could pass the Turing test, but still does
not have a mind, then the Turing test is not sucient to
determine if the room has a mind. Either way, it denies one or the other of the positions Searle thinks of as
strong AI, proving his argument.
The brain arguments in particular deny strong AI if they
assume that there is no simpler way to describe the mind
than to create a program that is just as mysterious as
the brain was. He writes I thought the whole idea of
strong AI was that we don't need to know how the brain
works to know how the mind works.* [25] If computation does not provide an explanation of the human mind,
then strong AI has failed, according to Searle.

Other critics hold that the room as Searle described it

does, in fact, have a mind, however they argue that it is
Connectionist replies * [lower-alpha 30] Closely related dicult to seeSearle's description is correct, but misto the brain simulator reply, this claims that a mas- leading. By redesigning the room more realistically they
sively parallel connectionist architecture would be hope to make this more obvious. In this case, these arguments are being used as appeals to intuition (see next
capable of understanding.
Combination reply * [81] This response combines the
robot reply with the brain simulation reply, arguing that a brain simulation connected to the world
through a robot body could have a mind.
Many mansions/Wait till next year reply
[25]* [lower-alpha 31] Better technology in
the future will allow computers to understand.
Searle agrees that this is possible, but considers this
point irrelevant. His argument is that a machine
using a program to manipulate formally dened
elements can't produce understanding. Searle's
argument, if correct, rules out only this particular
design. Searle agrees that there may be other designs that would cause a machine to have conscious
These arguments (and the robot or commonsense knowledge replies) identify some special technology that would
help create conscious understanding in a machine. They
may be interpreted in two ways: either they claim (1)
this technology is required for consciousness, the Chinese
room does not or can not implement this technology, and
therefore the Chinese room can not pass the Turing test or
(even if it did) it would not have conscious understanding.

In fact, the room can just as easily be redesigned to

weaken our intuitions. Ned Block's "blockhead" argument* [83] suggests that the program could, in theory, be
rewritten into a simple lookup table of rules of the form
if the user writes S, reply with P and goto X. At least in
principle, any program can be rewritten (or "refactored")
into this form, even a brain simulation.* [lower-alpha 33]
In the blockhead scenario, the entire mental state is hidden in the letter X, which represents a memory address
a number associated with the next rule. It is hard to visualize that an instant of one's conscious experience can be
captured in a single large number, yet this is exactly what
strong AIclaims. On the other hand, such a lookup table would be ridiculously large (probably to the point of
being impossible in practice), and the states could therefore be extremely specic.
Searle's argues that however the program is written or
however the machine is connected to the world, the mind
is being simulated by a simple step by step digital machine (or machines). These machines are always just like
the man in the room: they understand nothing and don't
speak Chinese. They are merely manipulating symbols
without knowing what they mean. Searle writes: I can
have any formal program you like, but I still understand
nothing.* [9]

Speed and complexity: appeals to intuition
The following arguments (and the intuitive interpretations
of the arguments above) do not directly explain how a
Chinese speaking mind could exist in Searle's room, or
how the symbols he manipulates could become meaningful. However, by raising doubts about Searle's intuitions
they support other positions, such as the system and robot
replies. These arguments, if accepted, prevent Searle
from claiming that his conclusion is obvious by undermining the intuitions that his certainty requires.

tion produce no luminance at all. It is inconceivable that you might constitute real luminance just by
moving forces around!"* [75] The problem is that he
would have to wave the magnet up and down something like 450 trillion times per second in order to
see anything.
Stevan Harnad is critical of speed and complexity replies
when they stray beyond addressing our intuitions. He
writesSome have made a cult of speed and timing, holding that, when accelerated to the right speed, the computational may make a phase transition into the mental. It
should be clear that is not a counterargument but merely
an ad hoc speculation (as is the view that it is all just a
matter of ratcheting up to the right degree of 'complexity.')"* [90]* [lower-alpha 35]

Several critics believe that Searle's argument relies entirely on intuitions. Ned Block writesSearle's argument
depends for its force on intuitions that certain entities do
not think.* [84] Daniel Dennett describes the Chinese
room argument as a misleading "intuition pump"* [85]
and writesSearle's thought experiment depends, illicitly, Searle accuses his critics of placing too much faith in their
on your imagining too simple a case, an irrelevant case, own intuitions. Searle argues that anyone who is willing
and drawing the 'obvious' conclusion from it.* [85]
to accept thesystems reply(which asserts that a mind
Some of the arguments above also function as appeals can emerge froma systemwithout saying what the systo intuition, especially those that are intended to make tem is or how such a thing might give rise to a mind) has
it seem more plausible that the Chinese room contains a been completely misled by their own intuitions, writing
mind, which can include the robot, commonsense knowl- that they are under the grip of an ideology. [27]
edge, brain simulation and connectionist replies. Several of the replies above also address the specic is- Other minds and zombies: meaninglessness
sue of complexity. The connectionist reply emphasizes
that a working articial intelligence system would have Several replies argue that Searle's argument is irrelevant
to be as complex and as interconnected as the human because his assumptions about the mind and consciousbrain. The commonsense knowledge reply emphasizes ness are faulty. Searle believes that human beings dithat any program that passed a Turing test would have to rectly experience their consciousness, intentionality and
be an extraordinarily supple, sophisticated, and mul- the nature of the mind every day, and that this experitilayered system, brimming with 'world knowledge' and ence of consciousness is not open to question. He writes
meta-knowledge and meta-meta-knowledge, as Daniel that we must presuppose the reality and knowability of
Dennett explains.* [68]
the mental.* [93] These replies question whether Searle
Speed and complexity replies * [86]* [lower-alpha 34]
The speed at which human brains process information is (by some estimates) 100 billion operations per
second.* [88] Several critics point out that the man
in the room would probably take millions of years
to respond to a simple question, and would require
ling cabinetsof astronomical proportions. This
brings the clarity of Searle's intuition into doubt.
An especially vivid version of the speed and complexity
reply is from Paul and Patricia Churchland. They propose
this analogous thought experiment:
Churchland's luminous room * [89]Consider a dark
room containing a man holding a bar magnet or
charged object. If the man pumps the magnet up
and down, then, according to Maxwell's theory of
articial luminance (AL), it will initiate a spreading circle of electromagnetic waves and will thus be
luminous. But as all of us who have toyed with magnets or charged balls well know, their forces (or any
other forces for that matter), even when set in mo-

is justied in using his own experience of consciousness

to determine that it is more than mechanical symbol processing. In particular, the other minds reply argues that
we cannot use our experience of consciousness to answer
questions about other minds (even the mind of a computer), and the epiphenomena reply argues that Searle's
consciousness does not existin the sense that Searle
thinks it does.
Other minds reply * [94]* [lower-alpha 36] This reply
points out that Searle's argument is a version of the
problem of other minds, applied to machines. There
is no way we can determine if other people's subjective experience is the same as our own. We can only
study their behavior (i.e., by giving them our own
Turing test). Critics of Searle argue that he is holding the Chinese room to a higher standard than we
would hold an ordinary person.
Nils Nilsson writesIf a program behaves as if
it were multiplying, most of us would say that
it is, in fact, multiplying. For all I know, Searle
may only be behaving as if he were thinking


deeply about these matters. But, even though
I disagree with him, his simulation is pretty
good, so I'm willing to credit him with real
thought.* [97]
Alan Turing (writing 30 years before Searle
presented his argument) noted that people
never consider the problem of other minds
when dealing with each other. He writes that
instead of arguing continually over this point
it is usual to have the polite convention that everyone thinks.* [98] The Turing test simply
extends thispolite conventionto machines.
He doesn't intend to solve the problem of other
minds (for machines or people) and he doesn't
think we need to.* [lower-alpha 37]

new animal would reproduce just as any other
human and eventually there would be more of
these zombies. Natural selection would favor the
zombies, since their design is (we could suppose)
a bit simpler. Eventually the humans would die
out. So therefore, if Searle is right, it is most likely
that human beings (as we see them today) are
actually zombies, who nevertheless insist they
are conscious. It is impossible to know whether we
are all zombies or not. Even if we are all zombies,
we would still believe that we are not.

Searle disagrees with this analysis and argues that the

study of the mind starts with such facts as that humans
have beliefs, while thermostats, telephones, and adding
machines don't ... what we wanted to know is what distinguishes the mind from thermostats and livers.* [65]
Epiphenomenon / zombie reply Several philosophers He takes it as obvious that we can detect the presence of
argue that consciousness, as Searle describes it, does consciousness and dismisses these replies as being o the
not exist. This position is sometimes referred to as point.
eliminative materialism: the view that consciousness
is a property that can be reduced to a strictly mechanical description, and that our experience of con- 0.5.7 Notes
sciousness is, as Daniel Dennett describes it, a "user
[1] The section consciousness of this article discusses the reillusion".* [101]
Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig argue that, if
we accept Searle's description of intentionality, consciousness and the mind, we are forced
to accept that consciousness is epiphenomenal:
that itcasts no shadow, that it is undetectable
in the outside world. They argue that Searle
must be mistaken about theknowability of the
mental, and in his belief that there arecausal
propertiesin our neurons that give rise to the
mind. They point out that, by Searle's own description, these causal properties can't be detected by anyone outside the mind, otherwise
the Chinese Room couldn't pass the Turing test
the people outside would be able to tell there
wasn't a Chinese speaker in the room by detecting their causal properties. Since they can't detect causal properties, they can't detect the existence of the mental. In short, Searle'scausal
propertiesand consciousness itself is undetectable, and anything that can not be detected
either does not exist or does not matter.* [102]
Daniel Dennett provides this extension to the epiphenomenaargument.

lationship between the Chinese room argument and consciousness.

[2] This version is from Searle's Mind, Language and Societyught experiment]] presented by [[John Searle]] to challenge the claim that it is possible for a [[computer]] running a [[Computer program|program]] to have a mind
andconsciousness"{{efn|name=Consciousness}} in the
same sense that people do, simply by virtue of running the right program. The experiment is intended to
help refute a [[philosophical position]] that Searle named
"'''strong AI'''": <blockquote>"The appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs aSearle 1999, p.
[3] Searle writes that according to Strong AI, the correct
simulation really is a mind. According to Weak AI, the
correct simulation is a model of the mind.* [7] He also
writes On the Strong AI view, the appropriately programmed computer does not just simulate having a mind;
it literally has a mind.* [8]
[4] Searle writes Partisans of strong AI claim that in this
question and answer sequence the machine is not only simulating a human ability but also (1) that the machine can
literally be said to understand the story and provide the
answers to questions, and (2) that what the machine and
its program explains the human ability to understand the
story and answer questions about it.* [6]

Dennett's reply from natural selection * [103] Sup[5] Note that Leibniz' was objecting to a mechanicalthepose that, by some mutation, a human being is born
ory of the mind (the philosophical position known as
that does not have Searle's causal properties
mechanism.) Searle is objecting to an information probut nevertheless acts exactly like a human being.
cessingview of the mind (the philosophical position
(This sort of animal is called a "zombie" in thought
known as "computationalism"). Searle accepts mechaexperiments in the philosophy of mind). This
nism and rejects computationalism.



[6] Harnad edited BBS during the years which saw the introduction and popularisation of the Chinese Room argument.

[20] This position is held by Margaret Boden, Tim Crane,

Daniel Dennett, Jerry Fodor, Stevan Harnad, Hans
Moravec and Georges Rey among others.* [62]

[7] Stevan Harnad holds that the Searle's argument is against

the thesis thathas since come to be called 'computationalism,' according to which cognition is just computation,
hence mental states are just computational states.* [17]
David Cole agrees thatthe argument also has broad implications for functionalist and computational theories of
meaning and of mind.* [18]

[21] David Cole calls this the externalistaccount of meaning.* [64]

[8] Simon, together with Allen Newell and Cli Shaw, had
just completed the rstAIprogram, the Logic Theorist.
[9] Searle believes thatstrong AI only makes sense given the
dualistic assumption that, where the mind is concerned,
the brain doesn't matter.* [24] He writes elsewhere, I
thought the whole idea of strong AI was that we don't
need to know how the brain works to know how the mind
works.* [25] This position owes its phrasing to Stevan
Harnad.* [26]
[10]One of the points at issue,writes Searle, is the adequacy of the Turing test.* [27]
[11] Computationalism is associated with Jerry Fodor and
Hilary Putnam,* [30] and is held by Allen Newell,* [26]
Zenon Pylyshyn* [26] and Steven Pinker,* [31] among others.
[12] See the replies to Searle under Meaninglessness, below
[13] Larry Hauser writes that biological naturalism is either
confused (waing between identity theory and dualism)
or else it just is identity theory or dualism.* [35]
[14] The wording of each axiom and conclusion are from
Searle's presentation in Scientic American.* [34]* [46]
(A1-3) and (C1) are described as 1,2,3 and 4 in David
Cole.* [47]
[15] Paul and Patricia Churchland write that the Chinese room
thought experiment is intended to shore up axiom 3
.* [48]
[16] David Cole combines the second and third categories, as
well as the fourth and fth.* [49]
[17] This position is held by Ned Block, Jack Copeland, Daniel
Dennett, Jerry Fodor, John Haugeland, Ray Kurzweil, and
Georges Rey, among others.* [51]
[18] The virtual mind reply is held by Marvin Minsky, Tim
Maudlin, David Chalmers and David Cole.* [54] The reply
was introduced by Marvin Minsky.* [55]* [56]
[19] David Cole writes From the intuition that in the CR
thought experiment he would not understand Chinese by
running a program, Searle infers that there is no understanding created by running a program. Clearly, whether
that inference is valid or not turns on a metaphysical question about the identity of persons and minds. If the person
understanding is not identical with the room operator, then
the inference is unsound.* [60]

[22] The derived meaning reply is associated with Daniel Dennett and others.
[23] Searle distinguishes betweenintrinsicintentionality and
derivedintentionality. Intrinsicintentionality is the
kind that involves conscious understandinglike you
would have in a human mind. Daniel Dennett doesn't
agree that there is a distinction. David Cole writes derived intentionality is all there is, according to Dennett.
[24] David Cole describes this as theinternalistapproach to
meaning.* [64] Proponents of this position include Roger
Schank, Doug Lenat, Marvin Minsky and (with reservations) Daniel Dennett, who writes The fact is that
any program [that passed a Turing test] would have to
be an extraordinarily supple, sophisticated, and multilayered system, brimming with 'world knowledge' and metaknowledge and meta-meta-knowledge.* [68]
[25] Searle also writes Formal symbols by themselves can
never be enough for mental contents, because the symbols, by denition, have no meaning (or interpretation, or
semantics) except insofar as someone outside the system
gives it to them.* [71]
[26] The brain simulation replay has been made by Paul
Churchland, Patricia Churchland and Ray Kurzweil.* [73]
[27] Early versions of this argument were put forward in 1974
by Lawrence Davis and in 1978 by Ned Block. Block's
version used walkie talkies and was called the Chinese
Gym. Paul and Patricia Churchland described this scenario as well.* [75]
[28] An early version of the brain replacement scenario was
put forward by Clark Glymour in the mid-70s and was
touched on by Zenon Pylyshyn in 1980. Hans Moravec
presented a vivid version of it,* [77] and it is now associated with Ray Kurzweil's version of transhumanism.
[29] Searle predicts that, while going through the brain prosthesis, you nd, to your total amazement, that you are
indeed losing control of you external behavior. You nd,
for example, that when doctors test your vision, you hear
them say 'We are holding up a red object in front of you;
pleas tell us what you see.' You want to cry out 'I can't
see anything. I'm going totally blind.' But you hear your
voice saying in a way that is completely out your control,
'I see a red object in front of me.' ... [Y]our conscious experience slowly shrinks to nothing, while your externally
observable behavior remains the same.* [78]
[30] The connectionist reply is made by Andy Clark and
Ray Kurzweil,* [79] as well as Paul and Patricia Churchland.* [80]
[31] Searle (2009) uses the nameWait 'Til Next Year Reply



[32] Searle writes that the robot reply tacitly concedes that
cognition is not solely a matter of formal symbol manipulation.* [65] Stevan Harnad makes the same point, writing:Now just as it is no refutation (but rather an armation) of the CRA to deny that [the Turing test] is a strong
enough test, or to deny that a computer could ever pass it,
it is merely special pleading to try to save computationalism by stipulating ad hoc (in the face of the CRA) that
implementational details do matter after all, and that the
computer's is the 'right' kind of implementation, whereas
Searle's is the 'wrong' kind.* [82]

[10] Cole 2004, 2.1, Leibniz 1714, section 17

[33] That is, any program running on a machine with a nite

amount memory.

[17] Harnad 2005, p. 1.

[34] Speed and complexity replies are made by Daniel Dennett, Tim Maudlin, David Chalmers, Steven Pinker,
Paul Churchland, Patricia Churchland and others.* [87]
Daniel Dennett points out the complexity of world knowledge.* [68]
[35] Critics of the phase transitionform of this argument
include Stevan Harnad, Tim Maudlin, Daniel Dennett and
David Cole.* [87] This phase transitionidea is a version of strong emergentism (what Daniel Dennett derides
as Woo woo West Coast emergence* [91]). Harnad
accuses Churchland and Patricia Churchland of espousing strong emergentism. Ray Kurzweil also holds a form
of strong emergentism.* [92]
[36] The other mindsreply has been oered by Daniel
Dennett, Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec, among others.* [95] Alan Turing anticipated Searle's line of argument (which he called The Argument from Consciousness) in 1950 and makes the other minds reply.* [96]
[37] One of Turing's motivations for devising the Turing test is
to avoid precisely the kind of philosophical problems that
Searle is interested in. He writesI do not wish to give the
impression that I think there is no mystery ... [but] I do not
think these mysteries necessarily need to be solved before
we can answer the question with which we are concerned
in this paper.* [99] Although Turing is discussing consciousness (not the mind or understanding or intentionality), Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig argue that Turing's
comments apply the Chinese room.* [100]

[11] Cole 2004, 2.3

[12] Searle 1980.
[13] Cole 2004, p. 2; Preston & Bishop 2002
[14] Harnad 2001, p. 2.
[15] Harnad 2001, p. 1; Cole 2004, p. 2
[16] In Akman's review of Mind Design II

[18] Cole 2004, p. 1.

[19] Dennett 1991, p. 435.
[20] Searle 1980, p. 1.
[21] Quoted in Russell & Norvig 2003, p. 21.
[22] Quoted in Crevier 1993, p. 46 and Russell & Norvig
2003, p. 17.
[23] Haugeland 1985, p. 2(Italics his).
[24] Searle 1980, p. 13.
[25] Searle 1980, p. 8.
[26] Harnad 2001.
[27] Searle 1980, p. 6.
[28] Searle 2004, p. 45.
[29] Harnad 2001, p. 3 (Italics his).
[30] Horst 2005, p. 1.
[31] Pinker 1997.
[32] Harnad 2001, pp. 35.
[33] Searle 1990, p. 29.
[34] Searle 1990.
[35] Hauser 2006, p. 8.
[36] Searle 1992, chpt. 5.



[37] Searle 2002.

[1] Searle 1992, p. 44.

[38] Chalmers 1996, p. 322.

[2] Russell & Norvig 2003, p. 947.

[39] McGinn 2000.

[3] Searle 1980, p. 11.

[40] Searle 2004, p. 63.

[4] Haugeland 1981, p. 31.

[41] Kurzweil 2005, p. 260.

[5] Harnad 2001, p. 1.

[42] Turing 1950, p. 442.

[6] Searle 1980, p. 2.

[43] Ben-Yami 1993.

[7] Searle 2009, p. 1.

[44] Yee 1993.

[8] Searle 2004, p. 46.

[45] Searle 1984; Searle 1990.

[9] Searle 1980, p. 3.

[46] Hauser 2006, p. 5.



[47] Cole 2004, p. 5.

[81] Searle 1980, pp. 89; Hauser 2006, p. 11.

[48] Churchland & Churchland 1990, p. 34.

[82] Harnad 2001, p. 14.

[49] Cole 2004, pp. 56.

[83] Block 1981.

[50] Searle 1980, pp. 56; Cole 2004, pp. 67; Hauser 2006,
pp. 23; Russell & Norvig 2003, p. 959, Dennett 1991,
p. 439; Fearn 2007, p. 44; Crevier 1993, p. 269.

[84] Quoted in Cole 2004, p. 13.

[51] Cole 2004, p. 6.

[86] Cole 2004, pp. 1415; Crevier 1993, pp. 269270;

Pinker 1997, p. 95.

[52] Yee 1993, p. 44.

[53] Yee 1993, pp. 4247.
[54] Cole 2004, pp. 79.
[55] Minsky 1980, p. 440.

[85] Dennett 1991, pp. 437440.

[87] Cole 2004, p. 14.

[88] Crevier 1993, p. 269.
[89] Churchland & Churchland 1990; Cole 2004, p. 12;
Crevier 1993, p. 270; Fearn 2007, pp. 4546; Pinker
1997, p. 94.

[56] Cole 2004, p. 7.

[90] Harnad 2001, p. 7.
[57] Cole 2004, p. 8.
[91] Crevier 1993, p. 275.
[58] Searle 1980, p. 12.
[59] Fearn 2007, p. 47.
[60] Cole 2004, p. 21.
[61] Searle 1980, p. 7; Cole 2004, pp. 911; Hauser 2006, p.
3; Fearn 2007, p. 44.
[62] Cole 2004, p. 9.
[63] Quoted in Crevier 1993, p. 272
[64] Cole 2004, p. 18.
[65] Searle 1980, p. 7.
[66] Hauser 2006, p. 11; Cole 2004, p. 19.
[67] Cole 2004, p. 19.
[68] Dennett 1991, p. 438.
[69] Dreyfus 1979, The epistemological assumption.
[70] Searle 1984.

[92] Kurzweil 2005.

[93] Searle 1980, p. 10.
[94] Searle 1980, p. 9; Cole 2004, p. 13; Hauser 2006, pp.
45; Nilsson 1984.
[95] Cole 2004, pp. 1213.
[96] Turing 1950, pp. 1112.
[97] Nilsson 1984.
[98] Turing 1950, p. 11.
[99] Turing 1950, p. 12.
[100] Russell & Norvig 2003, pp. 952953.
[101] Dennett 1991, .
[102] Russell & Norvig 2003.
[103] Cole 2004, p. 22; Crevier 1993, p. 271; Harnad 2005, p.

[71] Motzkin & Searle 1989, p. 45.

[72] Searle 1980, pp. 78; Cole 2004, pp. 1213; Hauser
2006, pp. 34; Churchland & Churchland 1990.
[73] Cole 2004, p. 12.
[74] Cole 2004, p. 4; Hauser 2006, p. 11.
[75] Churchland & Churchland 1990.
[76] Russell & Norvig 2003, pp. 9568; Cole 2004, p. 20;
Moravec 1988; Kurzweil 2005, p. 262; Crevier 1993, pp.
271 and 279.
[77] Moravec 1988.
[78] Searle 1992 quoted in Russell & Norvig 2003, p. 957.
[79] Cole 2004, pp. 12 & 17.
[80] Hauser 2006, p. 7.

0.5.9 References
Ben-Yami, Hanoch (1993),A Note on the Chinese
Room, Syntese 95 (2): 16972
Block, Ned (1981), Psychologism and Behaviourism, The Philosophical Review 90 (1): 5
43, doi:10.2307/2184371, JSTOR 2184371
Chalmers, David (1996), The Conscious Mind: In
Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford University
Patricia (January 1990), Could a machine
think?", Scientic American 262 (1): 3239,


Cole, David (Fall 2004), The Chinese Room Argument, in Zalta, Edward N., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Page numbers above refer to a standard
pdf print of the article.
Crevier, Daniel (1993), AI: The Tumultuous Search
for Articial Intelligence, New York, NY: BasicBooks, ISBN 0-465-02997-3
Dennett, Daniel (1991), Consciousness Explained,
The Penguin Press, ISBN 0-7139-9037-6
Dreyfus, Hubert (1979), What Computers Still Can't
Do, New York: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-04134-0
Fearn, Nicholas (2007), The Latest Answers to the
Oldest Questions: A Philosophical Adventure with the
World's Greatest Thinkers, New York: Grove Press
Harnad, Stevan (2001), What's Wrong and Right
About Searle's Chinese Room Argument, in M.;
Preston, J., Views into the Chinese Room: New Essays on Searle and Articial Intelligence, Oxford
University Press
Page numbers above refer to a standard pdf
print of the article.
Harnad, Stevan (2005), Searle's Chinese Room
Argument, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Macmillan
Page numbers above refer to a standard pdf
print of the article.
Haugeland, John (1985), Articial Intelligence: The
Very Idea, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, ISBN 0262-08153-9
Haugeland, John (1981), Mind Design, Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-08110-5
Hauser, Larry (2006), Searle's Chinese Room,
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Page numbers above refer to a standard pdf
print of the article.
Kurzweil, Ray (2005), The Singularity is Near,
Viking Press
Horst, Steven (Fall 2005), The Computational
Theory of Mind, in Zalta, Edward N., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Leibniz, Gottfried (1714), Monadology, George
MacDonald Ross (trans.)
Moravec, Hans (1988), Mind Children, Harvard
University Press

Minsky, Marvin (1980), Decentralized Minds
, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3): 43940,
McGinn, Collin (2000), The Mysterious Flame:
Conscious Minds In A Material World, Basic Books,
p. 194, ISBN 0786725168
Motzkin, Elhanan; Searle, John (February 16,
1989), Articial Intelligence and the Chinese Room:
An Exchange, New York Review of Books
Nilsson, Nils (1984), A Short Rebuttal to Searle
Russell, Stuart J.; Norvig, Peter (2003), Articial
Intelligence: A Modern Approach (2nd ed.), Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, ISBN 013-790395-2
Pinker, Steven (1997), How the Mind Works, New
York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., ISBN
Preston, John; Bishop, Mark, eds. (2002), Views
into the Chinese Room: New Essays on Searle and Articial Intelligence, Oxford University Press, ISBN
Searle, John (1980),Minds, Brains and Programs
, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3): 417457,
doi:10.1017/S0140525X00005756, retrieved May
13, 2009
Page numbers above refer to a standard pdf
print of the article. See also Searle's original
Searle, John (1983), Can Computers Think?", in
Chalmers, David, Philosophy of Mind: Classical and
Contemporary Readings, Oxford: Oxford University
Press, pp. 669675, ISBN 0-19-514581-X
Searle, John (1984), Minds, Brains and Science:
The 1984 Reith Lectures, Harvard University Press,
ISBN 0-674-57631-4 paperback: ISBN 0-67457633-0.
Searle, John (January 1990),Is the Brain's Mind a
Computer Program?", Scientic American 262 (1):
2631, PMID 2294583
Searle, John (1990), Is the Brain a Digital Computer?", Proceedings and Addresses of the American
Philosophical Association 64 (November): 2137,
Searle, John (1992), The Rediscovery of the Mind,
Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press
Searle, John (1999), Mind, language and society,
New York, NY: Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-04521-9,
OCLC 231867665 43689264



Searle, John (2004), Mind: a brief introduction,

Oxford University Press, Inc., ISBN 978-0-19515733-8
Searle, John (2002), Consciousness and Language, Cambridge University Press, p. 16, ISBN
Searle, John (2009), Chinese room argument 4 (8),
Scholarpedia, doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.3100
Turing, Alan (October 1950),Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Mind LIX (236): 433460,
doi:10.1093/mind/LIX.236.433, ISSN 0026-4423,
retrieved 2008-08-18
Page numbers above refer to a standard pdf
print of the article.
Yee, Richard (1993), Turing Machines And Semantic Symbol Processing: Why Real Computers
Don't Mind Chinese Emperors, Lyceum 5 (1):
Page numbers above and diagram contents refer
to the Lyceum pdf print of the article.


Further reading

Chinese Room Argument entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Margaret Boden, Escaping from the Chinese

room, Cognitive Science Research Papers No.
CSRP 092, University of Sussex, School of Cognitive Sciences, 1987, OCLC 19297071, online PDF,
an excerpt from a chapterin the then unpublished
Computer Models of Mind: : Computational Approaches in Theoretical Psychology, ISBN 0-52124868-X (1988); reprinted in Boden (ed.) The
Philosophy of Articial IntelligenceISBN 0-19824854-7 (1989) and ISBN 0-19-824855-5 (1990);
Boden Articial Intelligence in Psychology: Interdisciplinary EssaysISBN 0-262-02285-0, MIT
Press, 1989, chapter 6; reprinted in Heil, pp. 253
266 (1988) (possibly abridged); J. Heil (ed.) Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology, Oxford University Press, 2004, pages 253266 (same
version as inArticial Intelligence in Psychology

0.6 Double-barreled question

A double-barreled question (sometimes, double-direct
question* [1]) is an informal fallacy. It is committed when
someone asks a question that touches upon more than one
issue, yet allows only for one answer.* [2]* [3]* [4] This
may result in inaccuracies in the attitudes being measured
for the question, as the respondent can answer only one of
the two questions, and cannot indicate which one is being
answered.* [5]

Many double-barreled questions can be detected by

the existence of the grammatical conjunction "and" in
The Chinese Room Argument, part 4 of the Septem- them.* [2]* [3] This is not a foolproof test, as the word
ber 2, 1999 interview with Searle Philosophy and andcan exist in properly constructed questions.
the Habits of Critical Thinking in the Conversations
A question asking about three items is known as triWith History series
ble (triple, treble)-barreled.* [4] In legal proceedings,
question is called a compound ques Understanding the Chinese Room, Mark Rosen- a double-barreled
A Refutation of John Searle's Chinese Room Argument, by Bob Murphy
Kugel, P. (2004).
The Chinese room is
a trick. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27.
doi:10.1017/S0140525X04210044., PDF at author's homepage, critical paper based on the assumption that the CR cannot use its inputs (which
are in Chinese) to change its program (which is in
Wolfram Schmied (2004). Demolishing Searle's
Chinese Room. arXiv:cs.AI/0403009 [cs.AI].

0.6.1 Examples
An example of a double-barreled question would be the
following: do you think that students should have more
classes about history and culture?" This question asks
about two dierent issues: do you think that students
should have more classes about historyand do you
think that students should have more classes about culture?" Combining both questions into one makes it unclear what exactly is being measured, and as each question may elicit a dierent response if asked separately
there is an increased likelihood of confusing the respondents.* [2] In other words, while some respondents would
answer yesto both and some noto both, some
would like to answer both "yes and no".* [4]

John Preston and Mark Bishop, Views into the

Chinese Room, Oxford University Press, 2002.
Includes chapters by John Searle, Roger Penrose,
Stevan Harnad and Kevin Warwick.
Other examples of double-barreled questions:



Please agree or disagree with the following statement: Cars should be faster and safer.* [3]

W: No.

How satised are you with your pay and job conditions?"* [4]

A: So you admit you murdered your neighbor!"

How often and how much time do you spend on Strictly speaking, this is not actually confessing to the
each visit to a hospital?"* [5]
murder because having some other act that was done inDoes your department have a special recruitment stead of the murder would still be consistent with the answerno,such as going shopping instead of killing the
policy for men and women?"* [5]
neighbor. Nonetheless, the answer to this question could
Do you think that there is a good market for the be misleading, as the answer nowould also be consistent with committing the murder. Such a question, if
product and that it will sell well?"
asked at trial, would properly be subject to an objection
Should the government spend less money on the for being compound.
military and more on education?"
Compound questions are a common feature in loaded
questions such asAre you still beating your wife?" The
Is this tool interesting and useful?"
argument is phrased as a single question requiring a single answer, but actually involves two or more issues that
The same considerations apply to questions with xed cannot necessarily be accurately answered with a single
choice answers, as an answer can also be double-barreled. response. By combining the questions Are you curFor example, if a question asks,What motivates you to rently beating your wife?" and Have you ever beaten
work?" an answer Pleasant work and nice co-workers your wife?" one can make it impossible for someone who
is double-barreled.* [4]
has never beaten his wife to answer the question eecButtering-up is a type of a double-barreled question. It tively with a simpleyesorno.Instead, all questions
happens when one of the questions is a question that the must be answered. Therefore the innocent person should
questioned person will want to answeryesto, and an- say, I have never beaten my wife,making it clear that
other that the questioner hopes will be answered with the no wife beating has ever occurred.
same yes.For example, Would you be a nice guy
and lend me ve bucks?"
Some questions may not be double-barreled but confusingly similar enough to a double-barreled question to result in similar issues. For example, the questionShould
the organization reduce paperwork required of employees by hiring more administrators?" can be interpreted as
composed of two questions: Should the organization
reduce paperwork required of employees?" andShould
the organization hire more administrators?"
Double-barreled questions have been asked by professionals, resulting in notable skewed media reports and
research pieces. For example, Harris Poll used doublebarreled questions in the 1980s, investigating the US
public opinion on LibyaUnited States relations, and
American attitudes toward Mikhail Gorbachev.* [7]

0.6.3 In popular culture

On his album Mitch All Together, Mitch Hedburg jokes
about a supposed double-barreled question on his health
insurance form: Have you ever used sugar or PCP?"

0.6.4 See also

Complex question
Entailment (pragmatics)
Fallacy of many questions


Legal usage

In a legal trial, a compound question will likely raise an

objection, as the witness may be unable to provide a clear
answer to the inquiry. For example, consider an imagined dialogue between a cross-examining attorney and a
A:So instead of murdering your neighbor, did
you go home and bake a pie which you donated
to the Girl Scouts bake sale?"

Leading question
Loaded question
Mu (negative)
Persuasive denition
Poisoning the well





[1] Terry J. Fadem, The Art of Asking: Ask Better Questions,

Get Better Answers, FT Press, 2008, ISBN 0-13-7144245, Google Print, p.188
[2] Response bias. SuperSurvey, Ipathia Inc.
[3] Earl R. Babbie, Lucia Benaquisto, Fundamentals of Social
Research, Cengage Learning, 2009, Google Print, p.251
[4] Alan Bryman, Emma Bell, Business research methods,
Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-928498-9,
Google Print, p.267-268

of the same logical category. This confusion of logical

categories may be seen in other theories of the relation
between mind and matter. For example, the idealist theory of mind makes a basic category mistake by attempting
to reduce physical reality to the same status as mental reality, while the materialist theory of mind makes a basic
category mistake by attempting to reduce mental reality
to the same status as physical reality.* [3]* [4]

0.7.2 The Concept of Mind

Main article: The Concept of Mind

[5] Ranjit Kumar, Research methodology: a step-by-step

guide for beginners, SAGE, 2005, ISBN 1-4129-1194-X,
Google Print, p.136-137
[6] compound question,
Legaldictionary.thefreedictionary.com. http://legal-dictionary.
thefreedictionary.com/compound+question. Retrieved
[7] Earl R. Babbie, The Practice of Social Research', Cengage
Learning, 2009, ISBN 0-495-59841-0, Google Print, p.258

0.7 Ghost in the machine

This article is about a philosophical critique. For other
uses, see Ghost in the machine (disambiguation).
The "ghost in the machine" is British philosopher
Gilbert Ryle's description of Ren Descartes' mind-body
dualism. The phrase was introduced in Ryle's book The
Concept of Mind (1949)* [1] to highlight the perceived absurdity of dualist systems like Descartes' where mental
activity carries on in parallel to physical action, but where
their means of interaction are unknown or, at best, speculative.* [2]


Gilbert Ryle

Ocial doctrine
Ryle states that (as of the time of his writing, in 1949)
there was an ocial doctrine,which he refers to as a
dogma, of philosophers, the doctrine of body/mind dualism:
There is a doctrine about the nature
and place of the mind which is prevalent
among theorists, to which most philosophers,
psychologists and religious teachers subscribe
with minor reservations. Although they admit
certain theoretical diculties in it, they tend to
assume that these can be overcome without serious modications being made to the architecture of the theory.... [the doctrine states that]
with the doubtful exceptions of the mentallyincompetent and infants-in-arms, every human
being has both a body and a mind. ... The body
and the mind are ordinarily harnessed together,
but after the death of the body the mind may
continue to exist and function.* [5]
Ryle states that the central principles of the doctrine are
unsound and conict with the entire body of what we
know about the mind. Of the doctrine, he says According to the ocial doctrine each person has direct
and unchangeable cognisance. In consciousness, selfconsciousness and introspection, he is directly and authentically apprised of the present states of operation of
the mind.* [6]

Gilbert Ryle (190076) was a philosopher who lectured

at Oxford and who made important contributions to the
philosophy of mind and to "ordinary language philosophy". His most important writings include Philosophical
Arguments (1945), The Concept of Mind (1949), Dilemmas (1954), Plato's Progress (1966), and On Thinking
Ryle's estimation of the ocial doctrine
Ryle's The Concept of Mind (1949) is a critique of the
notion that the mind is distinct from the body, and a re- Ryle's philosophical arguments in his essay Descartes'
jection of the theory that mental states are separable from Mythlay out his notion of the mistaken foundations of
physical states. In this book Ryle refers to the idea of a mind-body dualism conceptions, comprising a suggestion
fundamental distinction between mind and matter asthe that to speak of mind and body as a substance, as a dualist
ghost in the machine. According to Ryle, the classical does, is to commit a category mistake. Ryle writes: [1]
theory of mind, orCartesian rationalism, makes a basic
category mistake, because it attempts to analyze the relaSuch in outline is the ocial theory. I shall
tion betweenmindandbodyas if they were terms
often speak of it, with deliberate abusiveness,


as "the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine.
I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false
not in detail but in principle. It is not merely
an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one
big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It
is, namely, a category mistake.
Ryle then attempts to show that theocial doctrineof
mind/body dualism is false by asserting that it confuses
two logical-types, or categories, as being compatible. He
states it represents the facts of mental life as if they
belonged to one logical type/category, when they actually
belong to another. The dogma is therefore a philosopher's
Arthur Koestler brought Ryle's concept to wider attention in his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine, which
takes Ryle's phrase as its title.* [7] The book's main focus
is mankind's movement towards self-destruction, particularly in the nuclear arms arena. It is particularly critical
of B. F. Skinner's behaviourist theory. One of the book's
central concepts is that as the human brain has grown,
it has built upon earlier, more primitive brain structures,
and that this is the ghost in the machineof the title. Koestler's theory is that at times these structures can
overpower higher logical functions, and are responsible
for hate, anger and other such destructive impulses.


Popular culture

The Police named their 1981 album Ghost in the Machine after this concept. Masamune Shirow borrowed
theghostconcept that gures prominently in his 1989
Ghost in the Shell manga and later related works. The
Ghost in the Machineis mentioned in the 1985 lm
Brazil and referenced in the 2004 lm I, Robot. Rapper B.o.B titled a song Ghost in the Machineon his
debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. The electronic music group The M Machine also has a song titled
Ghosts in the Machinein their second released album,
Metropolis Part II. The electronic group Xerox & Illumination titled a songGhost in the machinein the album
XI, from 2005. Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey
Two contains a chapter calledGhost in the Machine,
referring to the virtual consciousness inside a computer.
There is an episode of Futurama entitled Ghost in the
Machinesand an episode of Superman: The Animated
Series entitled Ghost in the Machine. The X-Filesseries named an episode involving a rogue AI computer
systemGhost in the Machine. The band Ghost Town
titled one of their collaborations with artist Chris Shelley
Ghost in the Machine.


See also

Cognitive revolution
Dualism (philosophy of mind)

Ghost in the Shell (philosophy)

0.7.5 Notes
[1] Ryle, Gilbert, Descartes' Myth,in The Concept of
Mind, Hutchinson, London, 1949
[2] Tanney, JuliaGilbert Ryle, in Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy; Dec 18, 2007; substantive revision Mon Nov
2, 2009 (accessed Oct. 30, 2012)
[3] de Morais Ribeiro, Henrique,On the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Proceedings of the 20th World Congress
of Philosophy, Boston MA, 10-15 August 1998 (accessed
29 October 2012)
[4] Jones, Roger (2008)Philosophy of Mind, Introduction
to Philosophy since the Enlightenment, philosopher.org
(accessed Oct. 30, 2012)
[5] Ryle, Gilbert, The Concept of Mind (1949); The University of Chicago Press edition, Chicago, 2002, p 11
[6] Cottingham, John, Western philosophy: an anthology
Google Books Link
[7] Koestler, Arthur, The Ghost in the Machine, (1967)

0.7.6 References
Koestler, Arthur (1990-06-05) [1967]. The Ghost
in the Machine (1990 reprint edition ed.). Penguin
Group. ISBN 0-14-019192-5.
Ryle, Gilbert (2000-12-15) [1949]. Descartes'
Myth. The Concept of Mind (New Univer edition ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-22673296-7.

0.8 God is dead

This article is about the philosophical event described by
Nietzsche. For other uses, see God is dead (disambiguation).
"God is dead" (German: Gott ist tot ; also known
as the death of God) is a widely quoted statement by
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It rst appears
in Nietzsche's 1882 collection The Gay Science (German:
Die frhliche Wissenschaft), in sections 108 (New Struggles), 125 (The Madman), and for a third time in section
343 (The Meaning of our Cheerfulness). It is also found
in Nietzsche's classic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra (German: Also sprach Zarathustra), which is most responsible
for popularizing the phrase. The idea is stated in The
Madmanas follows:


God is dead. God remains dead. And we
have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What
was holiest and mightiest of all that the world
has yet owned has bled to death under our
knives: who will wipe this blood o us? What
water is there for us to clean ourselves? What
festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall
we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this
deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not
become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125,
tr. Walter Kaufmann



The phrase God is deaddoes not mean that Nietzsche believed in an actual God who rst existed and
then died in a literal sense. Rather, it conveys his view
that the Christian God is no longer a credible source of
absolute moral principles. Nietzsche recognizes the crisis that the death of God represents for existing moral
assumptions: When one gives up the Christian faith,
one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under
one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident... By
breaking one main concept out of Christianity, the faith
in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains
in one's hands.* [1] This is why in The Madman, a
passage which primarily addresses nontheists (especially
atheists), the problem is to retain any system of values in
the absence of a divine order.
The death of God is a way of saying that humans are no
longer able to believe in any such cosmic order since they
themselves no longer recognize it. The death of God will
lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief
of cosmic or physical order but also to a rejection of absolute values themselves to the rejection of belief in an
objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. In this manner, the loss of an absolute basis for
morality leads to nihilism. This nihilism is that for which
Nietzsche worked to nd a solution by re-evaluating the
foundations of human values. This meant, to Nietzsche,
looking for foundations that went deeper than Christian
values. He would nd a basis in the "will to power" that
he described as the essence of reality.
Nietzsche believed that the majority of people did not
recognize this death out of the deepest-seated fear or
angst. Therefore, when the death did begin to become
widely acknowledged, people would despair and nihilism
would become rampant. This is partly why Nietzsche saw
Christianity as nihilistic. He may have seen himself as a
historical gure like Zarathustra, Socrates, or Jesus, giving a new philosophical orientation to future generations
to overcome the impending nihilism.

Misunderstandings of the death of God

When rst being introduced to Nietzsche, a person can

infer the death of Godas literal. To Nietzsche, the
concept of God only exists in the minds of his followers;
therefore, the believers would ultimately be accountable
for his life and death. Holub goes on to state that God
has been the victim of murder, and we, as human beings,
are the murderers(36).
Another purpose of Nietzsches death of God is tounmask the hypocrisies and illusion of outworn value systems(Pfeer 18). People do not fully comprehend
that they killed God through their hypocrisy and lack of
morality. Due to hypocrisyGod has lost whatever function he once had because of the actions taken by those
who believe in him(Welshon 40). A god is merely a
mirrored reection of its people and the Christian God
is so ridiculous a God that even were he to have existed,
he would have no right to exist(Welshon 39). Religious
people start going against their beliefs and start coinciding
with the beliefs of mainstream society. [Moral thinking] is debased and poisoned by the inuence of society
s weakest and most ignoble elements, the herd(Welshon
Humanity depreciates traditional ethics and beliefs and
this leads to another misunderstanding of the death of
God. During the era of Nietzsche, traditional beliefs
within Christianity became almost nonexistent due to
the vast expansion of education and the rise of modern
science. Belief in God is no longer possible due to
such nineteenth-century factors as the dominance of the
historical-critical method of reading Scripture, the rise of
incredulity toward anything miraculous ... and the idea
that God is the creation of wish projection (Benson 31).
Nietzsche believed that man was useless without a God
andno longer possesses ideals and absolute goals toward
which to strive. He has lost all direction and purpose(Pfeer 76). Nietzsche believes that in order to overcome
our current state of depreciated values that a strong
classic pessimismlike that of the Greeks is needed
to overcome the dilemmas and anxieties of modern man
(Pfeer 65).
Either we died because of our religion or our religion
dies because of us(Pfeer 73). This quote summarizes
what Nietzsche was trying to say in his concept of the
death of God- that the God of Christianity has died o
because of its people and their beliefs. Far too often do
people translate the death of God into a literal sense, do
not take responsibility for the death of God, and depreciate the value of traditional Christian beliefs - all leading
to the misunderstandings of Nietzsches philosophy of
Gods death. Now in a world where God is dead we can
only hope that technology and science does not take control andbe treated as the new religion, serving as a basis
for retaining the same damaging psychological habit that
the Christian religion developed(Magnus 36).



Nietzsche and Heidegger

New possibilities

Martin Heidegger understood this part of Nietzsche's philosophy by looking at it as death of metaphysics. In his
view, Nietzsche's words can only be understood as referring not to a particular theological or anthropological
view but rather to the end of philosophy itself. Philosophy has, in Heidegger's words, reached its maximum potential as metaphysics and Nietzsche's words warn of its
demise and that of any metaphysical world view. If metaphysics is dead, Heidegger warns, that is because from its
inception that was its fate.* [2]

Nietzsche believed there could be positive possibilities

for humans without God. Relinquishing the belief in God
opens the way for human creative abilities to fully develop. The Christian God, he wrote, would no longer
stand in the way, so human beings might stop turning their
eyes toward a supernatural realm and begin to acknowledge the value of this world.

Nietzsche and others

Nietzsche uses the metaphor of an open sea, which can be

both exhilarating and terrifying. The people who eventually learn to create their lives anew will represent a new
stage in human existence, the bermensch i.e. the personal archetype who, through the conquest of their own
nihilism, themselves become a sort of mythical hero. The
'death of God' is the motivation for Nietzsche's last (uncompleted) philosophical project, the 'revaluation of all

Paul Tillich as well as Richard Schacht were inuenced

by the writings of Nietzsche and especially of his phrase
God is dead.* [3]
Nietzsche's voice
William Hamilton wrote the following about Nietzsche's
Although Nietzsche puts the statement God is Dead
into the mouth of amadman* [5] in The Gay Science, he
also uses the phrase in his own voice in sections 108 and
343 of the same book. In the madman's passage, the man
is described as running through a marketplace shouting,
For the most part Altizer prefers mystical
I seek God! I seek God!" He arouses some amusement;
to ethical language in solving the problem of
no one takes him seriously. Maybe he took an ocean voythe death of God, or, as he puts it, in mapage? Lost his way like a little child? Maybe he's afraid of
ping out the way from the profane to the sacred.
us (non-believers) and is hiding?-- much laughter. FrusThis combination of Kierkegaard and Eliade
trated, the madman smashes his lantern on the ground,
makes rather rough reading, but his position
crying out that God is dead, and we have killed him,
at the end is a relatively simple one. Here is
you and I!"But I have come too soon,he immediately
an important summary statement of his views:
realizes, as his detractors of a minute before stare in asIf theology must now accept a dialectical votonishment: people cannot yet see that they have killed
cation, it must learn the full meaning of YesGod. He goes on to say:
saying and No-saying; it must sense the possibility of a Yes which can become a No, and
of a No which can become a Yes; in short, it
This prodigious event is still on its way,
must look forward to a dialectical coincidentia
still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears
oppositorum. Let theology rejoice that faith is
of men. Lightning and thunder require time,
once again ascandal,and not simply a moral
the light of the stars requires time, deeds,
scandal, an oense to mans pride and righthough done, still require time to be seen and
teousness, but, far more deeply, an ontologiheard. This deed is still more distant from
cal scandal; for eschatological faith is directed
them than the most distant stars and yet they
against the deepest reality of what we know as
have done it themselves.
history and the cosmos. Through Nietzsches
trans. Walter Kaufmann, The Gay Science,
vision of Eternal Recurrence we can sense the
sect. 125
ecstatic liberation that can be occasioned by the
collapse of the transcendence of Being, by the
death of God . . . and, from Nietzsches porEarlier in the book (section 108), Nietzsche wroteGod
trait of Jesus, theology must learn of the power
is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves
of an eschatological faith that can liberate the
for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.
believer from what to the contemporary sensiAnd we we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.
bility is the inescapable reality of history. But
The protagonist in Thus Spoke Zarathustra also speaks
liberation must nally be eected by armathe words, commenting to himself after visiting a hermit
tion. . . . .( See Theology and the Death of
who, every day, sings songs and lives to glorify his god:
God,in this volume, pp. 95-111.* [4]


'And what is the saint doing in the forest?'
asked Zarathustra. The saint answered: 'I
make songs and sing them; and when I make
songs, I laugh, cry, and hum: thus do I praise
God. With singing, crying, laughing, and
humming do I praise the god who is my god.
But what do you bring us as a gift?' When
Zarathustra had heard these words he bade
the saint farewell and said: 'What could I
have to give you? But let me go quickly lest
I take something from you!' And thus they
separated, the old one and the man, laughing
as two boys laugh. But when Zarathustra was
alone he spoke thus to his heart: 'Could it be
possible? This old saint in the forest has not
yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!'
Walter Kaufmann, Thus Spoke
Zarathustra, Prologue, sect. 2.

Postmodern Christianity

0.8.4 References
[1] trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale; Twilight of
the Idols, Expeditions of an Untimely Man, sect. 5
[2] Wolfgan Muller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche:
Nietzsche-Interpretationen III, Walter de Gruyter 2000
[3] Richard Schacht, After the Death of God: Friedrich Nietzsche and Paul Tillich You Tube
[4] The Death of God Theologies Today by William Hamilton
[5] Read the whole section here from Thomas Common's
translation The Madman Section 125

What is more, Zarathustra later refers not only to the 0.8.5 Further reading
death of God, but states: 'Dead are all the Gods'. It is
Heidegger, Martin. Nietzsches Wort 'Gott ist tot
not just one morality that has died, but all of them, to be
(1943) translated asThe Word of Nietzsche: 'God
replaced by the life of the bermensch, the new man:
Is Dead,'" in Holzwege, edited and translated by Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes. Cambridge Uni'DEAD ARE ALL THE GODS: NOW
versity Press, 2002.
Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psytrans.
Thomas Common, Thus Spoke
chologist, Antichrist. Princeton: Princeton UniverZarathustra, Part I, Section XXII,3
sity Press, 1974.


Death of God theological movement

Roberts, Tyler T. Contesting Spirit: Nietzsche, Armation, Religion. Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1998.

Main article: Death of God theology

Precursors to 'Death of God' theology
The cover of the April 8, 1966 edition of Time and the accompanying article concerned a movement in American
theology that arose in the 1960s known as the death of
God. The death of God movement is sometimes technically referred to as theothanatology(In Greek, Theos
means God and Thanatos means death.)

Benson, Bruce E. Pious Nietzsche: Decadence and

Dionysian Faith. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008.
Holub, Robert C. Friedrich Nietzsche. New York:
Ywayne Publishers, 1995.

The main proponents of this theology included the Christian theologians Gabriel Vahanian, Paul Van Buren,
William Hamilton, John A.T. Robinson, Thomas J. J. Altizer, John D. Caputo, and the rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein.

Magnus, Bernd, and Kathleen Higgins. The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.


Welshon, Rex. The Philosophy of Nietzsche. Montreal: McGill-Queens UP, 2004.

See also

Christian atheism
Deconstruction and religion

Pfeer, Rose. Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus. Canbury: Associated University Presses, 1972.

Death of God' theology

Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966).



Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton, Rad- about how the quotation originally came from Robert J.
ical Theology and the Death of God (Indianapolis: Hanlon of Scranton, Pennsylvania, as a submission for
Bobbs-Merrill, 1966).
a book compilation of various jokes related to Murphy's
law published in Arthur Bloch's Murphy's Law Book Two:
Bernard Murchland, ed., The Meaning of the Death More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong! (1980).* [9] Subof God (New York: Random House, 1967).
sequently, in 2002, the Jargon File entry noted the same,
Gabriel Vahanian, The Death of God (New York: though not denitively. [10]
George Braziller, 1961).
John D. Caputo, Gianni Vattimo, After the Death 0.9.2 Similar quotations
of God, edited by Jerey W. Robbins (New York:
Another similar quotation appears in Goethe's The SorColumbia University Press, 2007).
rows of Young Werther (1774):
Hamilton, William,A Quest for the Post-Historical
Jesus,(London, New York: Continuum Interna...misunderstandings and neglect create
tional Publishing Group, 1994). ISBN 978-0-8264more confusion in this world than trickery and
malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly
much less frequent.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe* [11]


External links

The Joyful Wisdom, The Madman

Similarly, Jane West's The Loyalists (1812) includes:

John M. Frame, Death of God Theology

0.9 Hanlon's razor

Hanlon's razor is a saying that recommends a way of
eliminating unlikely explanations for a phenomenon (a
philosophical razor).
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
As an eponymous law, it may have been named after
Robert J. Hanlon. There are also earlier sayings that convey the same idea.


Origins and etymology

The adage was popularized in this form and under this

name by the Jargon File, a glossary of computer programmer slang.* [1]* [2] In 1990, it appeared in the Jargon
File described as a "'murphyism' parallel to Occam's Razor.* [3] The name was inspired by Occam's razor.* [4]
Later that same year, the Jargon File editors noted lack of
knowledge about the term's derivation and the existence
of a similar epigram by William James.* [5] In 1996, the
Jargon File entry on Hanlon's Razor noted the existence
of a similar quotation in Robert A. Heinlein's short story
have attributed con"Logic of Empire" (1941)* [2] You
ditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity), with
speculation that Hanlon's Razor might be a corruption of
Heinlein's Razor.* [6]
In 2001, Quentin Staord-Fraser published two blog entries citing e-mails from one Joseph E. Bigler* [7]* [8]

Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty

what may be referred to less criminal motives.
Do we not often aict others undesignedly,
and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve
Jane West* [12]

A common (and more laconic) British English variation,

coined by Bernard Ingham, is the saying "cock-up before
conspiracy, deriving from this 1985 quotation:
Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you
that they would produce more accurate work
if they adhered to the cock-up theory.
Bernard Ingham* [13]

Another similar instance from politics is the attribution by

First Minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish, of nancial
irregularities that led to his resignation in 2001, to a
muddle not a ddle.* [14]
Heinlein's Razorhas since been dened as variations on
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice. This quotation is attributed to Albert Einstein in Peter W. Singer's
book Wired for War (2009).* [15]

0.9.3 See also

Clarke's three laws
DunningKruger eect



Finagle's law
Idiot proof
Peter Principle

[14] First minister denies oce ddle. BBC News. 6

November 2001.
[15] Singer, Peter W. (2009). Wired for War. p. 434. ISBN

Sturgeon's law
Occam's razor
Presumption of innocence

0.9.5 External links

Jargon File entry for Hanlon's Razor



[1] Hanlon's Razor. Jargon File, as of v4.3.2. Eric S.

Raymond. 2002-03-03. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
[2] Andrew S. Wigosky (2004). RAPID Value Management
for the Business Cost of Ownership. Digital Press. p. 5.
ISBN 9781555582890. [...] Hanlon's Razor: 'Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained
by stupidity.' This denition comes from 'The Jargon File'
(edited by Eric Raymond), but one poster attributes it to
Robert Heinlein, in a 1941 story called 'Logic of Empire.'
[3] Guy L. Steele; Eric S. Raymond (eds.). THE JARGON
FILE, VERSION 2.1.1 (DRAFT) 12 JUN 1990. jargonle.org. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
[4] Giancarlo Livraghi, Il potere della stupidit, Monti & Ambrosini, Pescara, Italy, 2004, p. 1
[5] Eric S. Raymond; Guy L. Steele (eds.). THE JARGON
FILE, VERSION 2.2.1 15 DEC 1990. jargon-le.org.
Retrieved 2013-06-01.
[6] Eric S. Raymond (ed.). THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.0.0, 24 JUL 1996. jargon-le.org. Retrieved
[7] "[untitled]". Status-Q - Quentin Staord-Fraser's blog.
2001-11-26. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
[8] "[untitled]". Status-Q - Quentin Staord-Fraser's blog.
2001-12-04. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
[9] Arthur Bloch (1980). Murphy's Law Book Two: More
Reasons Why Things Go Wrong!. Price Stern Sloan. p.
52. ISBN 0-417-06450-0.
[10] Eric S. Raymond (ed.). THE JARGON FILE, VERSION 4.3.2, 3 MAR 2002. jargon-le.org. Retrieved
[11]da Miverstndnisse und Trgheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen als List und Bosheit. Wenigstens
sind die beiden letzteren gewi seltener.Werther. Erstes
Buch. zeno.org
[12] Jane West (1812). Chapter XXII. The Loyalists 2.
Retrieved 2013-06-02.
[13] Pigden, Charles (2006). Chapter 3: Popper Revised,
or What is Wrong with Conspiracy Theories?". In David
Coady. Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate.
p. 17. Quoted in the Otago Daily Times, 3/4/85.

0.10 Loaded question

A loaded question or complex question fallacy is a
question which contains a controversial or unjustied assumption (e.g., a presumption of guilt).* [1]
Aside from being an informal fallacy depending on usage, such questions may be used as a rhetorical tool: the
question attempts to limit direct replies to be those that
serve the questioner's agenda.* [2] The traditional example is the questionHave you stopped beating your wife?"
Whether the respondent answers yes or no, they will admit to having a wife and having beaten her at some time
in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the
question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy
of many questions has been committed.* [2] The fallacy
relies upon context for its eect: the fact that a question
presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions
are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked
the question does the argument containing them become
fallacious.* [2] Hence the same question may be loaded in
one context, but not in the other. For example the previous question would not be loaded if it was asked during a
trial in which the defendant has already admitted to beating his wife.* [2]
This fallacy should be distinguished from that of begging
the question (not to be confused with raising the question),* [3] which oers a premise whose plausibility depends on the truth of the proposition asked about, and
which is often an implicit restatement of the proposition.* [4]
The term loaded questionis sometimes used to refer
to loaded language that is phrased as a question. This
type of question does not necessarily contain a fallacious
presupposition, but rather this usage refers to the question
having an unspoken and often emotive implication. For
example,Are you a murderer?" would be such a loaded
question, as murderhas a very negative connotation.
Such a question may be asked merely to harass or upset
the respondent with no intention of listening to their reply,
or asked with the full expectation that the respondent will
predictably deny it.




claimedthe question presupposes that smacking is a part
of good parental correction.* [9]

A common way out of this argument is not to answer the

question (e.g. with a simple 'yes' or 'no'), but to challenge the assumption behind the question. To use an 0.10.3 See also
earlier example, a good response to the question Have
you stopped beating your wife?" would beI have never
Complex question
beaten my wife.* [5] This removes the ambiguity of
the expected response, therefore nullifying the tactic.
Entailment (pragmatics)
However, the askers of said questions have learned to
False dilemma
get around this tactic by accusing the one who answers
of dodging the question. A rhetorical question such as
Gotcha journalism
Then please explain, how could I possibly have beaten
a wife that I've never had?" can be an eective antidote
to this further tactic, placing the burden on the deceptive
questioner either to expose their tactic or stop the line
Leading question
of inquiry. In many cases a short answer is important. I
neither did nor do I now makes a good example on how
Mu (negative)
to answer the question without letting the asker interrupt
and misshape the response.


Historical examples

Suggestive question

Madeleine Albright (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.) 0.10.4 References

claims to have answered a loaded question (and later regretted not challenging it instead) on 60 Minutes on 12 [1] Gregory Bassham (2004), Critical Thinking, McGraw-Hill
May 1996. Lesley Stahl asked, regarding the eects of
UN sanctions against Iraq, We have heard that a half [2] Douglas N. Walton, Informal logic: a handbook for critical
million children have died. I mean, that is more chilargumentation, Cambridge University Press, 1989, ISBN
dren than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price
0-521-37925-3, pp. 3637
worth it?" Madeleine Albright: I think that is a very
hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth [3] Fallacy: Begging the Question The Nizkor Project. Retrieved on: January 22, 2008
it.* [6] She later wrote of this response:
I must have been crazy; I should have answered the question by reframing it and pointing out the inherent aws in the premise behind
it. As soon as I had spoken, I wished for
the power to freeze time and take back those
words. My reply had been a terrible mistake,
hasty, clumsy, and wrong. I had fallen into
a trap and said something that I simply did not
mean. That is no ones fault but my own.* [7]

[4] Carroll, Robert Todd. The Skeptic's Dictionary. John Wiley & Sons. p. 51. ISBN 0-471-27242-6.
[5] Layman, C. Stephen (2003). The Power of Logic. p. 158.
[6] Albright's Blunder. Irvine Review. 2002. Archived
from the original on 2003-06-03. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
[7] Albright, Madeleine (2003). Madam Secretary: A Memoir. p. 275. ISBN 0-7868-6843-0.
[8] Colin Powell Promotion: the Real Story. New York

President Bill Clinton, the moderator in a town meeting

discussing the topic Race In America, in response to
[9] Anti-smacking debate goes to referendum - Story - Naa participant argument that the issue was not armative
tional. 3 News. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
action but racial preferencesasked the participant a
loaded question: Do you favor the United States Army
abolishing the armative-action program that produced
0.10.5 External links
Colin Powell? Yes or no?" * [8]
For another example, the New Zealand corporal punishment referendum, 2009 asked: Should a smack as part
of good parental correction be a criminal oence in New
Zealand?" Murray Edridge, of Barnardos New Zealand,
criticized the question as loaded and ambiguousand

Fallacy: Loaded Questions and Complex Claims

Critical Thinking exercises. San Jose State University.
Logical Fallacy: Loaded Question The Fallacy Files



Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We

Going?, one of Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin's most famous

0.11 Meaning of life

For other uses, see Meaning of life (disambiguation).
The meaning of life is a philosophical and spiritual Philosopher in Meditation (detail) by Rembrandt
question concerning the signicance of living or existence
in general. It can also be expressed in dierent forms,
What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of
such as What should I do?", Why are we here?",
one's life?* [8]* [10]* [11]
What is life all about?", and What is the purpose of
existence?" or even Does life exist at all?" We may
What is the signicance of life?* [11] see also
never know. It has been the subject of much philosophiPsychological signicance and value in life
cal, scientic, and theological speculation throughout history. There have been a large number of proposed an What is meaningful and valuable in life?* [12]
swers to these questions from many dierent cultural and
What is the value of life?* [13]
ideological backgrounds.
The meaning of life is in the philosophical and religious
conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and
happiness, and borders on many other issues, such as
symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good
and evil, free will, the existence of one or multiple gods,
conceptions of God, the soul, and the afterlife. Scientic contributions focus primarily on describing related
empirical facts about the universe, exploring the context
and parameters concerning the 'how' of life. Science also
studies and can provide recommendations for the pursuit
of well-being and a related conception of morality. An alternative, humanistic approach poses the questionWhat
is the meaning of my life?" The value of the question
pertaining to the purpose of life may coincide with the
achievement of ultimate reality, or a feeling of oneness,
or even a feeling of fearness.

What is the reason to live? What are we living

for?* [6]* [14]
These questions have resulted in a wide range of competing answers and arguments, from scientic theories, to
philosophical, theological, and spiritual explanations.

0.11.2 Scientic inquiry and perspectives

Further information: Eudaimonia Eudaimonia and
modern psychology and Meaningful Life

Members of the scientic community and philosophy

of science communities think that science can provide
the relevant context, and set of parameters necessary for
dealing with topics related to the meaning of life. In their
view, science can oer a wide range of insights on topics
0.11.1 Questions
ranging from the science of happiness to death anxiety.
Science can achieve this means by objectively exposing
Questions about the meaning of life have been expressed
numerous aspects of life and reality, such as the Big Bang,
in a broad variety of ways, including the following:
the origin of life, and evolution, and by studying what objective factors correlate with the subjective experience of
What is the meaning of life? What's it all about? meaning and happiness.
Who are we?* [1]* [2]* [3]
Why are we here?
for?* [4]* [5]* [6]

What are we here Psychological signicance and value in life

Researchers in positive psychology study empirical factors that lead to life satisfaction,* [15] full engagement
What is the nature of life? What is the nature of re- in activities,* [16] making a fuller contribution by utilizality?* [7]* [8]* [9]
ing one's personal strengths,* [17] and meaning based on
What is the origin of life?* [7]


investing in something larger than the self.* [18] Largedata studies of ow experiences have consistently suggested that humans experience meaning and fulllment
when mastering challenging tasks, and that the experience comes from the way tasks are approached and performed rather than the particular choice of task. For example, ow experiences can be obtained by prisoners in
concentration camps with minimal facilities, and occur
only slightly more often in billionaires. A classic example* [16] is of two workers on an apparently boring production line in a factory. One treats the work as a tedious
chore while the other turns it into a game to see how fast
she can make each unit, and achieves ow in the process.

stroke,* [21] and increased longevity in both American
and Japanese samples.* [22] In 2014, the British National
Health Service began recommending a ve step plan for
mental well-being based on meaningful lives, whose steps
are: (1) Connect with community and family; (2) Physical exercise; (3) Lifelong learning; (4) Giving to others;
(5) Mindfulness of the world around you.* [23]
Origin and nature of biological life

Neuroscience describes reward, pleasure, and motivation

in terms of neurotransmitter activity, especially in the
limbic system and the ventral tegmental area in particular. If one believes that the meaning of life is to maximize pleasure and to ease general life, then this allows
normative predictions about how to act to achieve this.
Likewise, some ethical naturalists advocate a science of
morality the empirical pursuit of ourishing for all conscious creatures.
Experimental philosophy and neuroethics research collects data about human ethical decisions in controlled scenarios such as trolley problems. It has shown that many
types of ethical judgment are universal across cultures,
suggesting that they may be innate, whilst others are culture specic. The ndings show actual human ethical
reasoning to be at odds with most logical philosophical
theories, for example consistently showing distinctions
between action by cause and action by omission which
would be absent from utility based theories. Cognitive
science has theorized about dierences between conservative and liberal ethics and how they may be based on
dierent metaphors from family life such as strong fathers vs nurturing mother models.
Neurotheology is a controversial eld which tries to nd
neural correlates and mechanisms of religious experience. Some researchers have suggested that the human
brain has innate mechanisms for such experiences and
that living without using them for their evolved purposes
may be a cause of imbalance. Studies have reported conicted results on correlating happiness with religious belief and it is dicult to nd unbiased meta-analyses.
Sociology examines value at a social level using theoretical constructs such as value theory, norms, anomie,
etc. One value system suggested by social psychologists,
broadly called Terror Management Theory, states that human meaning is derived from a fundamental fear of death,
and values are selected when they allow us to escape the
mental reminder of death.
Emerging research shows that meaning in life predicts
better physical health outcomes. Greater meaning has
been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease,* [19] reduced risk of heart attack among individ- DNA, the molecule containing the genetic instructions for the deuals with coronary heart disease,* [20] reduced risk of velopment and functioning of all known living organisms.

The exact mechanisms of abiogenesis are unknown: notable hypotheses include the RNA world hypothesis
(RNA-based replicators) and the iron-sulfur world theory (metabolism without genetics). The process by which
dierent lifeforms have developed throughout history via
genetic mutation and natural selection is explained by
evolution.* [24] At the end of the 20th century, based
upon insight gleaned from the gene-centered view of evolution, biologists George C. Williams, Richard Dawkins,
David Haig, among others, concluded that if there is a
primary function to life, it is the replication of DNA and
the survival of one's genes.* [25]* [26] This view has not
achieved universal agreement; Jeremy Grith is a notable exception, maintaining that the meaning of life is to
be integrative.* [27] Responding to an interview question
from Richard Dawkins aboutwhat it is all for, James
Watson stated I don't think we're for anything. We're
just the products of evolution.* [28]
Though scientists have intensively studied life on Earth,
dening life in unequivocal terms is still a challenge.* [29]* [30] Physically, one may say that lifefeeds
on negative entropy"* [27]* [31]* [32] which refers to the
process by which living entities decrease their internal entropy at the expense of some form of energy
taken in from the environment.* [33]* [34] Biologists generally agree that lifeforms are self-organizing systems
regulating the internal environment as to maintain this organized state, metabolism serves to provide energy, and
reproduction causes life to continue over a span of multiple generations. Typically, organisms are responsive to
stimuli and genetic information changes from generation
to generation, resulting in adaptation through evolution;
this optimizes the chances of survival for the individual
organism and its descendants respectively.* [35]
Non-cellular replicating agents, notably viruses, are generally not considered to be organisms because they are
incapable of independent reproduction or metabolism.
This classication is problematic, though, since some
parasites and endosymbionts are also incapable of independent life. Astrobiology studies the possibility of different forms of life on other worlds, including replicating
structures made from materials other than DNA.


The metric expansion of space. The inationary epoch is the

expansion of the metric tensor at left.

is sometimes interpreted as implying the existence of a

multiverse.* [38]
The ultimate fate of the universe, and implicitly humanity, is hypothesized as one in which biological life will
eventually become unsustainable, such as through a Big
Freeze, Big Rip, or Big Crunch.
Theoretical cosmology studies many alternative speculative models for the origin and fate of the universe beyond the big bang theory. A recent trend has been
models of the creation of 'baby universes' inside black
holes. Multiverse theories claim that every possibility of
quantum mechanics is played out in parallel universes.
Scientic questions about the mind
The nature and origin of consciousness and the mind itself are also widely debated in science. The explanatory
gap is generally equated with the hard problem of consciousness, and the question of free will is also considered to be of fundamental importance. These subjects
are mostly addressed in the elds of cognitive science,
neuroscience (e.g. the neuroscience of free will) and
philosophy of mind, though some evolutionary biologists
and theoretical physicists have also made several allusions
to the subject.* [39]* [40]

Reductionistic and eliminative materialistic approaches,

for example the Multiple Drafts Model, hold that conOrigins and ultimate fate of the universe
sciousness can be wholly explained by neuroscience
Though the Big Bang theory was met with much skepti- through the workings of the brain* and* its neurons,
cism when rst introduced, it has become well-supported
by several independent observations.* [36] However, cur- On the other hand, some scientists, like Andrei Linde,
rent physics can only describe the early universe from have considered that consciousness, like spacetime, might
10* 43 seconds after the Big Bang (where zero time cor- have its own intrinsic degrees of freedom, and that one's
responds to innite temperature); a theory of quantum perceptions may be as real as (or even more real than)
gravity would be required to understand events before material objects.* [43] Hypotheses of consciousness and
that time. Nevertheless, many physicists have specu- spacetime explain consciousness in describing aspace of
lated about what would have preceded this limit, and conscious elements,* [43] often encompassing a numhow the universe came into being.* [37] For example, ber of extra dimensions.* [44] Electromagnetic theories
one interpretation is that the Big Bang occurred coinci- of consciousness solve the binding problem of consciousdentally, and when considering the anthropic principle, it ness in saying that the electromagnetic eld generated


.* [9]* [47]* [48] Proponents of this view cite accounts of
paranormal phenomena, primarily extrasensory perceptions and psychic powers, as evidence for an incorporeal
higher consciousness. In hopes of proving the existence
of these phenomena, parapsychologists have orchestrated
various experiments, but apparently successful results
are more likely due to sloppy procedures, poorly trained
researchers, or methodological aws than to actual effects.* [49]* [50]* [51]* [52]

0.11.3 Western philosophical perspectives

The philosophical perspectives on the meaning of life are
those ideologies which explain life in terms of ideals or
abstractions dened by humans.
Ancient Greek philosophy

Hieronymus Bosch's Ascent of the Blessed depicts a tunnel of

light and spiritual gures, often described in reports of neardeath experiences.
Plato and Aristotle in The School of Athens fresco, by Raphael.
Plato is pointing heavenwards to the sky, and Aristotle is gesturing
to the world.

by the brain is the actual carrier of conscious experience, there is however disagreement about the implementations of such a theory relating to other workings of the
mind.* [45]* [46] Quantum mind theories use quantum
Platonism Main article: Platonism
theory in explaining certain properties of the mind. Explaining the process of free will through quantum phePlato, a pupil of Socrates, was one of the earliest, most
nomena is a popular alternative to determinism.
inuential philosophers. His reputation comes from his
idealism of believing in the existence of universals. His
Based on the premises of non- Theory of Forms proposes that universals do not physmaterialistic explanations of the mind, some have sug- ically exist, like objects, but as heavenly forms. In the
gested the existence of a cosmic consciousness, asserting dialogue of The Republic, the character of Socrates dethat consciousness is actually the ground of all being scribes the Form of the Good.



In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge, which is the Idea (Form) of the
Good, from which all good and just things derive utility
and value.

value, which cause negative emotions and a concomitant

vicious character.

The Cynical life rejects conventional desires for wealth,

power, health, and fame, by being free of the possessions
acquired in pursuing the conventional.* [53]* [54] As reasoning creatures, people could achieve happiness via rigAristotelianism Main article: Aristotelian ethics
orous training, by living in a way natural to human beings. The world equally belongs to everyone, so suering
Aristotle, an apprentice of Plato, was another early and is caused by false judgments of what is valuable and what
inuential philosopher, who argued that ethical knowl- is worthless per the customs and conventions of society.
edge is not certain knowledge (such as metaphysics and
epistemology), but is general knowledge. Because it is not
a theoretical discipline, a person had to study and practice Cyrenaicism Main article: Cyrenaics
in order to become good"; thus if the person were to
become virtuous, he could not simply study what virtue Aristippus of Cyrene, a pupil of Socrates, founded an
is, he had to be virtuous, via virtuous activities. To do early Socratic school that emphasized only one side of
this, Aristotle established what is virtuous:
Socrates's teachings - that happiness is one of the ends
Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and choice of action, is
thought to have some good as its object. This
is why the good has rightly been dened as the
object of all endeavor [...]
Everything is done with a goal, and that goal is
Nicomachean Ethics 1.1

Yet, if action A is done towards achieving goal B, then

goal B also would have a goal, goal C, and goal C also
would have a goal, and so would continue this pattern,
until something stopped its innite regression. Aristotle's
solution is the Highest Good, which is desirable for its own
sake. It is its own goal. The Highest Good is not desirable
for the sake of achieving some other good, and all other
goodsdesirable for its sake. This involves achieving
eudaemonia, usually translated as happiness, wellbeing, ourishing, and excellence.
What is the highest good in all matters of
action? To the name, there is almost complete
agreement; for uneducated and educated alike
call it happiness, and make happiness identical
with the good life and successful living. They
disagree, however, about the meaning of
Nicomachean Ethics 1.4

Cynicism Main article: Cynicism (philosophy)

Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates, rst outlined the themes
of Cynicism, stating that the purpose of life is living a life
of Virtue which agrees with Nature. Happiness depends
upon being self-sucient and master of one's mental attitude; suering is the consequence of false judgments of

of moral action and that pleasure is the supreme good;

thus a hedonistic world view, wherein bodily gratication
is more intense than mental pleasure. Cyrenaics prefer
immediate gratication to the long-term gain of delayed
gratication; denial is unpleasant unhappiness.* [55]* [56]
Epicureanism Main article: Epicureanism
Epicurus, a pupil of the Platonist Pamphilus of Samos,
taught that the greatest good is in seeking modest
pleasures, to attain tranquility and freedom from fear
(ataraxia) via knowledge, friendship, and virtuous, temperate living; bodily pain (aponia) is absent through one's
knowledge of the workings of the world and of the limits
of one's desires. Combined, freedom from pain and freedom from fear are happiness in its highest form. Epicurus' lauded enjoyment of simple pleasures is quasi-ascetic
abstentionfrom sex and the appetites:
When we say ... that pleasure is the end
and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the
prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we
are understood to do, by some, through ignorance, prejudice or wilful misrepresentation.
By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the
body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an
unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of
revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment
of sh, and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober
reasoning, searching out the grounds of every
choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take
possession of the soul.* [57]
The Epicurean meaning of life rejects immortality and
mysticism; there is a soul, but it is as mortal as the body.
There is no afterlife, yet, one need not fear death, because
Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is



without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is noth- There are many forms and derivations of liberalism, but
ing to us.* [58]
their central conceptions of the meaning of life trace back
to three main ideas. Early thinkers such as John Locke,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith saw humankind
Stoicism Main article: Stoicism
beginning in the state of nature, then nding meaning for
existence through labor and property, and using social
to create an environment that supports those efZeno of Citium, a pupil of Crates of Thebes, established
the school which teaches that living according to reason
and virtue is to be in harmony with the universe's divine
order, entailed by one's recognition of the universal logos,
or reason, an essential value of all people. The meaning of life is freedom from suering" through apatheia
(Gr: ), that is, being objective and havingclear
judgement, not indierence.
Stoicism's prime directives are virtue, reason, and natural
law, abided to develop personal self-control and mental
fortitude as means of overcoming destructive emotions.
The Stoic does not seek to extinguish emotions, only to
avoid emotional troubles, by developing clear judgement
and inner calm through diligently practiced logic, reection, and concentration.
The Stoic ethical foundation is that good lies in the
state of the soul, itself, exemplied in wisdom and selfcontrol, thus improving one's spiritual well-being: "Virtue
consists in a will which is in agreement with Nature.
[58] The principle applies to one's personal relations
thus: to be free from anger, envy, and jealousy.* [58]

Enlightenment philosophy
Further information: Enlightenment philosophy
The Enlightenment and the colonial era both changed the
nature of European philosophy and exported it worldwide. Devotion and subservience to God were largely
replaced by notions of inalienable natural rights and the
potentialities of reason, and universal ideals of love and
compassion gave way to civic notions of freedom, equality, and citizenship. The meaning of life changed as well,
focusing less on humankind's relationship to God and
more on the relationship between individuals and their
society. This era is lled with theories that equate meaningful existence with the social order.

Immanuel Kant is regarded as one of the most inuential thinkers

of the late Enlightenment.

Kantianism Kantianism is a philosophy based on

the ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical works of
Immanuel Kant. Kant is known for his deontological
theory where there is a single moral obligation, the
"Categorical Imperative", derived from the concept of
duty. Kantians believe all actions are performed in accordance with some underlying maxim or principle, and
for actions to be ethical, they must adhere to the categorical imperative.
Simply put, the test is that one must universalize the
maxim (imagine that all people acted in this way) and
then see if it would still be possible to perform the maxim
in the world without contradiction. In Groundwork, Kant
gives the example of a person who seeks to borrow money
without intending to pay it back. This is a contradiction
because if it were a universal action, no person would
lend money anymore as he knows that he will never be
paid back. The maxim of this action, says Kant, results
in a contradiction in conceivability (and thus contradicts
perfect duty).

Classical liberalism Classical liberalism is a set of

ideas that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries, out of conicts between a growing, wealthy, propertied class and
the established aristocratic and religious orders that dominated Europe. Liberalism cast humans as beings with inalienable natural rights (including the right to retain the
wealth generated by one's own work), and sought out
means to balance rights across society. Broadly speaking, it considers individual liberty to be the most important goal,* [59] because only through ensured liberty are Kant also denied that the consequences of an act in any
the other inherent rights protected.
way contribute to the moral worth of that act, his rea-



soning being that the physical world is outside one's full purpose, comprehensible truth, and essential value; succontrol and thus one cannot be held accountable for the cinctly, nihilism is the process of the devaluing of the
events that occur in it.
highest values.* [62] Seeing the nihilist as a natural result
of the idea that God is dead, and insisting it was something to overcome, his questioning of the nihilist's life19th century philosophy
negating values returned meaning to the Earth.* [63]
Further information: 19th century philosophy

The End of the World, by John Martin.

To Martin Heidegger, nihilism is the movement whereby

"being" is forgotten, and is transformed into value,
in other words, the reduction of being to exchange
value.* [62] Heidegger, in accordance with Nietzsche,
saw in the so-called "death of God" a potential source
for nihilism:

Jeremy Bentham

Utilitarianism The origins of utilitarianism can be

traced back as far as Epicurus, but, as a school of thought,
it is credited to Jeremy Bentham,* [60] who found that
nature has placed mankind under the governance of two
sovereign masters, pain and pleasure, then, from that
moral insight, deriving the Rule of Utility:that the good
is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest
number of people. He dened the meaning of life as
the "greatest happiness principle".

If God, as the supra-sensory ground and

goal, of all reality, is dead; if the supra-sensory
world of the Ideas has suered the loss of its
obligatory, and above it, its vitalizing and upbuilding power, then nothing more remains to
which Man can cling, and by which he can orient himself.* [64]

The French philosopher Albert Camus asserts that the absurdity of the human condition is that people search for
external values and meaning in a world which has none,
and is indierent to them. Camus writes of value-nihilists
such as Meursault,* [65] but also of values in a nihilistic
world, that people can instead strive to be heroic nihilists, living with dignity in the face of absurdity, living with secular saintliness, fraternal solidarity, and
rebelling against and transcending the world's indierence.* [66]

Jeremy Bentham's foremost proponent was James Mill, a

signicant philosopher in his day, and father of John Stuart Mill. The younger Mill was educated per Bentham's
principles, including transcribing and summarizing much 20th-century philosophy
of his father's work.* [61]
Further information: 20th-century philosophy

Nihilism Nihilism suggests that life is without objective The current era has seen radical changes in both formal
and popular conceptions of human nature. The knowlFriedrich Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying edge disclosed by modern science has eectively rewritthe world, and especially human existence, of meaning, ten the relationship of humankind to the natural world.



Advances in medicine and technology have freed humans from signicant limitations and ailments of previous eras;* [67] and philosophyparticularly following the
linguistic turn has altered how the relationships people have with themselves and each other are conceived.
Questions about the meaning of life have also seen radical changes, from attempts to reevaluate human existence in biological and scientic terms (as in pragmatism
and logical positivism) to eorts to meta-theorize about
meaning-making as a personal, individual-driven activity
(existentialism, secular humanism).
Pragmatism Pragmatism, originated in the late-19thcentury U.S., to concern itself (mostly) with truth, positing that only in struggling with the environmentdo
data, and derived theories, have meaning, and that consequences, like utility and practicality, are also components
of truth. Moreover, pragmatism posits that anything useful and practical is not always true, arguing that what most
contributes to the most human good in the long course
is true. In practice, theoretical claims must be practically veriable, i.e. one should be able to predict and test
claims, and, that, ultimately, the needs of mankind should Edvard Munch's The Scream, a representation of existential
guide human intellectual inquiry.
Pragmatic philosophers suggest that the practical, useful understanding of life is more important than searching for an impractical abstract truth about life. William
James argued that truth could be made, but not
sought.* [68]* [69] To a pragmatist, the meaning of life is
discoverable only via experience.

the concomitant awareness of death. According to JeanPaul Sartre, existence precedes essence; the (essence) of
one's life arises only after one comes to existence.

Sren Kierkegaard spoke about a "leap", arguing that life

is full of absurdity, and one must make his and her own
values in an indierent world. One can live meaningfully
Theism Main article: Philosophical theism
(free of despair and anxiety) in an unconditional commitment to something nite, and devotes that meaningful life
Theists believe God created the universe and that God to the commitment, despite the vulnerability inherent to
had a purpose in doing so. Many theists, including the doing so. [71]
former atheist Antony Flew, have been persuaded that Arthur Schopenhauer answered: What is the meaning
God created because of the scientic evidence for a low of life?" by stating that one's life reects one's will, and
entropy Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago. The- that the will (life) is an aimless, irrational, and painful
ists also hold the view that humans nd their meaning drive. Salvation, deliverance, and escape from suering
and purpose for life in God's purpose in creating. The- are in aesthetic contemplation, sympathy for others, and
ists further hold that if there were no God to give life asceticism.* [72]* [73]
ultimate meaning, value and purpose, then life would be
For Friedrich Nietzsche, life is worth living only if there
absurd.* [70]
are goals inspiring one to live. Accordingly, he saw nihilism (all that happens is meaningless) as without
He stated that asceticism denies one's living in the
Existentialism Main article: Meaning (existential)
stated that values are not objective facts, that are
According to existentialism, each man and each woman
necessary, universally binding commitments:
creates the essence (meaning) of his and her life; life is not
are interpretations, and not reections of
determined by a supernatural god or an earthly authority,
is, in itself, and, therefore, all ideations
one is free. As such, one's ethical prime directives are actake
particular perspective.* [63]
tion, freedom, and decision, thus, existentialism opposes
rationalism and positivism. In seeking meaning to life,
the existentialist looks to where people nd meaning in
life, in course of which using only reason as a source of Absurdism Main article: Absurdism
meaning is insucient; this gives rise to the emotions of
anxiety and dread, felt in considering one's free will, and "... in spite of or in deance of the whole of existence he



wills to be himself with it, to take it along, almost defying his torment. For to hope in the possibility of help, not
to speak of help by virtue of the absurd, that for God all
things are possible no, that he will not do. And as for
seeking help from any other no, that he will not do for
all the world; rather than seek help he would prefer to be
himself with all the tortures of hell, if so it must be."
Sren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death* [74]
In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for
meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. As beings looking for meaning in a meaningless
world, humans have three ways of resolving the dilemma.
Kierkegaard and Camus describe the solutions in their
works, The Sickness Unto Death (1849) and The Myth of
Sisyphus (1942):
Suicide (or, escaping existence): a solution in The "Happy Human" symbol representing Secular Humanism.
which a person simply ends one's own life. Both
Kierkegaard and Camus dismiss the viability of this
People determine human purpose without supernatural
inuence; it is the human personality (general sense)
Religious belief in a transcendent realm or being: a that is the purpose of a human being's life. Humanism
solution in which one believes in the existence of seeks to develop and fulll:* [76] Humanism arms
a reality that is beyond the Absurd, and, as such, our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of perhas meaning. Kierkegaard stated that a belief in sonal fulllment that aspire to the greater good of huanything beyond the Absurd requires a non-rational manity.* [78] Humanism aims to promote enlightened
but perhaps necessary religious acceptance in such self-interest and the common good for all people. It
an intangible and empirically unprovable thing (now is based on the premises that the happiness of the incommonly referred to as a "leap of faith"). However, dividual person is inextricably linked to the well-being
Camus regarded this solution asphilosophical sui- of all humanity, in part because humans are social ancide.
imals who nd meaning in personal relations and be Acceptance of the Absurd: a solution in which one cause cultural progress benets everybody living in the
accepts and even embraces the Absurd and contin- culture. [77] [78]
ues to live in spite of it. Camus endorsed this so- The philosophical sub-genres posthumanism and
lution, while Kierkegaard regarded this solution as transhumanism (sometimes used synonymously) are
demoniac madness": "He rages most of all at the extensions of humanistic values. One should seek the
thought that eternity might get it into its head to take advancement of humanity and of all life to the greatest
his misery from him!"* [75]
degree feasible and seek to reconcile Renaissance
humanism with the 21st century's technoscientic
Secular humanism Further information: Secular Hu- culture. In this light, every living creature has the right
to determine its personal and social meaning of life
Per secular humanism, the human species came to . [80]
be by reproducing successive generations in a progres- From a humanism-psychotherapeutic point of view, the
sion of unguided evolution as an integral expression of question of the meaning of life could be reinterpreted as
nature, which is self-existing.* [76]* [77] Human knowl- What is the meaning of my life?"* [81] This approach
edge comes from human observation, experimentation, emphasizes that the question is personaland avoids foand rational analysis (the scientic method), and not from cusing on cosmic or religious questions about overarchsupernatural sources; the nature of the universe is what ing purpose. There are many therapeutic responses to this
people discern it to be.* [76] Likewise, "values and reali- question. For example Viktor Frankl argues for Deretiesare determined by means of intelligent inquiry ection, which translates largely as: cease endlessly re*
[76] and are derived from human need and inter- ecting on the self; instead, engage in life. On the whole,
est as tested by experience, that is, by critical intelli- the therapeutic response is that the question itselfwhat
gence.* [78]* [79] As far as we know, the total person- is the meaning of life? evaporates when one is fully
ality is [a function] of the biological organism transacting engaged in life. (The question then morphs into more
in a social and cultural context.* [77]
specic worries such as What delusions am I under?";


What is blocking my ability to enjoy things?"; Why
do I neglect loved-ones?".) See also: Existential Therapy
and Irvin Yalom
Logical positivism Logical positivists ask: What is
the meaning of life?", What is the meaning in asking?"* [82]* [83] and If there are no objective values,
then, is life meaningless?"* [84] Ludwig Wittgenstein and
the logical positivists said: Expressed in language, the
question is meaningless"; because, in life the statement
the meaning of x, usually denotes the consequences
of x, or the signicance of x, or what is notable about x,
etc., thus, when the meaning of life concept equalsx,
in the statement the meaning of x, the statement becomes recursive, and, therefore, nonsensical, or it might
refer to the fact that biological life is essential to having a
meaning in life.
The things (people, events) in the life of a person can have
meaning (importance) as parts of a whole, but a discrete
meaning of (the) life, itself, aside from those things, cannot be discerned. A person's life has meaning (for himself, others) as the life events resulting from his achievements, legacy, family, etc., but, to say that life, itself, has
meaning, is a misuse of language, since any note of significance, or of consequence, is relevant only in life (to the
living), so rendering the statement erroneous. Bertrand
Russell wrote that although he found that his distaste for
torture was not like his distaste for broccoli, he found no
satisfactory, empirical method of proving this:* [58]
When we try to be denite, as to what we
mean when we say that this or that is the
Good,we nd ourselves involved in very great
diculties. Bentham's creed, that pleasure is
the Good, roused furious opposition, and was
said to be a pig's philosophy. Neither he nor
his opponents could advance any argument. In
a scientic question, evidence can be adduced
on both sides, and, in the end, one side is seen
to have the better case or, if this does not
happen, the question is left undecided. But in
a question, as to whether this, or that, is the ultimate Good, there is no evidence, either way;
each disputant can only appeal to his own emotions, and employ such rhetorical devices as
shall rouse similar emotions in others ... Questions as tovaluesthat is to say, as to what
is good or bad on its own account, independently of its eects lie outside the domain
of science, as the defenders of religion emphatically assert. I think that, in this, they are
right, but, I draw the further conclusion, which
they do not draw, that questions as to valueslie wholly outside the domain of knowledge. That is to say, when we assert that this,
or that, has value, we are giving expression to our own emotions, not to a fact, which

would still be true if our personal feelings were
dierent.* [85]
Postmodernism Further information: Postmodernism
Postmodernist thoughtbroadly speakingsees human
nature as constructed by language, or by structures and
institutions of human society. Unlike other forms of philosophy, postmodernism rarely seeks out a priori or innate
meanings in human existence, but instead focuses on analyzing or critiquing given meanings in order to rationalize or reconstruct them. Anything resembling a meaning of life, in postmodernist terms, can only be understood within a social and linguistic framework, and must
be pursued as an escape from the power structures that
are already embedded in all forms of speech and interaction. As a rule, postmodernists see awareness of the
constraints of language as necessary to escaping those
constraints, but dierent theorists take dierent views
on the nature of this process: from radical reconstruction of meaning by individuals (as in deconstructionism)
to theories in which individuals are primarily extensions of language and society, without real autonomy (as
in poststructuralism). In general, postmodernism seeks
meaning by looking at the underlying structures that create or impose meaning, rather than the epiphenomenal
appearances of the world.
Naturalistic pantheism According to naturalistic pantheism, the meaning of life is to care for and look after
nature and the environment.

0.11.4 East Asian philosophy

Further information: Chinese philosophy and Japanese

Further information: Mohism
The Mohist philosophers believed that the purpose of life
was universal, impartial love. Mohism promoted a philosophy of impartial caring - a person should care equally
for all other individuals, regardless of their actual relationship to him or her.* [86] The expression of this indiscriminate caring is what makes man a righteous being in
Mohist thought. This advocacy of impartiality was a target of attack by the other Chinese philosophical schools,
most notably the Confucians who believed that while love
should be unconditional, it should not be indiscriminate.
For example, children should hold a greater love for their
parents than for random strangers.



Further information: Confucianism
Confucianism recognizes human nature in accordance
with the need for discipline and education. Because
mankind is driven by both positive and negative inuences, Confucianists see a goal in achieving virtue
through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative. This emphasis on normal living is
seen in the Confucianist scholar Tu Wei-Ming's quote,
we can realize the ultimate meaning of life in ordinary
human existence.* [87]
Further information: Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
The Legalists believed that nding the purpose of life Symbols of the three main Abrahamic religions Judaism,
was a meaningless eort. To the Legalists, only practi- Christianity, and Islam
cal knowledge was valuable, especially as it related to the
function and performance of the state.
Judaism's most important feature is the worship of a
single, incomprehensible, transcendent, one, indivisible,
absolute Being, who created and governs the universe.
0.11.5 Religious perspectives
Closeness with the God of Israel is through study of His
Torah, and adherence to its mitzvot (divine laws). In
The religious perspectives on the meaning of life are
traditional Judaism, God established a special covenant
those ideologies which explain life in terms of an implicit
with a people, the people of Israel, at Mount Sinai, giving
purpose not dened by humans.
the Jewish commandments. Torah comprises the written
According to the Charter for Compassion signed by many Pentateuch and the transcribed oral tradition, further deof the world's leading religious and secular organizations, veloped through the generations. The Jewish people are
the core of religion is the golden rule of `treat others as intended as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
you would have them treat you'. The Charter's founder, * [88] and a "light to the Nations", inuencing the other
Karen Armstrong, quotes an ancient Rabbi who suggested peoples to keep their own religio-ethical Seven Laws of
that `the rest is commentary'. This is not to reduce the Noah. The messianic era is seen as the perfection of this
commentary's importance, and Armstrong considers that dual path to God.
its study, interpretation and ritual are the means by which
Jewish observances involve ethical and ritual, armative
religious people internalize and live the golden rule.
and prohibitive injunctions. Modern Jewish denominations dier over the nature, relevance and emphases of
mitzvot. Jewish philosophy emphasises that God is not
Western religions
aected or beneted, but the individual and society benFurther information: Abrahamic religion and Iranian et by drawing close to God. The rationalist Maimonides
sees the ethical and ritual divine commandments as a
necessary, but insucient preparation for philosophical understanding of God, with its love and awe.* [89]
Among fundamental values in the Torah are pursuit of
Judaism In the Judaic world view, the meaning of justice, compassion, peace, kindness, hard work, proslife is to elevate the physical world ('Olam HaZeh') and perity, humility, and education.* [90]* [91] The world to
prepare it for the world to come ('Olam HaBa'), the come,* [92] prepared in the present, elevates man to an
messianic era. This is called Tikkun Olam (Fixing the everlasting connection with God.* [93] Simeon the RighWorld). Olam HaBa can also mean the spiritual af- teous says, the world stands on three things: on Torah,
terlife, and there is debate concerning the eschatological on worship, and on acts of loving kindness.The prayer
order. However, Judaism is not focused on personal sal- book relates, blessed is our God who created us for his
vation, but on communal (between man and man) and honor...and planted within us everlasting life.Of this
individual (between man and God) spiritualised actions context, the Talmud states,everything that God does is
for the good,including suering.
in this world.


The Jewish mystical Kabbalah gives complimentary esoteric meanings of life. As well as Judaism providing
an immanent relationship with God (personal theism), in
Kabbalah the spiritual and physical creation is a paradoxical manifestation of the immanent aspects of God's
Being (panentheism), related to the Shekhinah (Divine
feminine). Jewish observance unites the sephirot (Divine attributes) on high, restoring harmony to creation.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, the meaning of life is the messianic rectication of the shattered sparks of God's persona, exiled in physical existence (the Kelipot shells),
through the actions of Jewish observance.* [94] Through
this, in Hasidic Judaism the ultimate essentialdesireof
God is the revelation of the Omnipresent Divine essence
through materiality, achieved by man from within his limited physical realm, when the body will give life to the
soul.* [95]

sacrice of Christ's passion, death and resurrection provide the means for transcending that impure state (Romans 6:23). The means for doing so varies between different groups of Christians, but all rely on belief in Jesus, his work on the cross and his resurrection as the
fundamental starting point for a relationship with God.
Faith in God is found in Ephesians 2:89 "* [8]For by
grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; * [9]not as a result of
works, that no one should boast.(New American Standard Bible; 1973). A recent alternative Christian theological discourse interprets Jesus as revealing that the
purpose of life is to elevate our compassionate response
to human suering.* [97] Nonetheless the conventional
Christian position is that people are justied by belief in
the propitiatory sacrice of Jesus' death on the cross. The
Gospel maintains that through this belief, the barrier that
sin has created between man and God is destroyed, and
allows God to change people and instill in them a new
heart after his own will, and the ability to do it. This is
what the termsrebornorsavedalmost always refer
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the rst question is:
What is the chief end of Man?", that is,What is Man's
main purpose?". The answer is: Man's chief end is to
glorify God, and enjoy him forever. God requires one
to obey the revealed moral law saying: love the Lord
your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all
your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour
as yourself.* [98] The Baltimore Catechism answers the
question Why did God make you?" by saying God
made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in
this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain in Rio de

Janeiro is symbolic of Christianity,* [96] illustrating the concept
of seeking redemption through Jesus Christ.

Christianity Christianity has its roots in Judaism, and

shares much of the latter faith's ontology, its central beliefs derive from the teachings of Jesus Christ, as presented in the New Testament. Life's purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God
and intercession of Christ. (cf. John 11:26) The New
Testament speaks of God wanting to have a relationship
with humans both in this life and the life to come, which
can happen only if one's sins are forgiven (John 3:1621;
2 Peter 3:9).
In the Christian view, humankind was made in the Image
of God and perfect, but the Fall of Man caused the
progeny of the rst Parents to inherit Original Sin. The

The Apostle Paul also answers this question in his speech

on the Areopagus in Athens: And He has made from
one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of
the earth, and has determined their preappointed times
and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should
seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him
and nd Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Catholicism's way of thinking is better expressed through
the Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
The human person is created to praise, reverence, and
serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her
soul. All other things on the face of the earth are created
for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for
which they are created. It follows from this that one must
use other created things, in so far as they help towards
one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are
obstacles to one's end. To do this, we need to make ourselves indierent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not
want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty,
fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short



one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire For Allah's satisfaction, via the Qur'an, all Muslims must
and choose only what helps us more towards the end for believe in God, his revelations, his angels, his messengers,
which we are created.* [101]
and in the "Day of Judgment".* [107] The Qur'an deThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS scribes the purpose of creation as follows: Blessed be
Church) teaches that the purpose of life on Earth is to he in whose hand is the kingdom, he is powerful over all
gain knowledge and experience.* [102] Mormons believe things, who created death and life that he might examine
that humans are literally the spirit children of God the Fa- which of you is best in deeds, and he is the almighty, the
ther (Acts 17:29, Heb. 12:9), and thus have the potential forgiving(Qur'an 67:12) and And I (Allh) created
not the jinn and mankind except that they should be obeto progress to become like Him (Matt 5:48). Mormons
teach that God provided his children the choice to come dient (to Allah).(Qur'an 51:56). Obedience testies to
the oneness of God in his lordship, his names, and his
to Earth, which is considered a crucial stage in their development wherein a mortal body, coupled with the attributes. Terrenal life is a test; how one acts (behaves)
determines whether one's soul goes to Jannat (Heaven) or
freedom to choose, makes for an ideal environment to
of Judge*
learn and grow. [102] The Fall of Adam is not viewed as to Jahannam (Hell). [108] However on the day
[109] Allah
an unfortunate or unplanned cancellation of God's original plan for a paradise, rather the opposition found in may coverup short comings and allow some people to go
mortality is an essential element of God's plan because to heaven even though they may have some sins in the
the process of enduring/overcoming challenges, dicul- record.
ties, temptations, etc. provides exclusive opportunities to
gain wisdom and strengthwhich is centered on learning to appreciate and choose the good, and reject evil
(Gen. 3:22; Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:11;* [103] Pearl
of Great Price, Moses 6:55* [104]). Physical separation
from God is an integral part of this mortal learning experience, without which humans would never have the
opportunity to learn to live by faith which as Christ
taught in the New Testament, is the key to invoking the
powers of heaven (Mark 11:22-23). Despite this physical separation, God doesn't leave humans in darkness.
From the beginning, God has followed a pattern of revealing knowledge through chosen prophets. This instruction
from God includes the concept of repentance as a lifelong
growth process through which humankind continuously
learns to make better choices by forsaking sin and learning from mistakes. Throughout this process, baptized
members can regularly invoke the cleansing power of
Christ's atonement through the weekly ordinance of the
sacrament (Luke 22:17-20). It is through the atonement
that mortals are made worthy to return to the presence
of the Father, where they can continue to build upon the
wisdom gained during mortality (Doctrine and Covenants
130:18-19* [105]) and ultimately fulll their end purpose,
which is to inherit a fullness of God's glory (Rom. 8:1617, Gal. 4:7)that is to say, his intelligence (Doctrine
and Covenants 93:36; 50:24). Because God is just, he allows those who weren't taught the gospel during mortality
to receive it after death in the spirit world (1 Pet. 3:18-20,
1 Pet. 4:6, Doctrine and Covenants 138* [106]), so that
all of his children have the opportunity to return to live
with God, and reach their full potential.

The Five Pillars of Islam are duties incumbent to every Muslim; they are: Shahadah (profession of faith);
salat (ritual prayer); Zakah (charity); Sawm (fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).* [110]
They derive from the Hadith works, notably of Sahih AlBukhari and Sahih Muslim. The ve pillars are not mentioned directly in the Quran.
Beliefs dier among the Kalam. The Sunni and the
Ahmadiyya concept of pre-destination is divine decree;* [111] likewise, the Shi'a concept of pre-destination
is divine justice; in the esoteric view of the Sus, the universe exists only for God's pleasure; Creation is a grand
game, wherein Allah is the greatest prize.
The Su view of the meaning of life stems from the hadith
qudsi that states I (God) was a Hidden Treasure and
loved to be known. Therefore I created the Creation that I
might be known.One possible interpretation of this view
is that the meaning of life for an individual is to know the
nature of God, and the purpose of all of creation is to
reveal that nature, and to prove its value as the ultimate
treasure, that is God. However, this hadith is stated in
various forms and interpreted in various ways by people,
such, as 'Abdu'l-Bah of the Bah' Faith,* [112] and in
Ibn'Arab's Fu al-ikam.* [113]

Islam In Islam, man's ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah (English: God) by abiding by the
Divine guidelines revealed in the Qur'an and the Tradition of the Prophet. Earthly life is merely a test, determining one's afterlife, either in Jannah (Paradise) or in
The Ringstone symbol represents humanity's connection to God
Jahannam (Hell).


Bah' Faith The Bah' Faith emphasizes the unity of
humanity.* [114] To Bah's, the purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity. Human beings are viewed as intrinsically spiritual beings.
People's lives in this material world provide extended
opportunities to grow, to develop divine qualities and
virtues, and the prophets were sent by God to facilitate
this.* [115]* [116]

pressing meaningful living for a long time, before there
was a need for naming it as a separate religion, Hindu
doctrines are supplementary and complementary in nature, generally non-exclusive, suggestive and tolerant in
content.* [118] Most believe that the tman (spirit, soul)
the person's true self is eternal.* [119] In part, this
stems from Hindu beliefs that spiritual development occurs across many lifetimes, and goals should match the
state of development of the individual. There are four
possible aims to human life, known as the purusharthas
(ordered from least to greatest): Kma (wish, desire, love
and sensual pleasure), Artha (wealth, prosperity, glory),
Dharma (righteousness, duty, morality, virtue, ethics),
encompassing notions such as ahimsa (non-violence) and
satya (truth) and Moksha (liberation, i.e. liberation from
Sasra, the cycle of reincarnation).* [120]* [121]* [122]

Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism is the religion and

philosophy named after its prophet Zoroaster, which is
believed to have inuenced the beliefs of Judaism and its
descendant religions.* [117] Zoroastrians believe in a universe created by a transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, to
whom all worship is ultimately directed. Ahura Mazda's
creation is asha, truth and order, and it is in conict
with its antithesis, druj, falsehood and disorder. (See also In all schools of Hinduism, the meaning of life is tied up
in the concepts of karma (causal action), sansara (the cyZoroastrian eschatology).
cle of birth and rebirth), and moksha (liberation). ExisSince humanity possesses free will, people must be re- tence is conceived as the progression of the tman (simsponsible for their moral choices. By using free will, peo- ilar to the western concept of a soul) across numerous
ple must take an active role in the universal conict, with lifetimes, and its ultimate progression towards liberation
good thoughts, good words and good deeds to ensure hap- from karma. Particular goals for life are generally subpiness and to keep chaos at bay.
sumed under broader yogas (practices) or dharma (correct living) which are intended to create more favorable
reincarnations, though they are generally positive acts in
South Asian religions
this life as well. Traditional schools of Hinduism ofFurther information: Indian religions and Indian philos- ten worship Devas which are manifestations of Ishvara (a
personal or chosen God); these Devas are taken as ideal
forms to be identied with, as a form of spiritual improvement.
In short, the goal is to realize the fundamental truth about
Hindu philosophies Further information: Hinduism,
oneself. This thought is conveyed in the Mahvkyas
Hindu philosophy and Dharma
("Tat Tvam Asi" (thou art that), Aham Brahmsmi,
Hinduism is a religious category including many bePrajnam Brahmaand Ayam tm Brahma(the
soul and the world are one)).

Advaita and Dvaita Hinduism Further information:

Advaita Vedanta and Dvaita
Later schools reinterpreted the vedas to focus on
Brahman, The One Without a Second,* [123] as a
central God-like gure.
In monist Advaita Vedanta, tman is ultimately indistinguishable from Brahman, and the goal of life is to
know or realize that one's tman (soul) is identical to
Brahman.* [124] To the Upanishads, whoever becomes
fully aware of the tman, as one's core of self, realizes
identity with Brahman, and, thereby, achieves Moksha
(liberation, freedom).* [119]* [125]* [126]
Dualist Dvaita Vedanta and other bhakti schools have a
dualist interpretation. Brahman is seen as a supreme being with a personality and manifest qualities. The tman
depends upon Brahman for its existence; the meaning of
liefs and traditions. Since Hinduism was the way of ex- life is achieving Moksha through love of God and upon
A golden Aum written in Devanagari. The Aum is sacred in
Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions.



His grace.* [125]

of the plants from which they eat.* [130]

Vaishnavism Vaishnavism is a branch of Hinduism in

which the principal belief is the identication of Vishnu
or Narayana as the one supreme God. This belief
contrasts with the Krishna-centered traditions, such as
Vallabha, Nimbaraka and Gaudiya, in which Krishna is
considered to be the One and only Supreme God and the
source of all avataras.* [127]


Vaishnava theology includes the central beliefs of Hinduism such as monotheism, reincarnation, samsara,
karma, and the various Yoga systems, but with a particular emphasis on devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu through the
process of Bhakti yoga, often including singing Vishnu's
name's (bhajan), meditating upon his form (dharana) and
performing deity worship (puja). The practices of deity
worship are primarily based on texts such as Pacaratra
and various Samhitas.* [128]

Early Buddhism Buddhists practice to embrace with

mindfulness the ill-being (suering) and well-being that
is present in life. Buddhists practice to see the causes of
ill-being and well-being in life. For example, one of the
causes of suering is unhealthy attachment to objects material or non-material. The Buddhist stras and tantras do
not speak aboutthe meaning of lifeorthe purpose of
life, but about the potential of human life to end suering, for example through embracing (not suppressing or
denying) cravings and conceptual attachments. Attaining
and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that
ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means
freedom from both suering and rebirth.* [131]

One popular school of thought, Gaudiya Vaishnavism,

teaches the concept of Achintya Bheda Abheda. In this,
Krishna is worshipped as the single true God, and all living entities are eternal parts and the Supreme Personality
of the Godhead Krishna. Thus the constitutional position
of a living entity is to serve the Lord with love and devotion. The purpose of human life especially is to think beyond the animalistic way of eating, sleeping, mating and
defending and engage the higher intelligence to revive the
lost relationship with Krishna.
Jainism Further information: Jainism and Jain philosophy
Jainism is a religion originating in ancient India, its ethical
system promotes self-discipline above all else. Through
following the ascetic teachings of Jina, a human achieves
enlightenment (perfect knowledge). Jainism divides the
universe into living and non-living beings. Only when the
living become attached to the non-living does suering
result. Therefore, happiness is the result of self-conquest
and freedom from external objects. The meaning of life
may then be said to be to use the physical body to achieve
self-realization and bliss.* [129]
Jains believe that every human is responsible for his or
her actions and all living beings have an eternal soul, jiva.
Jains believe all souls are equal because they all possess
the potential of being liberated and attaining Moksha.
The Jain view of karma is that every action, every word,
every thought produces, besides its visible, an invisible,
transcendental eect on the soul.

The eight-spoked Dharmachakra

Theravada Buddhism is generally considered to be close

to the early Buddhist practice. It promotes the concept
of Vibhajjavada (Pali), literally Teaching of Analysis
, which says that insight must come from the aspirant's
experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead
of by blind faith. However, the Theravadin tradition also
emphasizes heeding the advice of the wise, considering
such advice and evaluation of one's own experiences to be
the two tests by which practices should be judged. The
Theravadin goal is liberation (or freedom) from suering, according to the Four Noble Truths. This is attained
in the achievement of Nirvana, or Unbinding which also
ends the repeated cycle of birth, old age, sickness and

Jainism includes strict adherence to ahimsa (or ahins), a

form of nonviolence that goes far beyond vegetarianism.
Jains refuse food obtained with unnecessary cruelty.
Many practice a lifestyle similar to veganism due to the Mahayana
violence of modern dairy farms, and others exclude root Mahayana
vegetables from their diets in order to preserve the lives

Buddhism Further



Mahayana Buddhist schools de-emphasize the traditional
view (still practiced in Theravada) of the release from
individual Suering (Dukkha) and attainment of Awakening (Nirvana). In Mahayana, the Buddha is seen as
an eternal, immutable, inconceivable, omnipresent being. The fundamental principles of Mahayana doctrine
are based on the possibility of universal liberation from
suering for all beings, and the existence of the transcendent Buddha-nature, which is the eternal Buddha essence
present, but hidden and unrecognised, in all living beings.
Philosophical schools of Mahayana Buddhism, such
as Chan/Zen and the vajrayana Tibetan and Shingon
schools, explicitly teach that bodhisattvas should refrain
from full liberation, allowing themselves to be reincarnated into the world until all beings achieve enlightenment. Devotional schools such as Pure Land Buddhism
seek the aid of celestial buddhasindividuals who have
spent lifetimes accumulating positive karma, and use that
accumulation to aid all.

following various spiritual paths, so Sikhs do not have a
monopoly on salvation: The Lord dwells in every heart,
and every heart has its own way to reach Him.* [132]
Sikhs believe that all people are equally important before
God.* [133] Sikhs balance their moral and spiritual values with the quest for knowledge, and they aim to promote a life of peace and equality but also of positive action.* [134]
A key distinctive feature of Sikhism is a nonanthropomorphic concept of God, to the extent that one
can interpret God as the Universe itself (pantheism).
Sikhism thus sees life as an opportunity to understand
this God as well as to discover the divinity which lies in
each individual. While a full understanding of God is
beyond human beings,* [135] Nanak described God as
not wholly unknowable, and stressed that God must be
seen from the inward eye, or the heart, of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards
enlightenment and the ultimate destination of a Sikh is to
lose the ego completely in the love of the lord and nally
merge into the almighty creator. Nanak emphasized the
revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application
permits the existence of communication between God
and human beings.* [135]
East Asian religions

The Khanda, an important symbol of Sikhism.

Sikhism The monotheistic Sikh religion was founded

by Guru Nanak Dev, the term Sikhmeans student,
which denotes that followers will lead their lives forever
learning. This system of religious philosophy and expression has been traditionally known as the Gurmat (literally
the counsel of the gurus) or the Sikh Dharma. The followers of Sikhism are ordained to follow the teachings of
the ten Sikh Gurus, or enlightened leaders, as well as the
holy scripture entitled the Gur Granth Shib, which includes selected works of many philosophers from diverse
socio-economic and religious backgrounds.

Taijitu symbolizes the unity of opposites between yin and yang.

Taoism Taoist cosmogony emphasizes the need for all

sentient beings and all man to return to the primordial
or to rejoin with the Oneness of the Universe by way of
self-cultivation and self-realization. All adherents should
understand and be in tune with the ultimate truth.

Taoists believe all things were originally from Taiji and

Tao, and the meaning in life for the adherents is to realize
the temporal nature of the existence.Only introspection
The Sikh Gurus say that salvation can be obtained by can then help us to nd our innermost reasons for living



... the simple answer is here within ourselves.* [136]

Shinto torii, a traditional Japanese gate

Shinto Shinto is the native religion of Japan. Shinto

means the path of the kami", but more specically, it
can be taken to mean the divine crossroad where the
kami chooses his way. Thedivinecrossroad signies
that all the universe is divine spirit. This foundation of
free will, choosing one's way, means that life is a creative Charles Allan Gilbert's All is Vanity, an example of vanitas, depicts a young woman gazing at her reection in a mirror, but
Shinto wants life to live, not to die. Shinto sees death as
pollution and regards life as the realm where the divine
spirit seeks to purify itself by rightful self-development.
Shinto wants individual human life to be prolonged forever on earth as a victory of the divine spirit in preserving
its objective personality in its highest forms. The presence of evil in the world, as conceived by Shinto, does not
stultify the divine nature by imposing on divinity responsibility for being able to relieve human suering while
refusing to do so. The suerings of life are the suerings
of the divine spirit in search of progress in the objective
world.* [137]

all is positioned in such a way as to make the image of a skull


In Douglas Adams' popular comedy book, movie, television, and radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the
Galaxy, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the
Universe, and Everything is given the numeric solution
"42", after seven and a half million years of calculation by
a giant supercomputer called Deep Thought. When this
answer is met with confusion and anger from its constructors, Deep Thought explains that I think the problem,
to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually
known what the question is.* [3]* [138]* [139]* [140] In
the continuation of the book, the question is proposed to
beHow many roads must a man walk down, before you
can call him a manfrom Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the
Wind.In the sequel, The Restaurant at the End of the
Universe, it states that the question is 6x9. While 6 x 9 =
54 in base 10, it does equal 42 in base 13, which author
Adams claimed was completely serendipitous.

New religions There are many new religious movements in East Asia, and some with millions of followers:
Chondogyo, Tenrikyo, Cao i, and Seicho-No-Ie. New
religions typically have unique explanations for the meaning of life. For example, in Tenrikyo, one is expected to
live a Joyous Life by participating in practices that create
happiness for oneself and others.
In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, there are several
allusions to the meaning of life. At the end of the lm, a
character played by Michael Palin is handed an envelope
0.11.6 In popular culture
containing the meaning of life, which he opens and
reads out to the audience: Well, it's nothing very speThe mystery of life and its true meaning is an often recur- cial. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a
ring subject in popular culture, featured in entertainment good book every now and then, get some walking in, and
media and various forms of art.
try to live together in peace and harmony with people of


To become the best version of yourself.* [149]
To seek happiness* [150]* [151] and ourish.* [3]
To be a true authentic human being.* [152]
To be able to put the whole of oneself into one's feelings, one's work, one's beliefs.* [147]
tiny.* [153]* [154]* [155]




To achieve eudaimonia,* [156] a ourishing of human spirit.

To achieve biological perfection

Hamlet with Yorick's skull

all creeds and nations.* [141]* [142]* [143] Many other

Python sketches and songs are also existential in nature,
questioning the importance we place on life ("Always
Look on the Bright Side of Life") and other meaning-oflife related questioning. John Cleese also had his sit-com
character Basil Fawlty contemplating the futility of his
own existence in Fawlty Towers.
In The Simpsons episode "Homer the Heretic", a representation of God agrees to tell Homer what the meaning
of life is, but the show's credits begin to roll just as he
starts to say what it is.* [144]

To survive,* [157] that is, to live as long as possible,* [158] including pursuit of immortality (through
scientic means).* [159]
To live forever* [159] or die trying.* [160]
To adapt. Often to improve one's chances of success
in another purpose; sometimes, as a purpose in itself
(adapting to adapt).
To evolve.* [161]
To replicate,
to reproduce.* [145] The
'dream' of every cell is to become two cells.
[162]* [163]* [164]* [165]

In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the characters are

asked how we should life our lives, and reply with a version of the golden rule `be excellent to each other' folTo seek wisdom and knowledge
lowed by 'party on, dudes!'.


To expand one's perception of the world.* [146]

Popular views

What is the meaning of life?" is a question many people

ask themselves at some point during their lives, most in
the context What is the purpose of life?".* [10] Some
popular answers include:

To follow the clues and walk out the exit.* [166]

To learn as many things as possible in life.* [167]
To know as much as possible about as many things
as possible.* [168]
To seek wisdom and knowledge and to tame the
mind, as to avoid suering caused by ignorance and
nd happiness.* [169]

To realize one's potential and ideals

To chase dreams.* [145]
To live one's dreams.* [146]
To spend it for something that will outlast it. [147]

To face our fears and accept the lessons life oers

us.* [153]

To matter: to count, to stand for something, to have

made some dierence that you lived at all.* [147]

To nd the meaning or purpose of life.* [170]* [171]

To expand one's potential in life.* [146]

To nd a reason to live.* [172]

To become the person you've always wanted to

be.* [148]

To resolve the imbalance of the mind by understanding the nature of reality.* [173]



To do good, to do the right thing

To leave the world as a better place than you found
it.* [145]
To do your best to leave every situation better than
you found it.* [145]
To benet others.* [6]
To give more than you take.* [145]
To end suering.* [174]* [175]* [176]
To create equality.* [177]* [178]* [179]
To challenge oppression.* [180]
To distribute wealth.* [181]* [182]
To be generous.* [183]* [184]
To contribute to the well-being and spirit of others.* [185]
Dante and Beatrice see God as a point of light surrounded by

To help others,* [3]* [184] to help one another.* [186]

angels; from Gustave Dor's illustrations for the Divine Comedy
To take every chance to help another while on your
journey here. [145]
To go and make new disciples of Jesus Christ.* [196]
To be creative and innovative.* [185]
To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your
To forgive.* [145]
God.* [197]
To accept and forgive human aws. [187] [188]
To be emotionally sincere.* [147]

To be fruitful and multiply.* [198] (Genesis 1:28)

To be responsible.* [147]

To obtain freedom (Romans 8:20-21)

To be honorable.* [147]

To ll the Earth and subdue it.* [198] (Genesis 1:28)

To seek peace.* [147]

mankind,* [199]
to meet
[200] and become more like
God,* [201]* [202]* [203]* [204] to choose good
over evil,* [205] and have joy * [206]* [207]

Meanings relating to religion

To worship God and enter heaven in afterlife.* [189] To love, to feel, to enjoy the act of living
To reach the highest heaven and be at the heart of
the Divine.* [190]

To love more.* [145]

To have a pure soul and experience God.* [147]

To love those who mean the most. Every life you

touch will touch you back.* [145]

To understand the mystery of God.* [153]

To know or attain union with God.* [191]* [192]
To know oneself, know others, and know the will of
heaven.* [193]
To love something bigger, greater, and beyond ourselves, something we did not create or have the
power to create, something intangible and made
holy by our very belief in it.* [145]

To treasure every enjoyable sensation one has.* [145]

To seek beauty in all its forms.* [145]
To have fun or enjoy life.* [153]* [185]
To seek pleasure* [147] and avoid pain.* [208]
To be compassionate.* [147]

To love God* [191] and all of his creations.* [194]

To be moved by the tears and pain of others, and try

to help them out of love and compassion.* [145]

To glorify God by enjoying him forever.* [98]* [195]

To love others as best we possibly can.* [145]



I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast 0.11.8

cars. The rest I wasted.footballer George Best
YOLO You only live once; popular 2010s saying
to live life to the fullest
To eat, drink, and be merry.* [209]

See also

0.11.9 References
[1] Jonathan Westphal (1998). Philosophical Propositions:
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[2] Robert Nozick (1981). Philosophical Explanations. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-66479-5.

To have power, to be better

To strive for power* [63] and superiority.* [208]
To rule the world.* [154]
To know and master the world. [196] [210]

To know and master nature.* [211]

Life has no meaning
Life or human existence has no real meaning or purpose because human existence occurred out of a random chance in nature, and anything that exists by
chance has no intended purpose.* [173]
Life has no meaning, but as humans we try to associate a meaning or purpose so we can justify our
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responsible.* [212]
Life is bad
Better never to have been.* [213]
See also Vale of tears

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[170] Ernest Joseph Simmons (1973). Tolstoy. Routledge. [187] John Caunt (2002). Boost Your Self-Esteem. Kogan Page.
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the Christian Soul. Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59781-596-9.
ISBN 0-8058-0425-0.
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Practice (Proceedings of the International Seminar on
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[194] John T. Scully (2007). The Five Commandments. Traord
[175] Lucy Costigan (2004). What Is the Meaning of Your Life:
Publishing. ISBN 1-4251-1910-7.
A Journey Towards Ultimate Meaning. iUniverse. ISBN
[195] John Piper (2006). Desiring God. Multnomah Books.
ISBN 1-59052-119-6.
[176] Steven L. Jeers; Harold Ivan Smith (2007). Finding a
Sacred Oasis in Grief: A Resource Manual for Pastoral [196] (Matthew 28:18-20)
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[197] (Micah 6:8)
[177] David L. Jerey (1992). A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. [198] Thomas Patrick Burke (2004). The Major Religions: An
Introduction with Texts. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1ISBN 0-8028-3634-8.
[178] Dana A. Williams (2005). In the Light of Likeness[199] Book of Mormon: Mosiah 2:17. March 1830. And betransformed": The Literary Art of Leon Forrest. Ohio
hold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that
State University Press. ISBN 0-8142-0994-7.
ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow
beings ye are only in the service of your God.
[179] Jerry Z. Muller (1997). Conservatism: An Anthology
of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the [200] Book of Mormon: Alma 32:32. March 1830. For behold,
Present. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03711this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea,
behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform
their labors.
[180] Mary Nash; Bruce Stewart (2002). Spirituality and Social
Care: Contributing to Personal and Community Well-being. [201] Holy Bible: Genesis 3:22. And the Lord God said, Behold,
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the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil...
[181] Xinzhong Yao (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. [202] Holy Bible: Matthew 5:48. Be ye therefore perfect, even
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64430-5.
as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
[182] Bryan S. Turner; Chris Rojek (2001). Society and Cul- [203] Pearl of Great Price: Book of Moses 1:37-39. June 1830.
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: ... For beture: Principles of Scarcity and Solidarity. SAGE. ISBN
hold, this is my work and my gloryto bring to pass the
immortality and eternal life of man.
[183] Anil Goonewardene (1994). Buddhist Scriptures. Har[204] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow.
court Heinemann. ISBN 0-435-30355-4.
Lorenzo Snow. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
[184] Luc Ferry (2002). Man Made God: The Meaning of Life.
Saints. 2011 [1884]. p. 83. As man now is, God once
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was: As God now is, man may be.


[205] Book of Mormon: Alma 29:5. March 1830. Yea, and I

know that good and evil have come before all men; he
that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that
knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his
desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy
or remorse of conscience.
[206] Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 2:25. March 1830. Adam fell
that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

It is found that anything that can go wrong
at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later,
so it is not to be wondered that owners prefer
the safe to the scientic .... Sucient stress can
hardly be laid on the advantages of simplicity.
The human factor cannot be safely neglected
in planning machinery. If attention is to be obtained, the engine must be such that the engineer will be disposed to attend to it.* [1]

[207] Pearl of Great Price: Book of Moses 5:11. JuneOctober

1830. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was
glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never
should have had seed, and never should have known good
and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal
life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

Mathematician Augustus De Morgan wrote on June 23,

1866:* [2]The rst experiment already illustrates a truth
of the theory, well conrmed by practice, what-ever can
happen will happen if we make trials enough.In later
publications whatever can happen will happenocca[208] T. W. Mitchell (1927). Problems in Psychopathology. sionally is termedMurphy's law,which raises the posHarcourt, Brace & company, inc.
sibilityif something went wrongthat Murphyis
Morganmisremembered (an option, among oth[209] scribe. Bible.
ers, raised by Goranson on American Dialect Society
[210] Steven Dillon (2006). The Solaris Eect: Art and Arti- list).* [3]
ce in Contemporary American Film. University of Texas
Press. ISBN 0-292-71345-2.

American Dialect Society member Bill Mullins has found

a slightly broader version of the aphorism in reference to
[211] Raymond Aron (2000). The Century of Total War. Wis- stage magic. The British stage magician Nevil Maskelyne
wrote in 1908:
dom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-173-4.
[212] Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl. Beacon Press,
2006, ISBN 978-0-8070-1426-4
[213] Benatar, David (2006). Better Never to Have Been - The
Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford University Press.
p. 237. ISBN 0-19-929642-1.


External links

It is an experience common to all men to

nd that, on any special occasion, such as the
production of a magical eect for the rst time
in public, everything that can go wrong will go
wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the
malignity of matter or to the total depravity of
inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is
hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.* [4]

Meaning of Life: The Analytic Perspective article

The contemporary form of Murphy's law goes back as far
in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
as 1952, as an epigraph to a mountaineering book by John
Sack, who described it as an ancient mountaineering

0.12 Murphy's law

For other uses, see Murphy's law (disambiguation).

Not to be confused with Muphry's law.

Anything that can possibly go wrong,

does.* [5]

Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of the Yale Book of QuotaMurphy's law is an adage or epigram that is typically tions, has shown that in 1952 the adage was calledMurstated as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
phy's lawin a book by Anne Roe, quoting an unnamed



The perceived perversity of the universe has long been a

subject of comment, and precursors to the modern version of Murphy's law are not hard to nd. Recent signicant research in this area has been conducted by members
of the American Dialect Society. ADS member Stephen
Goranson has found a version of the law, not yet generalized or bearing that name, in a report by Alfred Holt at
an 1877 meeting of an engineering society.

he described [it] as Murphy's law or the

fourth law of thermodynamics(actually there
were only three last I heard) which states: If
anything can go wrong, it will.* [6]
In May 1951,* [7] Anne Roe gives a transcript of an interview (part of a Thematic Apperception Test, asking
impressions on a photograph) with Theoretical Physicist
number 3: "...As for himself he realized that this was the



inexorable working of the second law of the thermodynamics which stated Murphy's law If anything can go
wrong it will.Anne Roe's papers are in the American Philosophical Society archives in Philadelphia; those
records (as noted by Stephen Goranson on the American
Dialect Society list 12/31/2008) identify the interviewed
physicist as Howard Percy BobRobertson (1903
1961). Robertson's papers are at the Caltech archives;
there, in a letter Robertson oers Roe an interview within
the rst three months of 1949 (as noted by Goranson on
American Dialect Society list 5/9/2009). The Robertson
interview apparently predated the Muroc scenario said by
Nick Spark (American Aviation Historical Society Journal
48 (2003) p. 169) to have occurred in or after June, 1949.
The nameMurphy's lawwas not immediately secure.
A story by Lee Correy in the February 1955 issue of
Astounding Science Fiction referred to Reilly's law,
which states that in any scientic or engineering endeavor, anything that can go wrong will go wrong.* [8]
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss was Cover of A History of Murphy's Law
quoted in the Chicago Daily Tribune on February 12,
1955, saying I hope it will be known as Strauss' law. It
could be stated about like this: If anything bad can hap- by Dr. John Stapp, a U.S. Air Force colonel and Flight
pen, it probably will.* [9]
Surgeon in the 1950s. These conicts (a long running inArthur Bloch, in the rst volume (1977) of his Murphy's terpersonal feud) were unreported until Spark researched
Law, and Other Reasons Why Things Go WRONG series, the matter. His book expands upon and documents an
prints a letter that he received from George E. Nichols, a original four part article published in 2003 (Annals of Im*
quality assurance manager with the Jet Propulsion Labo- probable Research (AIR) [11]) on the controversy: Why
ratory. Nichols recalled an event that occurred in 1949 at Everything You Know About Murphy's Law is Wrong.
Edwards Air Force Base, Muroc, California that, accord- From 1948 to 1949, Stapp headed research project
ing to him, is the origination of Murphy's law, and rst MX981 at Muroc Army Air Field (later renamed
publicly recounted by USAF Col. John Paul Stapp. An Edwards Air Force Base)* [12] for the purpose of testing
excerpt from the letter reads:
the human tolerance for g-forces during rapid deceleraThe law's namesake was Capt. Ed Murphy,
a development engineer from Wright Field Aircraft Lab. Frustration with a strap transducer
which was malfunctioning due to an error in
wiring the strain gage bridges caused him to
remark If there is any way to do it wrong,
he will referring to the technician who had
wired the bridges at the Lab. I assigned Murphy's law to the statement and the associated
variations.* [10]


Association with Murphy

According to the book A History of Murphy's Law by author Nick T. Spark, diering recollections years later by
various participants make it impossible to pinpoint who
rst coined the saying Murphy's law. The law's name supposedly stems from an attempt to use new measurement
devices developed by the eponymous Edward Murphy.
The phrase was coined in adverse reaction to something
Murphy said when his devices failed to perform and was
eventually cast into its present form prior to a press conference some months later the rst ever (of many) given

tion. The tests used a rocket sled mounted on a railroad

track with a series of hydraulic brakes at the end. Initial tests used a humanoid crash test dummy strapped to
a seat on the sled, but subsequent tests were performed
by Stapp, at that time an Air Force captain. During the
tests, questions were raised about the accuracy of the instrumentation used to measure the g-forces Captain Stapp
was experiencing. Edward Murphy proposed using electronic strain gauges attached to the restraining clamps of
Stapp's harness to measure the force exerted on them by
his rapid deceleration. Murphy was engaged in supporting similar research using high speed centrifuges to generate g-forces. Murphy's assistant wired the harness, and
a trial was run using a chimpanzee.
The sensors provided a zero reading; however, it became
apparent that they had been installed incorrectly, with
each sensor wired backwards. It was at this point that a
disgusted Murphy made his pronouncement, despite being oered the time and chance to calibrate and test the
sensor installation prior to the test proper, which he declined somewhat irritably, getting o on the wrong foot
with the MX981 team. In an interview conducted by
Nick Spark, George Nichols, another engineer who was
present, stated that Murphy blamed the failure on his as-


sistant after the failed test, saying, If that guy has any
way of making a mistake, he will.Nichols' account is that
Murphy's lawcame about through conversation among
the other members of the team; it was condensed to If
it can happen, it will happen,and named for Murphy in
mockery of what Nichols perceived as arrogance on Murphy's part. Others, including Edward Murphy's surviving
son Robert Murphy, deny Nichols' account (which is supported by Hill, both interviewed by Spark), and claim that
the phrase did originate with Edward Murphy. According
to Robert Murphy's account, his father's statement was
along the lines of If there's more than one way to do a
job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then he
will do it that way.

things go wrong!,* [15]
There have been persistent references to Murphy's law associating it with the laws of thermodynamics right from
the very beginning (see the quotation from Anne Roe's
book above).* [6] In particular, Murphy's law is often
cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the
law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to
a more disorganised state.* [16]
The Law of truly large numbers is similar to Murphy's
Law. It states that with a sample size large enough, any
outrageous thing is likely to happen.

Yphrum's law, where the name is spelled backwards, is

anything that can go right, will go rightthe optimistic
The phrase rst received public attention during a press application of Murphy's law in reverse.
conference in which Stapp was asked how it was that nobody had been severely injured during the rocket sled
tests. Stapp replied that it was because they always took 0.12.4 See also
Murphy's law under consideration; he then summarized
Conrmation bias
the law and said that in general, it meant that it was important to consider all the possibilities (possible things that
Finagle's law
could go wrong) before doing a test and act to counter
Hanlon's razor
them. Thus Stapp's usage and Murphy's alleged usage are
very dierent in outlook and attitude. One is sour, the
Hindsight bias
other an armation of the predictable being surmountable, usually by sucient planning and redundancy. Hill
Hofstadter's law
and Nichols believe Murphy was unwilling to take the
Innite monkey theorem
responsibility for the device's initial failure (by itself a
blip of no large signicance) and is to be doubly damned
Laws of infernal dynamics
for not allowing the MX981 team time to validate the
List of eponymous laws
sensor's operability and for trying to blame an underling
when doing so in the embarrassing aftermath.
Muphry's law
The association with the 1948 incident is by no means se Parkinson's law
cure. Despite extensive research, no trace of documentation of the saying as Murphy's law has been found before
1951 (see above). The next citations are not found until
1955, when the MayJune issue of Aviation Mechanics
Precautionary principle
Bulletin included the line Murphy's law: If an aircraft
Segal's law
part can be installed incorrectly, someone will install it
that way, [13] and Lloyd Mallan's book, Men, Rockets
Shit happens
and Space Rats, referred to: Colonel Stapp's favorite
Sod's law
takeo on sober scientic laws Murphy's law, Stapp
calls it'Everything that can possibly go wrong will go
wrong'.The Mercury astronauts in 1962 attributed Mur*
phy's law to U.S. Navy training lms. [13]
Unintended consequences


Other variations on Murphy's law

0.12.5 References

From its initial public announcement, Murphy's law

quickly spread to various technical cultures connected
to aerospace engineering.* [14] Before long, variants had
passed into the popular imagination, changing as they

[1] Holt, Alfred. Review of the Progress of Steam Shipping during the last Quarter of a Century,Minutes of
Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Vol. LI,
Session 187778Part I, at 2, 8 (November 13, 1877
session, published 1878)". Listserv.linguistlist.org. 200710-10. Retrieved 2012-04-19.

Author Arthur Bloch has compiled a number of books

full of corollaries to Murphy's law and variations thereof.
The rst of these was Murphy's law and other reasons why

[2]Supplement to the Budget of Paradoxes,The

Athenaeum no. 2017 page 836 col. 2 [and later reprints:
e.g. 1872, 1915, 1956, 2000]



[3] LISTSERV 16.0. Listserv.linguistlist.org. Retrieved

[4] Maskelyne, Nevil. The Art In Magic, ''The Magic
Circular'', June 1908, p. 25. Listserv.linguistlist.org.
Retrieved 2012-04-19.
[5] Sack, John. The Butcher: The Ascent of Yerupaja epigraph
(1952), reprinted in Shapiro, Fred R., ed., The Yale Book
of Quotations 529 (2006).

0.12.7 External links

A collection of humorous Murphy's laws
1952 proverb citation
1955 term citation of phrase Murphy's law
Examples of the mathematical formula for Murphy's

[6] Roe, Anne, ''The Making of a Scientist'' 4647 (1952,

1953)". Listserv.linguistlist.org. Retrieved 2012-04-19.

Murphy's law entry in the Jargon File

[7] Genetic Psychology Monographs volume 43, page 204

Murphy's Law of Combat

[8] "''Astounding Science-Fiction'', February 1955, p. 54.

Listserv.linguistlist.org. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
[9] "''Chicago Daily Tribune'', February 12, 1955, p. 5.
Listserv.linguistlist.org. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
[10] Bloch, Arthur (1980 edition). Murphy's Law, and
Other Reasons Why Things Go WRONG, Los Angeles:
Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-8431-0428-7,
pp. 4-5

Murphy's Law's Origin

Reference to 1941 citation of the proverb
The Annals of Improbable Research tracks down the
origins of Murphy's law

0.13 Occam's razor

[11] The Fastest Man on Earth Improbable Research

[12] Rogers Dry Lake National Historic Landmark at National Park Service

For the aerial theatre company, see Ockham's Razor Theatre Company.
Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor and in

[13] Shapiro, Fred R., ed., The Yale Book of Quotations 529
[14] Jargon File Murphy's law. Catb.org. Retrieved 201204-19.
[15] Bloch, Arthur (1977). Murphy's law and other reasons
why things go wrong!. Methuen. ASIN B001P0CURK.
ISBN 0-8431-0428-7.
[16] Robert D. Handscombe, Eann A. Patterson, The Entropy
Vector: Connecting Science and Business, p134, World
Scientic, 2004, ISBN 981-238-571-1.



Nick T. Spark (2006-05-21). A History of Murphy's

Law. Periscope Film. ISBN 0-9786388-9-1.

The motions of the sun, moon and other solar system planets can

Paul Dickson (1981-05-18).Murphy's law. The be calculated using a geocentric model (the earth is at the center)
Ocial Rules. Arrow Books. pp. 128137. ISBN or using a heliocentric model (the sun is at the center). Both work,
but the geocentric system requires many more assumptions than
the heliocentric system, which has only seven. This was pointed

Klipstein, D. L. (August 1967). The Contribu- out in a preface to Copernicus' rst edition of De revolutionibus
tions of Edsel Murphy to the Understanding of the orbium coelestium.
Behaviour of Inanimate Objects. EEE Magazine
Latin lex parsimoniae, which means 'law of parsimony') is
a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ock Matthews, R A J (1995). Tumbling toast,
ham (c. 12871347), who was an English Franciscan
Murphy's Law and the Fundamental Constants
friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The prin. European Journal of Physics 16 (4): 172176.
ciple states that among competing hypotheses that predict
Bibcode:1995EJPh...16..172M. doi:10.1088/0143equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should
Why toasted bread lands
be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ulbuttered-side-down.
timately prove to provide better predictions, butin the
Matthews received the Ig Nobel Prize for physics in absence of dierences in predictive abilitythe fewer as1996 for this work (see list).
sumptions that are made, the better.



The application of the principle can be used to shift the

burden of proof in a discussion. However, Alan Baker,
who suggests this in the online Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy, is careful to point out that his suggestion should not be taken generally, but only as it applies in a particular context, that is: philosophers who
argue in opposition to metaphysical theories that involve
allegedly superuous ontological apparatus.* [loweralpha 1] Baker then notices that principles, including Oc- Part of a page from Duns Scotus' book Ordinatio: "Pluralitas
non est ponenda sine necessitate", i.e., Plurality is not to be
cam's razor, are often expressed in a way that is not clear
posited without necessity
regarding which facet of simplicityparsimony or
elegance is being referred to, and that in a hypothetical
formulation the facets of simplicity may work in dierent directions: a simpler description may refer to a more
complex hypothesis, and a more complex description may
refer to a simpler hypothesis.* [lower-alpha 2]
philosophers such as John Duns Scotus (12651308),
inference Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253), Maimonides (Moses
is a mathematically formalized Occam's ra- ben-Maimon, 11381204), and even Aristotle (384322
zor:* [2]* [3]* [4]* [5]* [6]* [7] shorter computable theories BC).* [14]* [15] Aristotle writes in his Posterior Analythave more weight when calculating the probability of the ics, we may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all
next observation, using all computable theories which things being equal] of the demonstration which derives
perfectly describe previous observations.
from fewer postulates or hypotheses.* [16] Ptolemy (c.
In science, Occam's razor is used as a heuristic (discov- AD 90 c. AD 168) stated,We consider it a good prinery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theo- ciple to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis
retical models rather than as an arbiter between published possible. [17]
models. [8] [9] In the scientic method, Occam's razor is Phrases such as It is vain to do with more what can be
not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scien- done with fewerand A plurality is not to be posited
tic result; the preference for simplicity in the scientic without necessitywere commonplace in 13th-century
method is based on the falsiability criterion. For each scholastic writing.* [17] Robert Grosseteste, in Commenaccepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always tary on [Aristotle's] the Posterior Analytics Books (Coman innite number of possible and more complex alterna- mentarius in Posteriorum Analyticorum Libros) (c. 1217
tives, because one can always burden failing explanations 1220), declares: That is better and more valuable
with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being fal- which requires fewer, other circumstances being equal...
sied; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more For if one thing were demonstrated from many and ancomplex ones because they are better testable and falsi- other thing from fewer equally known premises, clearly
able.* [1]* [10]* [11]
that is better which is from fewer because it makes us



The term Occam's Razorrst appeared in 1852 in

the works of Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet (1788
1856), centuries after William of Ockham's death in
1347.* [12] Ockham did not invent this razor"; its association with him may be due to the frequency and effectiveness with which he used it (Ariew 1976). Ockham stated the principle in various ways, but the most
popular version entities must not be multiplied beyond
necessity(Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate)
was formulated by the Irish Franciscan philosopher John
Punch in his 1639 commentary on the works of Duns
Scotus.* [13]
Formulations before Ockham

know quickly, just as a universal demonstration is better than particular because it produces knowledge from
fewer premises. Similarly in natural science, in moral science, and in metaphysics the best is that which needs no
premises and the better that which needs the fewer, other
circumstances being equal.* [18] The Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas (12251274) states that it is
superuous to suppose that what can be accounted for by
a few principles has been produced by many. Aquinas
uses this principle to construct an objection to God's existence, an objection that he in turn answers and refutes
generally (cf. quinque viae), and specically, through an
argument based on causality.* [19] Hence, Aquinas acknowledges the principle that today is known as Occam's
Razor, but prefers causal explanations to other simple explanations (cf. also Correlation does not imply causation).

The Indian Hindu philosopher Madhva in verse 400 of his

Vishnu-Tattva-Nirnaya says: "dvidhAkalpane kalpanAThe origins of what has come to be known as Oc- gauravamiti" (To make two suppositions when one is
cam's Razor are traceable to the works of earlier enough is to err by way of excessive supposition).




theory is a mathematical formalization of Occam's Razor.* [2]* [3]* [4]* [5]* [28]

William of Ockham (c. 12871347) was an English

Franciscan friar and theologian, an inuential medieval
philosopher and a nominalist. His popular fame as a great
logician rests chiey on the maxim attributed to him and
known as Ockham's razor. The term razor refers to distinguishing between two hypotheses either by shaving
awayunnecessary assumptions or cutting apart two similar conclusions.

Another technical approach to Occam's Razor is

ontological parsimony.* [29]

While it has been claimed that Ockham's razor is not

found in any of his writings,* [20] one can cite statements
such as Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate
[Plurality must never be posited without necessity], which
occurs in his theological work on the 'Sentences of Peter Lombard' (Quaestiones et decisiones in quattuor libros
Sententiarum Petri Lombardi (ed. Lugd., 1495), i, dist.
27, qu. 2, K).

Beginning in the 20th century, epistemological justications based on induction, logic, pragmatism, and especially probability theory have become more popular
among philosophers.

Nevertheless, the precise words sometimes attributed to

Ockham, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity),* [21] are absent in his extant works;* [22] this particular phrasing owes more to John Punch,* [23] who described the principle as acommon axiom(axioma vulgare) of the Scholastics.* [13] Indeed, Ockham's contribution seems to be to restrict the operation of this principle in matters pertaining to miracles and God's power:
so, in the Eucharist, a plurality of miracles is possible,
simply because it pleases God.* [17]

Prior to the 20th century, it was a commonly held belief

that nature itself was simple and that simpler hypotheses
about nature were thus more likely to be true. This notion
was deeply rooted in the aesthetic value simplicity holds
for human thought and the justications presented for it
often drew from theology. Thomas Aquinas made this
argument in the 13th century, writing,If a thing can be
done adequately by means of one, it is superuous to do it
by means of several; for we observe that nature does not
employ two instruments [if] one suces.* [30]

This principle is sometimes phrased as pluralitas non est

ponenda sine necessitate (plurality should not be posited
without necessity).* [24] In his Summa Totius Logicae,
i. 12, Ockham cites the principle of economy, Frustra
t per plura quod potest eri per pauciora [It is futile to
do with more things that which can be done with fewer].
(Thorburn, 1918, pp. 3523; Kneale and Kneale, 1962,
p. 243.)


The widespread layperson's formulation that the simplest explanation is usually the correct oneis akin.

0.13.2 Justications


Occam's Razor has gained strong empirical support as far

as helping to converge on better theories (see Applicationssection below for some examples).

In the related concept of overtting, excessively complex

models are aected by statistical noise (a problem also
known as the bias-variance trade-o), whereas simpler
models may capture the underlying structure better and
may thus have better predictive performance. It is, howLater formulations
ever, often dicult to deduce which part of the data is
noise (cf. model selection, test set, minimum description
To quote Isaac Newton,We are to admit no more causes length, Bayesian inference, etc.).
of natural things than such as are both true and sucient
to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural eects we must, so far as possible, assign the same Testing the razor The razor's statement that other
things being equal, simpler explanations are generally
causes.* [25]* [26]
better than more complex onesis amenable to empirBertrand Russell oers a particular version of Occam's ical testing. Another interpretation of the razor's stateRazor: Whenever possible, substitute constructions out ment would be thatsimpler hypotheses (not conclusions,
of known entities for inferences to unknown entities. i.e. explanations) are generally better than the complex
ones. The procedure to test the former interpretation
Around 1960, Ray Solomono founded the theory of would compare the track records of simple and comparauniversal inductive inference, the theory of prediction tively complex explanations. If you accept the rst interbased on observations; for example, predicting the next pretation, the validity of Occam's Razor as a tool would
symbol based upon a given series of symbols. The only then have to be rejected if the more complex explanations
assumption is that the environment follows some un- were more often correct than the less complex ones (while
known but computable probability distribution. This the converse would lend support to its use). If the latter



interpretation is accepted, the validity of Occam's Razor with that, too) successfully prevent outright falsication.
as a tool could possibly be accepted if the simpler hy- This endless supply of elaborate competing explanations,
potheses led to correct conclusions more often than not. called saving hypotheses, cannot be ruled outbut by using Occam's Razor.* [31]* [32]* [33]

Practical considerations and pragmatism

See also: pragmatism and problem of induction
The common form of the razor, used to distinguish between equally explanatory hypotheses, may be supported
by the practical fact that simpler theories are easier to understand.
Some argue that Occam's Razor is not an inferencedriven model, but a heuristic maxim for choosing among
other models and instead underlies induction.

Possible explanations can become needlessly complex. It is coherent, for instance, to add the involvement of leprechauns to
any explanation, but Occam's Razor would prevent such additions unless they were necessary.

In the history of competing hypotheses, the simpler hypotheses have led to mathematically rigorous and empirically veriable theories. In the history of competing explanations, this is not the caseat least not generally. Some increases in complexity are sometimes necessary. So there remains a justied general bias toward
the simpler of two competing explanations. To understand why, consider that for each accepted explanation
of a phenomenon, there is always an innite number of
possible, more complex, and ultimately incorrect, alternatives. This is so because one can always burden failing
explanations with ad hoc hypothesis. Ad hoc hypotheses
are justications that prevent theories from being falsied. Even other empirical criteria, such as consilience,
can never truly eliminate such explanations as competition. Each true explanation, then, may have had many
alternatives that were simpler and false, but also an innite number of alternatives that were more complex and
false. But if an alternate ad hoc hypothesis were indeed
justiable, its implicit conclusions would be empirically
veriable. On a commonly accepted repeatability principle, these alternate theories have never been observed
and continue to escape observation. In addition, we do
not say an explanation is true if it has not withstood this
Put another way, any new, and even more complex, theory can still possibly be true. For example, if an individual makes supernatural claims that Leprechauns were
responsible for breaking a vase, the simpler explanation
would be that he is mistaken, but ongoing ad hoc justications (e.g. and that's not me on the lm; they tampered

Alternatively, if we want to have reasonable discussion

we may be practically forced to accept Occam's Razor
in the same way we are simply forced to accept the laws
of thought and inductive reasoning (given the problem of
induction). Philosopher Elliott Sober states that not even
reason itself can be justied on any reasonable grounds,
and that we must start with rst principles of some kind
(otherwise an innite regress occurs).
The pragmatist may go on, as David Hume did on the
topic of induction, that there is no satisfying alternative
to granting this premise. Though one may claim that
Occam's Razor is invalid as a premise helping to regulate theories, putting this doubt into practice would mean
doubting whether every step forward will result in locomotion or a nuclear explosion. In other words still:
What's the alternative?"

One justication of Occam's Razor is a direct result of
basic probability theory. By denition, all assumptions
introduce possibilities for error; if an assumption does
not improve the accuracy of a theory, its only eect is to
increase the probability that the overall theory is wrong.
There have also been other attempts to derive Occam's
Razor from probability theory, including notable attempts made by Harold Jereys and E. T. Jaynes. The
probabilistic (Bayesian) basis for Occam's Razor is elaborated by David J. C. MacKay in chapter 28 of his
book Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms,* [34] where he emphasises that a prior bias in
favour of simpler models is not required.
William H. Jeerys (no relation to Harold Jereys) and
James O. Berger (1991) generalize and quantify the original formulation's assumptionsconcept as the degree
to which a proposition is unnecessarily accommodating
to possible observable data.* [35] They state a hypothesis with fewer adjustable parameters will automatically



have an enhanced posterior probability, due to the fact

that the predictions it makes are sharp.* [35] The model
they propose balances the precision of a theory's predictions against their sharpness; theories which sharply
made their correct predictions are preferred over theories which would have accommodated a wide range of
other possible results. This, again, reects the mathematical relationship between key concepts in Bayesian inference (namely marginal probability, conditional probability, and posterior probability).
Other philosophers

for truth.
Swinburne 1997

According to Swinburne, since our choice of theory cannot be determined by data (see Underdetermination and
Quine-Duhem thesis), we must rely on some criterion to
determine which theory to use. Since it is absurd to have
no logical method by which to settle on one hypothesis
amongst an innite number of equally data-compliant hypotheses, we should choose the simplest theory: either
science is irrational [in the way it judges theories and predictions probable] or the principle of simplicity is a fundamental synthetic a priori truth(Swinburne 1997).

Karl Popper Karl Popper argues that a preference for

simple theories need not appeal to practical or aesthetic
considerations. Our preference for simplicity may be jus- Ludwig Wittgenstein From the Tractatus Logicotied by its falsiability criterion: we prefer simpler the- Philosophicus:
ories to more complex ones because their empirical
content is greater; and because they are better testable 3.328 If a sign is not necessary then it is meaning(Popper 1992). The idea here is that a simple theory apless. That is the meaning of Occam's Razor.
plies to more cases than a more complex one, and is thus
more easily falsiable. This is again comparing a simple
(If everything in the symbolism works as
theory to a more complex theory where both explain the
though a sign had meaning, then it has meandata equally well.

Elliott Sober The philosopher of science Elliott Sober

4.04 In the proposition there must be exactly as
once argued along the same lines as Popper, tying simmany things distinguishable as there are in the state
plicity with informativeness": The simplest theory is
of aairs which it represents. They must both posthe more informative one, in the sense that less informasess the same logical (mathematical) multiplicity
tion is required in order to answer one's questions.* [36]
(cf. Hertz's Mechanics, on Dynamic Models).
He has since rejected this account of simplicity, purport 5.47321 Occam's Razor is, of course, not an arbiedly because it fails to provide an epistemic justication
trary rule nor one justied by its practical success.
for simplicity. He now believes that simplicity considIt simply says that unnecessary elements in a symerations (and considerations of parsimony in particular)
bolism mean nothing. Signs which serve one purdo not count unless they reect something more fundapose are logically equivalent; signs which serve no
mental. Philosophers, he suggests, may have made the
purpose are logically meaningless.
error of hypostatizing simplicity (i.e. endowed it with a
sui generis existence), when it has meaning only when embedded in a specic context (Sober 1992). If we fail to and on the related concept of simplicity":
justify simplicity considerations on the basis of the context in which we make use of them, we may have no non 6.363 The procedure of induction consists in acceptcircular justication: just as the question 'why be ratioing as true the simplest law that can be reconciled
nal?' may have no non-circular answer, the same may be
with our experiences.
true of the question 'why should simplicity be considered
in evaluating the plausibility of hypotheses?'".* [37]

0.13.3 Applications
Richard Swinburne Richard Swinburne argues for Science and the scientic method
simplicity on logical grounds:
... the simplest hypothesis proposed as
an explanation of phenomena is more likely
to be the true one than is any other available
hypothesis, that its predictions are more likely
to be true than those of any other available
hypothesis, and that it is an ultimate a priori
epistemic principle that simplicity is evidence

In science, Occam's Razor is used as a heuristic (rule

of thumb) to guide scientists in developing theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published
models.* [8]* [9] In physics, parsimony was an important
heuristic in Albert Einstein's formulation of special relativity,* [38]* [39] in the development and application of
the principle of least action by Pierre Louis Maupertuis and Leonhard Euler,* [40] and in the development of



quantum mechanics by Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg used Occam's Razor logic to formulate the quantum hyand Louis de Broglie.* [9]* [41]
pothesis, even resisting that hypothesis as it became more
In chemistry, Occam's Razor is often an important obvious that it was correct. [9]
heuristic when developing a model of a reaction mechanism.* [42]* [43] Although it is useful as a heuristic in
developing models of reaction mechanisms, it has been
shown to fail as a criterion for selecting among some
selected published models.* [9] In this context, Einstein
himself expressed caution when he formulated Einstein's
Constraint: It can scarcely be denied that the supreme
goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to
surrender the adequate representation of a single datum
of experience. An often-quoted version of this constraint (which cannot be veried as posited by Einstein
himself)* [44] saysEverything should be kept as simple
as possible, but no simpler.
In the scientic method, parsimony is an epistemological,
metaphysical or heuristic preference, not an irrefutable
principle of logic or a scientic result.* [1]* [10]* [45] As
a logical principle, Occam's Razor would demand that
scientists accept the simplest possible theoretical explanation for existing data. However, science has shown repeatedly that future data often support more complex theories than do existing data. Science prefers the simplest
explanation that is consistent with the data available at a
given time, but the simplest explanation may be ruled out
as new data become available.* [8]* [10] That is, science is
open to the possibility that future experiments might support more complex theories than demanded by current
data and is more interested in designing experiments to
discriminate between competing theories than favoring
one theory over another based merely on philosophical
principles.* [1]* [10]* [11]

Appeals to simplicity were used to argue against the phenomena of meteorites, ball lightning, continental drift,
and reverse transcriptase. One can argue for atomic
building blocks for matter, because it provides a simpler
explanation for the observed reversibility of both mixing and chemical reactions as simple separation and rearrangements of atomic building blocks. At the time,
however, the atomic theory was considered more complex because it implied the existence of invisible particles which had not been directly detected. Ernst Mach
and the logical positivists rejected the atomic theory of
John Dalton until the reality of atoms was more evident
in Brownian motion, as shown by Albert Einstein.* [47]
In the same way, postulating the aether is more complex
than transmission of light through a vacuum. At the time,
however, all known waves propagated through a physical medium, and it seemed simpler to postulate the existence of a medium than to theorize about wave propagation without a medium. Likewise, Newton's idea of light
particles seemed simpler than Christiaan Huygens's idea
of waves, so many favored it. In this case, as it turned out,
neither the wave nor the particle explanation alone
suces, as light behaves like waves and like particles.

Three axioms presupposed by the scientic method are

realism (the existence of objective reality), the existence
of natural laws, and the constancy of natural law. Rather
than depend on provability of these axioms, science depends on the fact that they have not been objectively falsied. Occam's Razor and parsimony support, but do not
prove, these axioms of science. The general principle of
science is that theories (or models) of natural law must
When scientists use the idea of parsimony, it has meaning be consistent with repeatable experimental observations.
criterion) rests upon the
only in a very specic context of inquiry. Several back- This ultimate arbiter (selection
ground assumptions are required for parsimony to connect with plausibility in a particular research problem. There are examples where Occam's Razor would have faThe reasonableness of parsimony in one research context vored the wrong theory given the available data. Simmay have nothing to do with its reasonableness in another. plicity principles are useful philosophical preferences for
It is a mistake to think that there is a single global princi- choosing a more likely theory from among several possiple that spans diverse subject matter.* [11]
bilities that are all consistent with available data. A single
It has been suggested that Occam's Razor is a widely instance of Occam's Razor favoring a* wrong theory falas a general principle. [10] Michael Lee
accepted example of extraevidential consideration, even sies the razor
and others* [48] provide cases in which a parsimonious
though it is entirely a metaphysical assumption. There is
little empirical evidence that the world is actually simple approach does not guarantee a correct conclusion and, if
based on incorrect working hypotheses or interpretations
or that simple accounts are more likely to be true than
of incomplete data, may even strongly support a false concomplex ones.* [46]
clusion. Lee states, When parsimony ceases to be a
Most of the time, Occam's Razor is a conservative tool, guideline and is instead elevated to an ex cathedra procutting out crazy, complicated constructions and assuring nouncement, parsimony analysis ceases to be science.
that hypotheses are grounded in the science of the day,
thus yielding normalscience: models of explanation If multiple models of natural law make exactly the same
and prediction. There are, however, notable exceptions testable predictions, they are equivalent and there is no
where Occam's Razor turns a conservative scientist into need for parsimony to choose a preferred one. For exa reluctant revolutionary. For example, Max Planck in- ample, Newtonian, Hamiltonian and Lagrangian classiterpolated between the Wien and Jeans radiation laws and cal mechanics are equivalent. Physicists have no interest

in using Occam's Razor to say the other two are wrong.
Likewise, there is no demand for simplicity principles to
arbitrate between wave and matrix formulations of quantum mechanics. Science often does not demand arbitration or selection criteria between models that make the
same testable predictions.* [10]

Biologists or philosophers of biology use Occam's Razor in either of two contexts both in evolutionary biology: the units of selection controversy and systematics.
George C. Williams in his book Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966) argues that the best way to explain
altruism among animals is based on low level (i.e. individual) selection as opposed to high level group selection.
Altruism is dened by some evolutionary biologists (e.g.
R. Alexander, 1987; W. D. Hamilton, 1964) as behavior that is benecial to others (or to the group) at a cost
to the individual, and many posit individual selection as
the mechanism which explains altruism solely in terms
of the behaviors of individual organisms acting in their
own self-interest (or in the interest of their genes, via kin
selection). Williams was arguing against the perspective
of others who propose selection at the level of the group
as an evolutionary mechanism that selects for altruistic
traits (e.g. D. S. Wilson & E. O. Wilson, 2007). The basis for Williams' contention is that of the two, individual
selection is the more parsimonious theory. In doing so he
is invoking a variant of Occam's Razor known as Lloyd
Morgan's Canon: In no case is an animal activity to be
interpreted in terms of higher psychological processes, if
it can be fairly interpreted in terms of processes which
stand lower in the scale of psychological evolution and
development(Morgan 1903).
However, more recent biological analyses, such as
Richard Dawkins' The Selsh Gene, have contended that
Occam's view is not the simplest and most basic. Dawkins
argues the way evolution works is that the genes propagated in most copies will end up determining the development of that particular species, i.e., natural selection turns out to select specic genes, and this is really
the fundamental underlying principle, that automatically
gives individual and group selection as emergent features
of evolution.

ever he takes up the ght his genes will live on in his ospring. And thus thestay-and-ghtgene prevails. This
is an example of kin selection. An underlying general
principle thus oers a much simpler explanation, without retreating to special principles as group selection.
Systematics is the branch of biology that attempts to establish genealogical relationships among organisms. It
is also concerned with their classication. There are
three primary camps in systematics; cladists, pheneticists, and evolutionary taxonomists. The cladists hold that
genealogy alone should determine classication and pheneticists contend that similarity over propinquity of descent is the determining criterion while evolutionary taxonomists say that both genealogy and similarity count in
classication.* [49]
It is among the cladists that Occam's Razor is to be found,
although their term for it is cladistic parsimony. Cladistic parsimony (or maximum parsimony) is a method
of phylogenetic inference in the construction of types
of phylogenetic trees (more specically, cladograms).
Cladograms are branching, tree-like structures used to
represent lines of descent based on one or more evolutionary changes. Cladistic parsimony is used to support the
hypotheses that require the fewest evolutionary changes.
For some types of tree, it will consistently produce the
wrong results regardless of how much data is collected
(this is called long branch attraction). For a full treatment of cladistic parsimony, see Elliott Sober's Reconstructing the Past: Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference
(1988). For a discussion of both uses of Occam's Razor
in biology, see Sober's article Let's Razor Ockham's
Other methods for inferring evolutionary relationships
use parsimony in a more traditional way. Likelihood
methods for phylogeny use parsimony as they do for all
likelihood tests, with hypotheses requiring few diering
parameters (i.e., numbers of dierent rates of character
change or dierent frequencies of character state transitions) being treated as null hypotheses relative to hypotheses requiring many diering parameters. Thus, complex
hypotheses must predict data much better than do simple
hypotheses before researchers reject the simple hypotheses. Recent advances employ information theory, a close
cousin of likelihood, which uses Occam's Razor in the
same way.

Francis Crick has commented on potential limitations of

Occam's Razor in biology. He advances the argument
that because biological systems are the products of (an
ongoing) natural selection, the mechanisms are not necessarily optimal in an obvious sense. He cautions:While
Ockham's razor is a useful tool in the physical sciences,
it can be a very dangerous implement in biology. It is
thus very rash to use simplicity and elegance as a guide in
However, a much better explanation immediately oers biological research.* [50]
itself once one considers that natural selection works on
In biogeography, parsimony is used to infer ancient
genes. If the male musk ox runs o, leaving his ospring
migrations of species or populations by observing the
to the wolves, his genes will not be propagated. If howZoology provides an example. Muskoxen, when threatened by wolves, will form a circle with the males on the
outside and the females and young on the inside. This is
an example of a behavior by the males that seems to be
altruistic. The behavior is disadvantageous to them individually but benecial to the group as a whole and was
thus seen by some to support the group selection theory.



geographic distribution and relationships of existing Religion

organisms. Given the phylogenetic tree, ancestral migrations are inferred to be those that require the minimum Main article: Existence of God
amount of total movement.

When discussing Occam's Razor in contemporary
medicine, doctors and philosophers of medicine speak of
diagnostic parsimony. Diagnostic parsimony advocates
that when diagnosing a given injury, ailment, illness, or
disease a doctor should strive to look for the fewest possible causes that will account for all the symptoms. This
philosophy is one of several demonstrated in the popular
medical adage when you hear hoofbeats behind you,
think horses, not zebras". While diagnostic parsimony
might often be benecial, credence should also be given
to the counter-argument modernly known as Hickam's
dictum, which succinctly states that patients can have
as many diseases as they damn well please. It is often
statistically more likely that a patient has several common
diseases, rather than having a single rarer disease which
explains their myriad symptoms. Also, independently of
statistical likelihood, some patients do in fact turn out to
have multiple diseases, which by common sense nullies
the approach of insisting to explain any given collection
of symptoms with one disease. These misgivings emerge
from simple probability theorywhich is already taken
into account in many modern variations of the razor
and from the fact that the loss function is much greater in
medicine than in most of general science. Because misdiagnosis can result in the loss of a person's health and
potentially life, it is considered better to test and pursue
all reasonable theories even if there is some theory that
appears the most likely.
Diagnostic parsimony and the counterbalance it nds in
Hickam's dictum have very important implications in
medical practice. Any set of symptoms could be indicative of a range of possible diseases and disease combinations; though at no point is a diagnosis rejected or accepted just on the basis of one disease appearing more
likely than another, the continuous ow of hypothesis formulation, testing and modication benets greatly from
estimates regarding which diseases (or sets of diseases)
are relatively more likely to be responsible for a set of
symptoms, given the patient's environment, habits, medical history and so on. For example, if a hypothetical
patient's immediately apparent symptoms include fatigue
and cirrhosis and they test negative for Hepatitis C, their
doctor might formulate a working hypothesis that the cirrhosis was caused by their drinking problem, and then
seek symptoms and perform tests to formulate and rule
out hypotheses as to what has been causing the fatigue;
but if the doctor were to further discover that the patient's
breath inexplicably smells of garlic and they are suering
from pulmonary edema, they might decide to test for the
relatively rare condition of selenium poisoning.

In the philosophy of religion, Occam's Razor is sometimes applied to the existence of God. William of Ockham himself was a Christian. He believed in God, and
in the authority of Scripture; he writes that nothing
ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is
self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by
experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.* [51] Ockham believed that an explanation has
no sucient basis in reality when it does not harmonize
with reason, experience, or the Bible. However, unlike
many theologians of his time, Ockham did not believe
God could be logically proven with arguments. To Ockham, science was a matter of discovery, but theology was
a matter of revelation and faith. He states: only faith
gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God
are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart
from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality
can uncover.* [52]
St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, uses a
formulation of Occam's Razor to construct an objection
to the idea that God exists, which he refutes directly with
a counterargument:* [53]
Further, it is superuous to suppose that
what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems
that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God
did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all
voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore
there is no need to suppose God's existence.
In turn, Aquinas answers this with the quinque viae, and
addresses the particular objection above with the following answer:
Since nature works for a determinate end
under the direction of a higher agent, whatever
is done by nature must needs be traced back
to God, as to its rst cause. So also whatever
is done voluntarily must also be traced back
to some higher cause other than human reason
or will, since these can change or fail; for all
things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and
self-necessary rst principle, as was shown in
the body of the Article.
Rather than argue for the necessity of a god, some theists base their belief upon grounds independent of, or

prior to, reason, making Occam's Razor irrelevant. This
was the stance of Sren Kierkegaard, who viewed belief
in God as a leap of faith which sometimes directly opposed reason.* [54] This is also the doctrine of Gordon
Clark's Presuppositional apologetics, with the exception
that Clark never thought the leap of faith was contrary to
reason. (See also Fideism).
There are various arguments in favour of God which establish God as a useful or even necessary assumption.
Contrastingly, atheists hold rmly to the belief that assuming the existence of God would introduce unnecessary complexity (Schmitt 2005, e.g. the Ultimate Boeing
747 gambit). Taking a nuanced position, philosopher Del
Ratzsch* [55] suggests that the application of the razor to
God may not be so simple, least of all when we are comparing that hypothesis with theories postulating multiple
invisible universes.* [56]
Another application of the principle is to be found in the
work of George Berkeley (16851753). Berkeley was an
idealist who believed that all of reality could be explained
in terms of the mind alone. He invoked Occam's Razor
against materialism, stating that matter was not required
by his metaphysic and was thus eliminable. One potential
problem with this belief is that it's possible, given Berkeley's position, to nd solipsism itself more in line with the
razor than a God-mediated world beyond a single thinker.

ment, Jeremy Bentham's parsimony principlestates
that any punishment greater than is required to achieve
its end is unjust. The concept is related but not identical to the legal concept of proportionality. Parsimony is
a key consideration of the modern restorative justice, and
is a component of utilitarian approaches to punishment,
as well as the prison abolition movement. Bentham believed that true parsimony would require punishment to
be individualised to take account of the sensibility of the
individualan individual more sensitive to punishment
should be given a proportionately lesser one, since otherwise needless pain would be inicted. Later utilitarian
writers have tended to abandon this idea, in large part due
to the impracticality of determining each alleged criminal's relative sensitivity to specic punishments.* [57]

Probability theory and statistics

Marcus Hutter's universal articial intelligence builds
upon Solomono's mathematical formalization of the razor to calculate the expected value of an action.

There are various papers in scholarly journals deriving

formal versions of Occam's Razor from probability theory, applying it in statistical inference, and using it to
come up with criteria for penalizing complexity in statistical inference. Recent papers have suggested a conIn his article Sensations and Brain Processes(1959),
nection between Occam's Razor and Kolmogorov comJ. J. C. Smart invoked Occam's Razor with the aim to
plexity.* [58]
justify his preference of the mind-brain identity theory
over spirit-body dualism. Dualists state that there are two One of the problems with the original formulation of the
kinds of substances in the universe: physical (including razor is that it only applies to models with the same exthe body) and spiritual, which is non-physical. In con- planatory power (i.e. it only tells us to prefer the simtrast, identity theorists state that everything is physical, plest of equally good models). A more general form of
including consciousness, and that there is nothing non- the razor can be derived from Bayesian model compariphysical. Despite the fact that it is impossible to ap- son, which is based on Bayes factors and can be used to
preciate the spiritual when limiting oneself to the phys- compare models that don't t the data equally well. These
ical, Smart maintained that identity theory explains all methods can sometimes optimally balance the complexity
phenomena by assuming only a physical reality. Sub- and power of a model. Generally the exact Occam factor
sequently, Smart has been severely criticized for his is intractable but approximations such as Akaike informa(mis)use of Occam's Razor and ultimately retracted his tion criterion, Bayesian information criterion, Variational
advocacy of it in this context. Paul Churchland (1984) Bayesian methods, false discovery rate, and Laplace's
states that by itself Occam's Razor is inconclusive re- method are used. Many articial intelligence researchers
garding duality. In a similar way, Dale Jacquette (1994) are now employing such techniques, for instance through
stated that Occam's Razor has been used in attempts to work on Occam Learning.
justify eliminativism and reductionism in the philosophy The statistical view leads to a more rigorous formulation
of mind. Eliminativism is the thesis that the ontology of of the razor than that which came of previous philosophfolk psychology including such entities aspain,joy ical discussions. In particular, it shows that simplicity
, desire, fear, etc., are eliminable in favor of an must rst be dened in some way before the razor may be
ontology of a completed neuroscience.
used, and that this denition will always be subjective.
Penal ethics
In penal theory and the philosophy of punishment, parsimony refers specically to taking care in the distribution
of punishment in order to avoid excessive punishment.
In the utilitarian approach to the philosophy of punish-

For example, in the Kolmogorov-Chaitin minimum description length approach, the subject must pick a Turing
machine whose operations describe the basic operations
believed to represent simplicityby the subject. However, one could always choose a Turing machine with
a simple operation that happened to construct one's entire theory and would hence score highly under the razor.
This has led to two opposing camps- one which believes



that Occam's razor is objective, and the other which be- Another contentious aspect of the razor is that a theory
lieves that Occam's razor is subjective.
can become more complex in terms of its structure (or
syntax), while its ontology (or semantics) becomes simpler, or vice versa.* [lower-alpha 5] Quine, in a discussion
Objective razor The minimum instruction set of a on denition, referred to these two perspectives aseconuniversal Turing machine requires approximately the omy of practical expressionandeconomy in grammar
same length description across dierent formulations, and vocabulary, respectively.* [71] The theory of relaand is small compared to the Kolmogorov complexity of tivity is often given as an example of the proliferation of
most practical theories. Marcus Hutter has used this con- complex words to describe a simple concept.
sistency to dene anaturalTuring machine of small size
as the proper basis for excluding arbitrarily complex in- Galileo Galilei lampooned the misuse of Occam's Razor
struction sets in the formulation of razors.* [59] Describ- in his Dialogue. The principle is represented in the diaing the program for the universal program as the hy- logue by Simplicio. The telling point that Galileo prepothesis, and the representation of the evidence as pro- sented ironically was that if you really wanted to start
gram data, it has been formally proven under Zermelo from a small number of entities, you could always conFraenkel set theory that the sum of the log universal sider the letters of the alphabet as the fundamental entiprobability of the model plus the log of the probability of ties, since you could construct the whole of human knowlthe data given the model should be minimized.* [60] In- edge out of them.
terpreting this as minimising the total length of a two-part
message encoding model followed by data given model
gives us the minimum message length (MML) princi- 0.13.5 Anti-razors
ple.* [61]* [62]
Occam's Razor has met some opposition from people
One possible conclusion from mixing the concepts of
who have considered it too extreme or rash. Walter ChatKolmogorov complexity and Occam's Razor is that an
ton (c. 12901343) was a contemporary of William of
ideal data compressor would also be a scientic explaOckham (c. 12871347) who took exception to Occam's
nation/formulation generator. Some attempts have been
Razor and Ockham's use of it. In response he devised his
made to re-derive known laws from considerations of
own anti-razor: If three things are not enough to verify
simplicity or compressibility. [63] [64]
an armative proposition about things, a fourth must be
According to Jrgen Schmidhuber, the appropriate math- added, and so on.Although there have been a number
ematical theory of Occam's Razor already exists, namely, of philosophers who have formulated similar anti-razors
Solomono's theory of optimal inductive inference* [65] since Chatton's time, no one anti-razor has perpetuated in
and its extensions.* [66] See discussions in David L. as much notability as Chatton's anti-razor, although this
Dowe'sForeword re C. S. Wallace* [67] for the subtle could be the case of the Late Renaissance Italian motto of
distinctions between the algorithmic probability work of unknown attribution Se non vero, ben trovato (Even
Solomono and the MML work of Chris Wallace, and if it is not true, it is well conceived) when referred to
see Dowe's MML, hybrid Bayesian network graphi- a particularly artful explanation. For further information,
cal models, statistical consistency, invariance and unique- seeOckham's Razor and Chatton's Anti-Razor(1984)
ness* [68] both for such discussions and for (in section 4) by Armand Maurer.
discussions of MML and Occam's Razor. For a specic
Anti-razors have also been created by Gottfried Wilhelm
example of MML as Occam's Razor in the problem of
Leibniz (16461716), Immanuel Kant (17241804), and
decision tree induction, see Dowe and Needham'sMesKarl Menger (19021985). Leibniz's version took the
sage Length as an Eective Ockham's Razor in Decision
form of a principle of plenitude, as Arthur Lovejoy has
Tree Induction. [69]
called it: the idea being that God created the most varied and populous of possible worlds. Kant felt a need to
moderate the eects of Occam's Razor and thus created
0.13.4 Controversial aspects of the razor
his own counter-razor:The variety of beings should not
be diminished.* [72]
Occam's Razor is not an embargo against the positing
of any kind of entity, or a recommendation of the simplest theory come what may.* [lower-alpha 3] Occam's
Razor is used to adjudicate between theories that have already passed theoretical scrutinytests, and which are
equally well-supported by the evidence.* [lower-alpha 4]
Furthermore, it may be used to prioritize empirical testing between two equally plausible but unequally testable
hypotheses; thereby minimizing costs and wastes while
increasing chances of falsication of the simpler-to-test

Karl Menger found mathematicians to be too parsimonious with regard to variables, so he formulated his Law
Against Miserliness, which took one of two forms: Entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy
and It is vain to do with fewer what requires more.
A less serious, but (some might say) even more extremist
anti-razor is 'Pataphysics, thescience of imaginary solutionsdeveloped by Alfred Jarry (18731907). Perhaps
the ultimate in anti-reductionism, "'Pataphysics seeks no
less than to view each event in the universe as completely



unique, subject to no laws but its own.Variations on

Scientic reductionism
this theme were subsequently explored by the Argentine
Scientic skepticism
writer Jorge Luis Borges in his story/mock-essay "Tln,
Uqbar, Orbis Tertius". There is also Crabtree's Bludgeon,
which cynically states that "[n]o set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however 0.13.8 Notes


In popular culture

Occam's Razor appears in the novel Zelda Pryce:

The Razor's Edge(2013) by Joseph Robert Lewis
as a physical knife with the arcaneability to cut
any object down to its smallest component pieces.
Occam's Razoris the title (and subject) of a classical symphonic overture by American composer
Darryl Kubian.* [73]

[1]The aim of appeals to simplicity in such contexts seem to

be more about shifting the burden of proof, and less about
refuting the less simple theory outright.* [1]
[2]In analyzing simplicity, it can be dicult to keep its two
facets elegance and parsimony apart. Principles such
as Occam's razor are frequently stated in a way which is
ambiguous between the two notions ... While these two
facets of simplicity are frequently conated, it is important
to treat them as distinct. One reason for doing so is that
considerations of parsimony and of elegance typically pull
in dierent directions.* [1]
[3]Ockham's razor does not say that the more simple a hypothesis, the better.* [70]


See also

Algorithmic information theory

Chekhov's gun
Common sense
Eliminative materialism
Greedy reductionism
Hanlon's razor
Hitchens's razor
Inductive probability
KISS principle
Metaphysical naturalism
Minimum description length
Minimum message length
Newton's aming laser sword
Philosophy of science
Principle of least astonishment
Razor (philosophy)
Regress argument
Scientic method

[4]Today, we think of the principle of parsimony as a

heuristic device. We don't assume that the simpler theory is correct and the more complex one false. We know
from experience that more often than not the theory that
requires more complicated machinations is wrong. Until proved otherwise, the more complex theory competing with a simpler explanation should be put on the back
burner, but not thrown onto the trash heap of history until
proven false.* [70]
[5]While these two facets of simplicity are frequently conated, it is important to treat them as distinct. One reason
for doing so is that considerations of parsimony and of elegance typically pull in dierent directions. Postulating
extra entities may allow a theory to be formulated more
simply, while reducing the ontology of a theory may only
be possible at the price of making it syntactically more
complex.* [1]

0.13.9 References
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0.13.10 Further reading

[60] Paul M. B. Vitnyi and Ming Li; IEEE Transactions

on Information Theory, Volume 46, Issue 2, Mar 2000
Page(s):446464,Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism and Kolmogorov Complexity.

Ariew, Roger (1976). Ockham's Razor: A Historical

and Philosophical Analysis of Ockham's Principle of
Parsimony. Champaign-Urbana, University of Illinois.

[61] Chris S. Wallace and David M. Boulton; Computer Journal, Volume 11, Issue 2, 1968 Page(s):185194, An
information measure for classication.

Charlesworth, M. J. (1956). Aristotle's Razor. Philosophical Studies (Ireland) 6: 105112.



Churchland, Paul M. (1984). Matter and Consciousness. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN
0-262-53050-3. ISBN.
Crick, Francis H. C. (1988). What Mad Pursuit: A
Personal View of Scientic Discovery. New York,
New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-09137-7.
Dowe, David L.; Steve Gardner; Graham Oppy
(December 2007). Bayes not Bust! Why Simplicity is no Problem for Bayesians. British J.
for the Philosophy of Science 58 (4): 709754.
doi:10.1093/bjps/axm033. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
Duda, Richard O.; Peter E. Hart; David G. Stork
(2000). Pattern Classication (2nd ed.). WileyInterscience. pp. 487489. ISBN 0-471-05669-3.
Epstein, Robert (1984). The Principle of Parsimony and Some Applications in Psychology. Journal of Mind Behavior 5: 119130.
Homann, Roald; Vladimir I. Minkin; Barry K.
Carpenter (1997). Ockham's Razor and Chemistry. HYLEInternational Journal for the Philosophy of Chemistry 3: 328. Retrieved 2006-04-14.
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3436. ISBN 0-13-030933-8. ISBN.
Jaynes, Edwin Thompson (1994). Model Comparison and Robustness. Probability Theory: The
Logic of Science. ISBN 0-521-59271-2.

Morgan, C. Lloyd (1903).Other Minds than Ours
. An Introduction to Comparative Psychology (2nd
ed.). London: W. Scott. p. 59. ISBN 0-89093171-2. Retrieved 2006-04-15.
Newton, Isaac (2011) [1726]. Philosophi Naturalis
Principia Mathematica (3rd ed.). London: Henry
Pemberton. ISBN 978-1-60386-435-0.
Nolan, D. (1997). Quantitative Parsimony.
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):
329343. doi:10.1093/bjps/48.3.329.
Pegis, A. C., translator (1945). Basic Writings of St.
Thomas Aquinas. New York: Random House. p.
129. ISBN 0-87220-380-8.
Popper, Karl (1992).7. Simplicity. The Logic of
Scientic Discovery (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
pp. 121132. ISBN 84-309-0711-4.
Rodrguez-Fernndez, J. L. (1999).
Ockham's Razor. Endeavour 23 (3): 121125.
Schmitt, Gavin C. (2005). Ockham's Razor Suggests Atheism. Archived from the original on
2007-02-11. Retrieved 2006-04-15.
Smart, J. J. C. (1959). Sensations and Brain Processes. Philosophical Review (The Philosophical Review, Vol. 68, No. 2) 68 (2): 141156.
doi:10.2307/2182164. JSTOR 2182164.
Sober, Elliott (1975). Simplicity. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Jeerys, William H.; Berger, James O. (1991).

Ockham's Razor and Bayesian Statistics (Preprint
available as Sharpening Occam's Razor on a
Bayesian Strop)",. American Scientist 80: 6472.

Sober, Elliott (1981).The Principle of Parsimony

. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 32 (2):
145156. doi:10.1093/bjps/32.2.145. Retrieved 4
August 2012.

Katz, Jerrold (1998). Realistic Rationalism. MIT

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Sober, Elliott (1990). Let's Razor Ockham's Razor. In Dudley Knowles. Explanation and its Limits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp.
7394. ISBN.

Kneale, William; Martha Kneale (1962). The Development of Logic. London: Oxford University
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Swinburne, Richard (1997). Simplicity as Evidence

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McDonald, William (2005). Sren Kierkegaard

. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved

Thorburn, W. M. (1918). The Myth of Occam's Razor.

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Menger, Karl (1960). A Counterpart of Ockham's Razor in Pure and Applied Mathematics: Ontological Uses. Synthese 12 (4): 415.

Williams, George C. (1966). Adaptation and natural selection: A Critique of some Current Evolutionary Thought. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press. ISBN 0-691-02615-7. ISBN.




External links

0.14.1 Logical paradox

What is Occam's Razor? This essay distinguishes

Occam's Razor (used for theories with identical predictions) from the Principle of Parsimony (which
can be applied to theories with dierent predictions).

Common themes in paradoxes include self-reference,

innite regress, circular denitions, and confusion between dierent levels of abstraction.

Skeptic's Dictionary: Occam's Razor

Patrick Hughes outlines three laws of the paradox:* [6]

See also: List of paradoxes

Ockham's Razor, an essay at The Galilean Library Self-reference An example isThis statement is false,
on the historical and philosophical implications by
a form of the liar paradox. The statement is referring
Paul Newall.
to itself. Another example of self-reference is the
question of whether the barber shaves himself in the
The Razor in the Toolbox: The history, use, and
barber paradox. One more example would be Is
abuse of Occams razor, by Robert Novella
the answer to this question 'No'?"
NIPS 2001 Workshop Foundations of Occam's ContradictionThis statement is false"; the statement
Razor and parsimony in learning
cannot be false and true at the same time. Another
example of contradiction is if a man talking to a ge Simplicity at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
nie wishes that wishes couldn't come true. This contradicts itself because if the genie grants his wish, he
Occam's Razor at PlanetMath.org.
did not grant his wish, and if he refuses to grant his
wish, then he did indeed grant his wish, therefore
Disproof of parsimony as a general principle in scimaking it impossible to either grant or not grant his
wish because his wish contradicts itself.

0.14 Paradox
For other uses, see Paradox (disambiguation).

Vicious circularity, or innite regressThis

statement is false"; if the statement is true, then the
statement is false, thereby making the statement
true. Another example of vicious circularity is the
following group of statements:

The following sentence is true.

A paradox is a statement that apparently contraThe previous sentence is false.
dicts itself and yet might be true (or wrong at same
time).* [1]* [2] Some logical paradoxes are known to be
invalid arguments but are still valuable in promoting Other paradoxes involve false statements (impossible is
not a word in my vocabulary, a simple paradox) or halfcritical thinking.* [3]
and the resulting biased assumptions. This form is
Some paradoxes have revealed errors in denitions ascommon
in howlers.
sumed to be rigorous, and have caused axioms of mathematics and logic to be re-examined. One example is
Russell's paradox, which questions whether a list of
all lists that do not contain themselveswould include itself, and showed that attempts to found set theory on the
identication of sets with properties or predicates were
awed.* [4] Others, such as Curry's paradox, are not yet
Examples outside logic include the Ship of Theseus from
philosophy (questioning whether a ship repaired over
time by replacing each of its wooden parts would remain
the same ship). Paradoxes can also take the form of images or other media. For example, M.C. Escher featured
perspective-based paradoxes in many of his drawings,
with walls that are regarded as oors from other points of
view, and staircases that appear to climb endlessly.* [5]

For example, consider a situation in which a father and

his son are driving down the road. The car crashes into a
tree and the father is killed. The boy is rushed to the nearest hospital where he is prepared for emergency surgery.
On entering the surgery suite, the surgeon says, I can't
operate on this boy. He's my son.
The apparent paradox is caused by a hasty generalization,
for if the surgeon is the boy's father, the statement cannot
be true. The paradox is resolved if it is revealed that the
surgeon is a woman the boy's mother.

Paradoxes which are not based on a hidden error generally occur at the fringes of context or language, and require extending the context or language in order to lose
their paradoxical quality. Paradoxes that arise from apparently intelligible uses of language are often of interest
In common usage, the word paradoxoften refers to to logicians and philosophers. This sentence is false
statements that are ironic or unexpected, such as the is an example of the well-known liar paradox: it is a senparadox that standing is more tiring than walking.* [2] tence which cannot be consistently interpreted as either

true or false, because if it is known to be false, then it is
known that it must be true, and if it is known to be true,
then it is known that it must be false. Russell's paradox,
which shows that the notion of the set of all those sets that
do not contain themselves leads to a contradiction, was instrumental in the development of modern logic and set

paradox, which falsely generalizes from true specic
A paradox that is in neither class may be an
antinomy, which reaches a self-contradictory result
by properly applying accepted ways of reasoning.
For example, the GrellingNelson paradox points
out genuine problems in our understanding of the
ideas of truth and description.

Thought experiments can also yield interesting paradoxes. The grandfather paradox, for example, would
arise if a time traveller were to kill his own grandfather A fourth kind has sometimes been described since
before his mother or father had been conceived, thereby Quine's work.
preventing his own birth. This is a specic example of
the more general observation of the buttery eect, or
A paradox that is both true and false at the same time
that a time-traveller's interaction with the past howand in the same sense is called a dialetheia. In Westever slight would entail making changes that would, in
ern logics it is often assumed, following Aristotle,
turn, change the future in which the time-travel was yet
that no dialetheia exist, but they are sometimes acto occur, and would thus change the circumstances of the
cepted in Eastern traditions (e.g. in the Mohists,* [7]
time-travel itself.
the Gongsun Longzi,* [8] and in Zen* [9]) and in
Often a seemingly paradoxical conclusion arises from an
paraconsistent logics. It would be mere equivocainconsistent or inherently contradictory denition of the
tion or a matter of degree, for example, to both afinitial premise. In the case of that apparent paradox of a
rm and deny that John is herewhen John is
time traveler killing his own grandfather it is the inconhalfway through the door but it is self-contradictory
sistency of dening the past to which he returns as being
to simultaneously arm and deny the event in some
somehow dierent from the one which leads up to the fusense.
ture from which he begins his trip but also insisting that
he must have come to that past from the same future as
0.14.3 Paradox in philosophy
the one that it leads up to.
A taste for paradox is central to the philosophies of
0.14.2 Quine's classication of paradoxes Laozi, Heraclitus, Bhartrhari, Meister Eckhart, Hegel,
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and G.K. Chesterton, among
W. V. Quine (1962) distinguished between three classes many others. Sren Kierkegaard, for example, writes, in
the Philosophical Fragments, that
of paradoxes:
But one must not think ill of the paradox,
A veridical paradox produces a result that appears
for the paradox is the passion of thought, and
absurd but is demonstrated to be true neverthethe thinker without the paradox is like the lover
less. Thus, the paradox of Frederic's birthday in
without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ulThe Pirates of Penzance establishes the surprising
timate potentiation of every passion is always
fact that a twenty-one-year-old would have had only
to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ulve birthdays, if he had been born on a leap day.
timate passion of the understanding to will the
Likewise, Arrow's impossibility theorem demoncollision, although in one way or another the
strates diculties in mapping voting results to the
collision must become its downfall. This, then,
will of the people. The Monty Hall paradox demonis the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to
strates that a decision which has an intuitive 50-50
discover something that thought itself cannot
chance in fact is heavily biased towards making a
think.* [10]
decision which, given the intuitive conclusion, the
player would be unlikely to make. In 20th century
science, Hilbert's paradox of the Grand Hotel and 0.14.4 Paradox in medicine
Schrdinger's cat are famously vivid examples of a
theory being taken to a logical but paradoxical end. A paradoxical reaction to a drug is the opposite of
what one would expect, such as becoming agitated by a
A falsidical paradox establishes a result that not only sedative or sedated by a stimulant. Some are common
appears false but actually is false, due to a fallacy and are used regularly in medicine, such as the use of
in the demonstration. The various invalid mathe- stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin in the treatment
matical proofs (e.g., that 1 = 2) are classic exam- of attention decit disorder, while others are rare and can
ples, generally relying on a hidden division by zero. be dangerous as they are not expected, such as severe agAnother example is the inductive form of the horse itation from a benzodiazepine.




See also

Animalia Paradoxa
Ethical dilemma
Formal fallacy
Four-valued logic
Impossible object
List of paradoxes
Mu (negative)
Paradox of value
Paradoxes of material implication
Plato's beard

[7] The Logicians (Warring States period),Miscellaneous

paradoxes Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
[8] Graham, Angus Charles. (1990). Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature, p. 334., p. 334, at
Google Books
[9] Chung-ying Cheng (1973) "On Zen (Chan) Language
and Zen Paradoxes" Journal of Chinese Philosophy, V. 1
(1973) pp. 77-102
[10] Kierkegaard, Sren (1985). Hong, Howard V.; Hong,
Edna H., eds. Philosophical Fragments. Princeton University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780691020365.

William Poundstone, 1989, Labyrinths of Reason:
Paradox, Puzzles, and the Frailty of Knowledge,
Mark Sainsbury, 1988, Paradoxes, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press
Roy Sorensen, 2005, A Brief History of the Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind,
Oxford University Press

Self-refuting ideas
Syntactic ambiguity
Temporal paradox
Twin paradox
Zeno's paradoxes




0.14.7 External links

Some paradoxes
Cantini, Andrea (Winter 2012). Paradoxes and
Contemporary Logic. In Zalta, Edward N.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Spade, Paul Vincent (Fall 2013). Insolubles. In
Zalta, Edward N. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

[1] Paradox. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2013-08-30.

Paradoxes at DMOZ

[2] Paradox. Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2013-01-22.

Zeno and the Paradox of Motion at MathPages.com.

[3] Eliason, James L. (MarchApril 1996). Using Paradoxes to Teach Critical Thinking in Science. Journal of
College Science Teaching 15 (5): 34144. (subscription
required (help)).

Logical Paradoxesentry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[4] Crossley, J.N.; Ash, C.J.; Brickhill, C.J.; Stillwell, J.C.;

Williams, N.H. (1972). What is mathematical logic?.
London-Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press. pp.
5960. ISBN 0-19-888087-1. Zbl 0251.02001.

0.15 Philosophic burden of proof

[5] Skomorowska, Amira (ed.). The Mathematical Art of

M.C. Escher. Lapidarium notes. Retrieved 2013-01-22.

This article is about burden of proof as a philosophical

concept. For other uses, see Burden of proof (disambiguation).

[6] Hughes, Patrick; Brecht, George (1975). Vicious Circles and Innity - A Panoply of Paradoxes. Garden City,
New York: Doubleday. pp. 18. ISBN 0-385-09917-7.
LCCN 74-17611.

The philosophical burden of proof or onus (probandi)

is the obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sucient warrant for their position.



Holder of the burden

default position. The justication for this zero-evidence
epistemic position of non-belief is only over the lack of
evidence supporting the claim. Instead, the burden of
proof, or the responsibility to provide evidence and reasoning for one claim or the other, lies with those seeking
to persuade someone holding the default position or the
null hypothesis.

When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of

proof on the person asserting a claim. An argument from
ignorance occurs when either a proposition is assumed
to be true because it has not yet been proved false or a
proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet
been proved true.* [1]* [2] This has the eect of shifting
the burden of proof to the person criticizing the proposi0.15.5
tion, but is not valid reasoning.* [3]
While certain kinds of arguments, such as logical
syllogisms, require mathematical or strictly logical proofs,
the standard for evidence to meet the burden of proof
is usually determined by context and community standards.* [4]* [5]

See also

Legal burden of proof


In public discourse

Burden of proof is also an important concept in the public

arena of ideas. Once participants in discourse establish
common assumptions, the mechanism of burden of proof
helps to ensure that all parties contribute productively, using relevant arguments.* [6]* [7]* [8]* [9]


Proving a negative

Scientic consensus
Scientic method
Statistical hypothesis testing
Russell's teapot

When the assertion to prove is a negative claim, the bur- 0.15.6 References
den takes the form of a negative proof, proof of impos[1] Argumentum ad Ignorantiam. Philosophy 103: Insibility, or mere evidence of absence. If this negative astroduction to Logic. Lander University. 2004. Archived
sertion is in response to a claim made by another party
from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04in a debate, asserting the falsehood of the positive claim
shifts the burden of proof from the party making the rst
claim to the one asserting its falsehood, as the positionI [2] Dowden, Bradley. Appeal to Ignorance. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
do not believe that X is trueis dierent from the explicit
denial I believe that X is false. [10]
[3] Michalos, Alex (1969). Principles of Logic. Englewood



Matt Dillahunty gives the example of a large jar full of

gumballs to illustrate the burden of proof.* [11]* [12] It is
a fact of reality that the number of gumballs in the jar
is either even or odd, but the degree of belief/disbelief
a person could hold is more nuanced depending upon the
evidence available. We can choose to consider two claims
about the situation, given as
1. The number of gumballs is even.
2. The number of gumballs is odd.
These two claims can be considered independently. Before we have any information about the number of gumballs, we have no means of distinguishing either of the
two claims. When we have no evidence favoring either
proposition, we must suspend belief in both. This is the

Clis: Prentice-Hall. p. 370. usually one who makes an

assertion must assume the responsibility of defending it. If
this responsibility or burden of proof is shifted to a critic,
the fallacy of appealing to ignorance is committed.
[4] Leite, Adam (2005).
A Localist Solution to
the Regress of Justication.
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (3): 395421 [p.
doi:10.1080/00048400500191974. [t]he point of articulating reasons in defense of ones belief is to establish
that one is justied in believing as one does.
[5] Leite, Adam (2005).
A Localist Solution to
the Regress of Justication.
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (3): 395421 [p.
doi:10.1080/00048400500191974. justicatory conversation...[is]...characterized by a persons sincere attempt
to vindicate his or her entitlement to a belief by providing
adequate reasons in its defense and responding to objections.
[6] Goldman, Alvin (1994). Argumentation and Social
Epistemology. Journal of Philosophy 91 (1): 2749.
JSTOR 2940949.



[7] Eemeren, Frans van; Grootendorst, Rob (2004). A Systematic Theory of Argumentation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0521830753.
[t]here is no point in venturing to resolve a dierence
of opinion through an argumentative exchange of views
if there is no mutual commitment to a common starting

0.16.2 References

[8] Brandom, Robert (1994). Making it Explicit. Cambridge:

Harvard University Press. p. 222. ISBN 067454319X.
[t]here are sentence types that would require a great deal
of work for one to get into a position to challenge, such
as 'Red is a color,' 'There have been black dogs,' 'Lighting frequently precedes thunder,' and similar commonplaces. These are treated as 'free moves' by members of
our speech communitythey are available to just about
anyone any time to use as premises, to assert unchallenged.

0.17 Poisoning the well

Cicero, De ociis 3.89.

Lactantius, Divinae institutiones 16.10.

This article is about the rhetorical device. For other uses,

see Poisoning the well (disambiguation).

Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well)

is a rhetorical device where adverse information about a
target is preemptively presented to an audience, with the
intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the
[9] Adler, Jonathan (2002). Beliefs Own Ethics. Cambridge: target person is about to say. Poisoning the well can be a
MIT Press. pp. 164167. ISBN 0262011921.
special case of argumentum ad hominem, and the term
[10] T. Edward Dame (2009). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: was rst used with this sense by John Henry Newman
A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments. Cengage in his work Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864).* [1] The oriLearning. p. 17. ISBN 9780495095064.
gin of the term lies in well poisoning, an ancient wartime
practice of pouring poison into sources of fresh water be[11] The Atheist Experience. Episode 808. 7 April 2013.
channelAustin 16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= fore an invading army, to diminish the attacking army's
[12] Matt Dillahunty (2013). Does God Exist? (Debate). Texas
State University.

0.16 Plank of Carneades

In ethics, the plank of Carneades is a thought experiment rst proposed by Carneades of Cyrene; it explores
the concept of self-defense in relation to murder.

0.17.1 Examples
If Adam tells Bob, "Chris is a fascist so do not listen
to him, then Adam has committed the fallacy of poisoning the well; if Bob takes Adam's advice then he is
also a victim of the fallacy of poisoning the well. Assuming that Chris is not merely going to tell Bob that he is
not a fascist then there is a fallacy because it is irrelevant
to the cogency of Chris' argument(s) whether he is or is
not a fascist. It is possible to be a fascist and also to have
cogent arguments on some arbitrary matter, e.g. Chris
may wish to persuade Bob that the Earth is not at; being a fascist does not preclude the possibility of having a
cogent argument that the Earth is not at.

In the thought experiment, there are two shipwrecked

sailors, A and B. They both see a plank that can only support one of them and both of them swim towards it. Sailor
A gets to the plank rst. Sailor B, who is going to drown,
pushes A o and away from the plank and, thus, proximately, causes A to drown. Sailor B gets on the plank and
is later saved by a rescue team. The thought experiment
poses the question of whether Sailor B can be tried for
0.17.2 Structure
murder because if B had to kill A in order to live, then it
would arguably be in self-defense.
Poisoning the well can take the form of an (explicit or imThe Case of the Speluncean Explorers by legal philoso- plied) argument, and is considered by some philosophers
pher Lon Fuller is a similar exploration of morality and an informal fallacy.* [1]
legality in extremis.
A poisoned-well argumenthas the following form:


See also

Trolley problem

1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false,

relevant or irrelevant) about person A (the target) is presented by another. (e.g.,Before you
listen to my opponent, may I remind you that
he has been in jail.)
2. Implicit conclusion:Therefore, any claims
made by person A cannot be relied upon.


A subcategory of this
form is the application of
an unfavorable attribute
to any future opponents,
in an attempt to discourage debate. (For example, That's my stance
on funding the public education system, and anyone who disagrees with
me hates children.) Any
person who steps forward
to dispute the claim will
then risk applying the tag
to him or herself in the
A poisoned-well argumentcan also be in this form:
1. Unfavorable denitions (be it true or false)
which prevent disagreement (or enforce armative position)
2. Any claims without rst agreeing with above
denitions are automatically dismissed.


Appeal to ridicule
Black propaganda
Framing (social sciences)
Fruit of the poisonous tree
Guilt by association
Scorched earth


[1] Philosophical society.com Logical Fallacies


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found

in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires
(Satire VI, lines 3478). It is literally translated as Who
will guard the guards themselves?", though is also
known by variant translations.
The original context deals with the problem of ensuring
marital delity, though it is now commonly used more
generally to refer to the problem of controlling the actions
of persons in positions of power, an issue discussed by
Plato in The Republic. It is not clear whether the phrase
was written by Juvenal, or whether the passage in which
it appears was interpolated into his works.

0.18.1 Original context

The phrase, as it is normally quoted in Latin, comes from
the Satires of Juvenal, the 1st/2nd century Roman satirist.
Although in its modern usage the phrase has universal, timeless applications to concepts such as tyrannical
governments, uncontrollably oppressive dictatorships,
and police or judicial corruption and overreach, in context within Juvenal's poem it refers to the impossibility of
enforcing moral behaviour on women when the enforcers
(custodes) are corruptible (Satire 6.346348):

See also

Ad hominem



External links

Newman Reader Apologia (1865) Preface

0.18 Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,
pone seram, cohibe.sed quis custodiet ipsos
custodes? cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor.
I hear always the admonishment of my friends:
Bolt her in, constrain her!" But who will guard
the guardians? The wife plans ahead and begins with
Modern editors regard these three lines as an
interpolation inserted into the text. In 1899 an undergraduate student at Oxford, E.O. Winstedt, discovered a
manuscript (now known as O, for Oxoniensis) containing
34 lines which some believe to have been omitted from
other texts of Juvenal's poem.* [1] The debate on this
manuscript is ongoing, but even if the verses are not by
Juvenal, it is likely that it preserves the original context
of the phrase.* [2] If so, the original context is as follows
(O 2933):

Who watches the watchmenredirects here. For

the Star Trek the Next Generation episode, see Who |
Watches the Watchers.
consilia et ueteres quaecumque monetis amici,



0.18.4 References

pone seram, cohibes.sed quis custodiet ipsos

custodes? qui nunc lasciuae furta puellae
hac mercede silent crimen commune tacetur.

[1] E.O. Winstedt 1899,A Bodleian MS of Juvenal, Classical Review 13: 201205.

[2] Recently J.D. Sosin 2000, Ausonius' Juvenal and the

Winstedt fragment, Classical Philology 95.2: 199206
has argued for an early date for the poem.

I know
the plan that my friends always advise me to adopt:
Bolt her in, constrain her!" But who can watch
the watchmen? They keep quiet about the girl's
secrets and get her as their payment; everyone hushes it

[3] Jayapalan, N. (2002). Comprehensive Study of Plato. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. p. 10.
[4] Plato (2008) [c. 380 BC]. The Republic. Benjamin
Jowett, transl; EBook produced by Sue Asscher and David
Widger. Project Gutenberg. How then may we devise one
of those needful falsehoods of which we lately spoke just
one royal lie which may deceive the rulers, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the city?



Reference to political power

This phrase is used generally to consider the embodiment

of the philosophical question as to how power can be held
to account. In a political context, the concept, though not
the phrase, is often sourced to Plato's Republic. There
is no exact parallel in the Republic, but it is used by
modern authors to express Socrates' concerns about the
guardians, the solution to which is to properly train their
souls. Plato's Republic though was hardly ever referenced by classical Latin authors like Juvenal, and it has
been noted that it simply disappeared from literary awareness for a thousand years except for traces in the writings of Cicero and St. Augustine.* [3] In the Republic,
a putatively perfect society is described by Socrates, the
main character in this Socratic dialogue. Socrates proposed a guardian class to protect that society, and the custodes (watchmen) from the Satires are often interpreted
as being parallel to the Platonic guardians (phylakes in
Greek). Socrates' answer to the problem is, in essence,
that the guardians will be manipulated to guard themselves against themselves via a deception often called the
"noble lie" in English.* [4] As Leonid Hurwicz pointed
out in his 2007 lecture on accepting the Nobel Memorial
Prize in Economic Sciences, one of Socrates' interlocutors in the Republic, Glaucon, even goes so far as to say
it would be absurd that a guardian should need a guard.
[5] But Socrates returns to this point at 590d, where he
says that the best person has a divine ruler within himself,and that it is better for everyone to be ruled by
divine reason, preferably within himself and his own, otherwise imposed from without.* [6]


See also

Police misconduct#Video and audio recording


[5] Book III, XII, 403E, p. 264 (Greek) and p. 265 (English),
in volume I, of Plato, The Republic (), with
an English translation by Paul Shorey, London, William
Heinemann Ltd.; New York: G. P. Putnams sons, 1930,
as cited by Leonid Hurwicz,But Who Will Guard the
Guardians?", Nobel Prize Lecture, December 8, 2007,
Accessed 4-27-2011.
[6] Plato (1992). Republic. Translated by G.M.A. Grube, revised by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett.

0.18.5 External links

Satire VI in Latin, at The Latin Library
Satire VI in English (translation by G.G. Ramsay) at
the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook

0.19 Ship of Theseus

This article is about Theseus' Paradox. For the 2013
Indian lm, see Ship of Theseus (lm).
The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus' paradox,
is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether
an object which has had all of its components replaced
remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox
is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus
from the late rst century. Plutarch asked whether a ship
which was restored by replacing each and every one of its
wooden parts remained the same ship.

The paradox had been discussed by more ancient philosophers such as Heraclitus, Socrates, and Plato prior to
Plutarch's writings; and more recently by Thomas Hobbes
and John Locke. Several variants are known, notably
grandfather's axe. This thought experiment isa model
for the philosophers"; some say,it remained the same,
some saying, it did not remain the same.* [1]



Variations of the paradox

Ancient philosophy

Ray Broadus Browne, Objects of Special
Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture, p.
134* [6]

This particular version of the paradox was rst introduced

in Greek legend as reported by the historian, biographer,
This has also been recited as "Abe Lincoln's axe";* [7]
and essayist Plutarch,
Lincoln was well known for his ability with an axe, and
axes associated with his life are held in various museThe ship wherein Theseus and the youth
ums.* [8]
of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars,
The French equivalent is the story of Jeannot's knife,
and was preserved by the Athenians down
where the eponymous knife has had its blade changed feven to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for
teen times and its handle fteen times, but is still the same
they took away the old planks as they decayed,
knife.* [9] In some Spanish-speaking countries, Jeannot's
putting in new and stronger timber in their
knife is present as a proverb, though referred to simply as
places, in so much that this ship became a
the family knife. The principle, however, remains the
standing example among the philosophers, for
the logical question of things that grow; one
side holding that the ship remained the same,
The 1872 story "Dr. Ox's Experiment" by Jules Verne has
and the other contending that it was not the
a reference to Jeannot's knife apropos the Van Tricasse's
family. In this family, since 1340, each time one of the
Plutarch, Theseus* [2]
spouses died, the other remarried with someone younger,
who took the family name. Thus, the family can be said
to have been a single marriage lasting through centuries,
Plutarch thus questions whether the ship would remain rather than a series of generations. A similar concept,
the same if it were entirely replaced, piece by piece. Cen- but involving more than two persons at any given time, is
turies later, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes introduced a described in some detail in Robert Heinlein's novel The
further puzzle, wondering what would happen if the orig- Moon Is a Harsh Mistress as a line marriage.
inal planks were gathered up after they were replaced,
and used to build a second ship.* [3] Hobbes asked which
ship, if either, would be considered the original Ship of Modern day
The French critic and essayist Roland Barthes refers at
Another early variation involves a scenario in which least twice to a ship that is entirely rebuilt, in the preface to
Socrates and Plato exchange the parts of their carriages his Essais Critiques (1971) and later in his Roland Barthes
one by one until, nally, Socrates's carriage is made up par Roland Barthes (1975); in the latter the persistence of
of all the parts of Plato's original carriage and vice versa. the form of the ship is seen as a key structuralist principle.
The question is whether, or at what point, they exchanged He calls this ship the Argo, on which Theseus was said to
their carriages.* [4]
have sailed with Jason; he may have confused the Argo
(referred to in passing in Plutarch's Theseus at 19.4) with
the ship that sailed from Crete (Theseus, 23.1).
Enlightenment era
Writing for ArtReview, Sam Jacob noted that Sugababes,
John Locke proposed a scenario regarding a favorite sock a British band, [10]were formed in 1998 [..] but one by
by September 2009 none of the founders
that develops a hole. He pondered whether the sock
each had been replaced by another
would still be the same after a patch was applied to the
of Theseuss boat.* [11]
hole, and if it would be the same sock, would it still be the
same sock after a second patch was applied, and a third, The three original members reunited in 2011 under the
etc., until all of the material of the original sock has been name Mutya Keisha Siobhan, with the originalSugababes still in existence.* [12]
replaced with patches.* [5]
George Washington's axe (sometimesmy grandfather's
axe) is the subject of an apocryphal story of unknown
origin in which the famous artifact isstill George Washington's axedespite having had both its head and handle
...as in the case of the owner of George
Washington's axe which has three times had
its handle replaced and twice had its head

In the "Heroes and Villains" episode of popular BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Trigger (a roadsweeper) declares he has won an award for keeping the same broom
for 20 years 17 new heads and 14 new handles.* [13]
This has become known as theTrigger's broomparadox.* [14]* [15]

0.19.2 Proposed resolutions

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus attempted to solve the
paradox by introducing the idea of a river where water replenishes it. Arius Didymus quoted him as sayingupon
those who step into the same rivers, dierent and again
dierent waters ow.* [16] Plutarch disputed Heraclitus'
claim about stepping twice into the same river, citing that
it cannot be done because it scatters and again comes
together, and approaches and recedes.* [17]
Aristotle's causes

marble). Colloquially, "gleich" is also used in place of
"selbe", however.
Main article: Perdurantism
Ted Sider and others have proposed that considering objects to extend across time as four-dimensional causal series of three-dimensional 'time slices' could solve the ship
of Theseus problem because, in taking such an approach,
each time-slice and all four dimensional objects remain
numerically identical to themselves while allowing individual time-slices to dier from each other. The aforementioned river, therefore, comprises dierent threedimensional time-slices of itself while remaining numerically identical to itself across time; one can never step
into the same river time-slice twice, but one can step into
the same (four-dimensional) river twice.* [18]

According to the philosophical system of Aristotle and

his followers, four causes or reasons describe a thing;
these causes can be analyzed to get to a solution to the
paradox. The formal cause or 'form' is the design of a
thing, while the material cause is the matter of which the
thing is made. The what-it-isof a thing, according
to Aristotle, is its formal cause, so the ship of Theseus is
the 'same' ship, because the formal cause, or design, does
not change, even though the matter used to construct it 0.19.3 See also
may vary with time. In the same manner, for Heraclitus's
paradox, a river has the same formal cause, although the
material cause (the particular water in it) changes with
Identity and change
time, and likewise for the person who steps in the river.
Another of Aristotle's causes is the 'end' or nal cause,
which is the intended purpose of a thing. The ship of
Theseus would have the same ends, those being, mythically, transporting Theseus, and politically, convincing
the Athenians that Theseus was once a living person,
though its material cause would change with time. The
ecient cause is how and by whom a thing is made, for
example, how artisans fabricate and assemble something;
in the case of the ship of Theseus, the workers who built
the ship in the rst place could have used the same tools
and techniques to replace the planks in the ship.
Denitions of the same
One common argument found in the philosophical literature is that in the case of Heraclitus' river one is tripped
up by two dierent denitions of the same. In one
sense, things can bequalitatively identical, by sharing
some properties. In another sense, they might be numerically identicalby being one. As an example,
consider two dierent marbles that look identical. They
would be qualitatively, but not numerically, identical. A
marble can be numerically identical only to itself.

Mereological essentialism
Neurathian bootstrap
S. (Dorst novel)
Ship of Theseus lm
Sorites paradox
The Fifth Elephant, a novel by Terry Pratchett in
the Ship of Theseusis a prominent thematic element
"The Man That Was Used Up" short story by Edgar
Allan Poe
USS Niagara (1813)
USS Constellation (1854)
Vehicle restoration

Note that some languages dierentiate between these two

forms of identity. In German, for example, "gleich" ( 0.19.4 References
equal) and "selbe" (self-same) are the pertinent
[1] Rea, M., 1995: The Problem of Material Constitution,
terms, respectively. At least in formal speech, the former
The Philosophical Review, 104: 525-552.
refers to qualitative identity (e.g. die gleiche Murmel,the
same [qualitative] marble) and the latter to numerical [2] Plutarch. Theseus. The Internet Classics Archive.
Retrieved 2008-07-15.
identity (e.g. die selbe Murmel, the same [numerical]



[3] Page 89:The Ship of Theseus, Person and Object: A

Metaphysical Study, By Roderick M. Chisholm - Google
[4] Michael Cannon Rea (editor), Material Constitution: A
Reader, Rowman & Littleeld, 1997, p. 210, ISBN 9780847683833
[5] Cohen, M. (2010). Philosophy for Dummies. Chichester:
John Wiley & Sons.
[6] Browne, Ray Broadus (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press. p. 134.
ISBN 0-87972-191-X.
[7] Atomic Tune-Up: How the Body Rejuvenates Itself.
National Public Radio. 2007-07-14. Retrieved 2009-1111.

A famous example, Schrdinger's cat (1935), presents a cat that

might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event. It
illustrates the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation applied
to everyday objects.

A thought experiment is a device with which one performs an intentional, structured process of intellectual deliberation in order to speculate, within a speciable problem domain, about potential consequents (or antecedents)
[9] Dumas in his Curricle. Blackwood's Edinburgh Mag- for a designated antecedent (or consequent)" (Yeates,
2004, p. 150).
azine LV (CCCXLI): 351. JanuaryJune 1844.
[8] Bruce Rushton (2008-02-22). Ax turns out to be Lincoln's last swing. Rockford Register-Star. Retrieved

Famous examples of thought experiments include

Schrdinger's cat, illustrating quantum indeterminacy
[11] Jacob, Sam (December 2011).What the Sugababes can through the manipulation of a perfectly sealed envitell us about the internal workings of the iPhone. ArtRe- ronment and a tiny bit of radioactive substance, and
view Ltd. Archived from the original on 2013-08-31. Re- Maxwell's demon, which attempts to demonstrate the
trieved 2012-12-14.
ability of a hypothetical nite being to violate the second
[12] Bray, Elisa (4 August 2012). Will the real Sugababes law of thermodynamics.
[10] Sugababes crown girl group list

please stand up?". The Independent.

[13] Heroes and Villains. BBC. Retrieved 16 January 2014.

0.20.1 Overview

[14] TRIGGERS BROOM (REVISITED)". robertjackson.info. Retrieved 16 January 2014.

The ancient Greek (transl.: deiknymi), or

thought experiment, was the most ancient pattern of
[15] Van Inwagen, Peter. e-Study Guide for: Metaphysics: mathematical proof
, and existed before Euclidean mathThird Edition. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
ematics,* [2] where the emphasis was on the conceptual, rather than on the experimental part of a thought[16] Didymus, Fr 39.2, Dox. gr. 471.4
experiment. Perhaps the key experiment in the history of
[17] Plutarch. penelope.uchicago.edu On the 'E' at Delphi modern science is Galileo's demonstration that falling objects must fall at the same rate regardless of their masses.
. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
This is widely thought* [3] to have been a straightforward
[18] David Lewis,Survival and Identityin Amelie O. Rorty physical demonstration, involving climbing up the Lean[ed.] The Identities of Persons (1976; U. of California P.)
ing Tower of Pisa and dropping two heavy weights o
Reprinted in his Philosophical Papers I.
it, whereas in fact, it was a logical demonstration, using
the 'thought experiment' technique. The 'experiment' is
described by Galileo in Discorsi e dimostrazioni matem0.20 Thought experiment
atiche (1638) (literally, 'Discourses and Mathematical
Demonstrations') thus:
A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment (from
German) considers some hypothesis, theory,* [1] or
Salviati. If then we take two bodies whose
principle for the purpose of thinking through its consenatural speeds are dierent, it is clear that on
quences. Given the structure of the experiment, it may
uniting the two, the more rapid one will be
or may not be possible to actually perform it, and if it can
partly retarded by the slower, and the slower
be performed, there need be no intention of any kind to
will be somewhat hastened by the swifter. Do
actually perform the experiment in question.
you not agree with me in this opinion?
The common goal of a thought experiment is to explore
the potential consequences of the principle in question:

Simplicio. You are unquestionably right.

Salviati. But if this is true, and if a large


stone moves with a speed of, say, eight while
a smaller moves with a speed of four, then
when they are united, the system will move
with a speed less than eight; but the two stones
when tied together make a stone larger than
that which before moved with a speed of eight.
Hence the heavier body moves with less speed
than the lighter; an eect which is contrary to
your supposition. Thus you see how, from your
assumption that the heavier body moves more
rapidly than ' the lighter one, I infer that the
heavier body moves more slowly.* [4]

calque) from Mach's Gedankenexperiment, and it rst appeared in the 1897 English translation of one of Machs
papers.* [9] Prior to its emergence, the activity of posing
hypothetical questions that employed subjunctive reasoning had existed for a very long time (for both scientists
and philosophers). However, people had no way of categorizing it or speaking about it. This helps to explain the
extremely wide and diverse range of the application of the
termthought experimentonce it had been introduced
into English.

0.20.4 Uses
Although the extract does not convey the elegance and
power of the 'demonstration' terribly well, it is clear that
it is a 'thought' experiment, rather than a practical one.
Strange then, as Cohen says, that philosophers and scientists alike refuse to acknowledge either Galileo in particular, or the thought experiment technique in general for
its pivotal role in both science and philosophy. (The exception proves the rule the iconoclastic philosopher of
science, Paul Feyerabend, has also observed this methodological prejudice.* [5])

Thought experiments, which are well-structured, welldened hypothetical questions that employ subjunctive
reasoning (irrealis moods) What might happen (or,
what might have happened) if . . . " have been used
to pose questions in philosophy at least since Greek antiquity, some pre-dating Socrates (see Rescher 1991). In
physics and other sciences many famous thought experiments date from the 19th and especially the 20th Century,
but examples can be found at least as early as Galileo.

Instead, many philosophers prefer to consider 'Thought In thought experiments we gain new information by reExperiments' to be merely the use of a hypothetical arranging or reorganizing already known empirical data
in a new way and drawing new (a priori) inferences from
scenario to help understand the way things actually are.
them or by looking at these data from a dierent and unusual perspective. In Galileos thought experiment, for
0.20.2 Variety
example, the rearrangement of empirical experience consists in the original idea of combining bodies of dierent
Thought experiments have been used in a variety of elds, weight.* [10]
including philosophy, law, physics, and mathematics. In
Thought experiments have been used in philosophy
philosophy, they have been used at least since classical an(especially ethics), physics, and other elds (such
tiquity, some pre-dating Socrates. In law, they were wellas cognitive psychology, history, political science,
known to Roman lawyers quoted in the Digest.* [6] In
economics, social psychology, law, organizational studphysics and other sciences, notable thought experiments
ies, marketing, and epidemiology). In law, the synonym
date from the 19th and especially the 20th century, but
hypotheticalis frequently used for such experiments.
examples can be found at least as early as Galileo.
Regardless of their intended goal, all thought experiments
display a patterned way of thinking that is designed to
0.20.3 Origins and use of the literal term allow us to explain, predict and control events in a better
and more productive way.
Johann Witt-Hansen established that Hans Christian
rsted was the rst to use the Latin-German mixed
term Gedankenexperiment (lit. thought experiment) circa Theoretical consequences
1812.* [7] rsted was also the rst to use its entirely German equivalent, Gedankenversuch, in 1820.
In terms of their theoretical consequences, thought experMuch later, Ernst Mach used the term Gedankenexperi- iments generally:
ment in a dierent way, to denote exclusively the imaginary conduct of a real experiment that would be subsequently performed as a real physical experiment by his
students.* [8] Physical and mental experimentation could
then be contrasted: Mach asked his students to provide
him with explanations whenever the results from their
subsequent, real, physical experiment diered from those
of their prior, imaginary experiment.
The English term thought experiment was coined (as a

challenge (or even refute) a prevailing theory, often involving the device known as reductio ad absurdum, (as in Galileo's original argument, a proof
by contradiction),
conrm a prevailing theory,
establish a new theory, or



simultaneously refute a prevailing theory and estab- 0.20.5 In science

lish a new theory through a process of mutual exclusion.
Scientists tend to use thought experiments in the form of
imaginary,proxyexperiments which they conduct prior
to a real, physicalexperiment (Ernst Mach always argued that these gedankenexperiments werea necessary
Practical applications
precondition for physical experiment). In these cases,
Thought experiments can produce some very important the result of the proxyexperiment will often be so
and dierent outlooks on previously unknown or unac- clear that there will be no need to conduct a physical excepted theories. However, they may make those theo- periment at all.
ries themselves irrelevant, and could possibly create new Scientists also use thought experiments when particproblems that are just as dicult, or possibly more di- ular physical experiments are impossible to conduct
cult to resolve.
(Carl Gustav Hempel labeled these sorts of experiIn terms of their practical application, thought experi- ment "theoretical experiments-in-imagination"), such as
Einstein's thought experiment of chasing a light beam,
ments are generally created in order to:
leading to Special Relativity. This is a unique use of a
scientic thought experiment, in that it was never carried
challenge the prevailing status quo (which includes out, but led to a successful theory, proven by other emactivities such as correcting misinformation (or mis- pirical means.
apprehension), identify aws in the argument(s) presented, to preserve (for the long-term) objectively
established fact, and to refute specic assertions 0.20.6 Relation to real experiments
that some particular thing is permissible, forbidden,
known, believed, possible, or necessary);
The relation to real experiments can be quite complex,
as can be seen again from an example going back to Al extrapolate beyond (or interpolate within) the bert Einstein. In 1935, with two coworkers, he published
boundaries of already established fact;
a famous paper on a newly created subject called later
the EPR eect (EPR paradox). In this paper, starting
predict and forecast the (otherwise) indenite and from certain philosophical assumptions,* [11] on the baunknowable future;
sis of a rigorous analysis of a certain, complicated, but
in the meantime assertedly realizable model, he came
explain the past;
to the conclusion that quantum mechanics should be described as incomplete. Niels Bohr asserted a refu the retrodiction, postdiction and hindcasting of the tation of Einstein's analysis immediately, and his view
prevailed.* [12]* [13]* [14] After some decades, it was as(otherwise) indenite and unknowable past;
serted that feasible experiments could prove the error of
facilitate decision making, choice and strategy se- the EPR paper. These experiments tested the Bell inequalities published in 1964 in a purely theoretical palection;
per. The above-mentioned EPR philosophical starting
assumptions were considered to be falsied by empirical
solve problems, and generate ideas;
fact (e.g. by the optical real experiments of Alain Aspect).
move current (often insoluble) problems into an- Thus thought experiments belong to a theoretical disother, more helpful and more productive problem cipline, usually to theoretical physics, but often to
theoretical philosophy. In any case, it must be distinspace (e.g., see functional xedness);
guished from a real experiment, which belongs naturally
attribute causation, preventability, blame and re- to the experimental discipline and hasthe nal decision
on true or not true", at least in physics.
sponsibility for specic outcomes;
assess culpability and compensatory damages in social and legal contexts;

0.20.7 Causal reasoning

ensure the repeat of past success; or

The rst characteristic pattern that thought experiments

display is their orientation in time.* [15] They are either:

examine the extent to which past events might have

occurred dierently.
ensure the (future) avoidance of past failures.

Antefactual speculations: those experiments which

speculate about what might have happened prior to
a specic, designated event, or



Postfactual speculations: those experiments which

speculate about what may happen subsequent to (or
consequent upon) a specic, designated event.
The second characteristic pattern is their movement in
time in relation tothe present moment standpointof the
individual performing the experiment; namely, in terms
Their temporal direction: are they past-oriented or
Their temporal sense:

Temporal representation of a counterfactual thought experiment.* [18]


(a) in the case of past-oriented thought experiments, are they examining the consequences of
temporalmovementfrom the present to the
past, or from the past to the present? or,
(b) in the case of future-oriented thought
experiments, are they examining the consequences of temporal movementfrom the
present to the future, or from the future to the


Seven Types

Temporal representation of a semifactual thought experiment.* [19]

Semifactual* [20] thought experiments speculate on the extent to which things might have remained the same, despite there being a dierent past; and asks the question
Even though X happened instead of E, would Y have still
occurred? (e.g., Even if the goalie had moved left, rather
than right, could he have intercepted a ball that was traveling at such a speed?).
Semifactual speculations are an important part of clinical

Temporal representation of a prefactual thought experiment.* [16]


Generally speaking, there are seven types of thought experiments in which one reasons from causes to eects, or
eects to causes:* [17]
Prefactual (before the fact) thought experiments speculate
on possible future outcomes, given the present, and ask
Temporal representation of prediction, forecasting and nowcastWhat will be the outcome if event E occurs?"
ing.* [21]


The activity of prediction attempts to project the circumstances of the present into the future. According to David
Counterfactual (contrary to established fact) thought exSarewitz and Roger Pielke (1999, p123), scientic preperiments speculate on the possible outcomes of a difdiction takes two forms:
ferent past; and ask What might have happened if A
had happened instead of B?" (e.g.,If Isaac Newton and
Gottfried Leibniz had cooperated with each other, what
(1)The elucidation of invariant and therewould mathematics look like today?").
fore predictive principles of nature; and



(2) [Using] suites of observational data and

sophisticated numerical models in an eort to
foretell the behavior or evolution of complex
phenomena.* [22]

The activity of retrodiction (or postdiction) involves moving backwards in time, step-by-step, in as many stages as
are considered necessary, from the present into the speculated past, in order to establish the ultimate cause of a
specic event (e.g., Reverse engineering and Forensics).

Although they perform dierent social and scientic

functions, the only dierence between the qualitatively
identical activities of predicting, forecasting, and nowcasting is the distance of the speculated future from the
present moment occupied by the user.* [23] Whilst the activity of nowcasting, dened as a detailed description
of the current weather along with forecasts obtained by
extrapolation up to 2 hours ahead, is essentially concerned with describing the current state of aairs, it is
common practice to extend the termto cover very-shortrange forecasting up to 12 hours ahead(Browning, 1982,
p.ix).* [24]* [25]

Given that retrodiction is a process in which past observations, events and data are used as evidence to infer
the process(es) the produced themand that diagnosis
involve[s] going from visible eects such as symptoms,
signs and the like to their prior causes,* [30] the essential balance between prediction and retrodiction could be
characterized as:


retrodiction : diagnosis :: prediction : prognosis

regardless of whether the prognosis is of the course of the
disease in the absence of treatment, or of the application
of a specic treatment regimen to a specic disorder in a
particular patient.

Temporal representation of hindcasting.* [26]

The activity of hindcasting involves running a forecast

model after an event has happened in order to test
whether the model's simulation is valid.
Temporal representation of backcasting.* [31]
In 2003, Dake Chen and his colleagues traineda
computer using the data of the surface temperature of
the oceans from the last 20 years.* [27] Then, using data
that had been collected on the surface temperature of the
oceans for the period 1857 to 2003, they went through
a hindcasting exercise and discovered that their simulation not only accurately predicted every El Nio event for
the last 148 years, it also identied the (up to 2 years)
looming foreshadow of every single one of those El Nio
events.* [28]
Retrodiction (or postdiction)

Temporal representation of retrodiction or postdiction.* [29]

The activity of backcasting* [32] involves establishing the

description of a very denite and very specic future situation. It then involves an imaginary moving backwards
in time, step-by-step, in as many stages as are considered
necessary, from the future to the present, in order to reveal the mechanism through which that particular specied future could be attained from the present.* [33]
Backcasting is not concerned with predicting the future:
The major distinguishing characteristic of backcasting analyses is
the concern, not with likely energy futures, but with how desirable futures can be attained. It is
thus explicitly normative, involving
'working backwards' from a particular future end-point to the present
to determine what policy measures
would be required to reach that future.* [34]
According to Jansen (1994, p. 503:* [35]


Within the framework of technological development,forecasting
concerns the extrapolation of developments towards the future and
the exploration of achievements
which can be realized through
technology in the long term.
Conversely, the reasoning behind
backcastingis: on the basis
of an interconnecting picture of
demands which technology has
to meet in the future sustainability criteria to direct
and determine the process that
technology development must take
and possibly also the pace at which
this development process must be
put into eect.
Backcasting [is] both an important
aid in determining the direction
technology development must take
and in specifying the targets to be
set for this purpose. As such, backcasting is an ideal search toward determining the nature and scope of
the technological challenge which
is posed by sustainable development, and it can thus serve to direct
the search process toward new
sustainable technology.


In philosophy

In philosophy, a thought experiment typically presents an

imagined scenario with the intention of eliciting an intuitive or reasoned response about the way things are in
the thought experiment. (Philosophers might also supplement their thought experiments with theoretical reasoning designed to support the desired intuitive response.)
The scenario will typically be designed to target a particular philosophical notion, such as morality, or the nature
of the mind or linguistic reference. The response to the
imagined scenario is supposed to tell us about the nature
of that notion in any scenario, real or imagined.
For example, a thought experiment might present a situation in which an agent intentionally kills an innocent
for the benet of others. Here, the relevant question
is not whether the action is moral or not, but more
broadly whether a moral theory is correct that says morality is determined solely by an action's consequences (See
Consequentialism). John Searle imagines a man in a
locked room who receives written sentences in Chinese,
and returns written sentences in Chinese, according to
a sophisticated instruction manual. Here, the relevant
question is not whether or not the man understands Chinese, but more broadly, whether a functionalist theory of
mind is correct.

It is generally hoped that there is universal agreement

about the intuitions that a thought experiment elicits.
(Hence, in assessing their own thought experiments,
philosophers may appeal to what we should say,or
some such locution.) A successful thought experiment
will be one in which intuitions about it are widely shared.
But often, philosophers dier in their intuitions about the
Other philosophical uses of imagined scenarios arguably
are thought experiments also. In one use of scenarios,
philosophers might imagine persons in a particular situation (maybe ourselves), and ask what they would do.
For example, John Rawls asks us to imagine a group of
persons in a situation where they know nothing about
themselves, and are charged with devising a social or political organization (See the veil of ignorance). The use
of the state of nature to imagine the origins of government, as by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, may also
be considered a thought experiment. Sren Kierkegaard
explored the possible ethical and religious implications
of Abraham's binding of Isaac in Fear and Trembling
Similarly, Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of
Morals, speculated about the historical development of
Judeo-Christian morality, with the intent of questioning
its legitimacy.
An early written thought experiment was Plato's allegory
of the cave.* [36] Another historic thought experiment
was Avicenna's "Floating Man" thought experiment in
the 11th century. He asked his readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air isolated from all sensations
in order to demonstrate human self-awareness and selfconsciousness, and the substantiality of the soul.* [37]

The scenario presented in a thought experiment must be
possible in some sense. In many thought experiments,
the scenario would be nomologically possible, or possible
according to the laws of nature. John Searle's Chinese
room is nomologically possible.
Some thought experiments present scenarios that are not
nomologically possible. In his Twin Earth thought experiment, Hilary Putnam asks us to imagine a scenario in
which there is a substance with all of the observable properties of water (e.g., taste, color, boiling point), but which
is chemically dierent from water. It has been argued
that this thought experiment is not nomologically possible, although it may be possible in some other sense, such
as metaphysical possibility. It is debatable whether the
nomological impossibility of a thought experiment renders intuitions about it moot.
In some cases, the hypothetical scenario might be considered metaphysically impossible, or impossible in any
sense at all. David Chalmers says that we can imagine that
there are zombies, or persons who are physically identi-


cal to us in every way but who lack consciousness. This
is supposed to show that physicalism is false. However,
some argue that zombies are inconceivable: we can no
more imagine a zombie than we can imagine that 1+1=3.
Others have claimed that the conceivability of a scenario
may not entail its possibility.

Maxwell's demon (thermodynamics) 1871
Monkey and the Hunter, The (gravitation)
Moving magnet and conductor problem
Newton's cannonball (Newton's laws of motion)
Popper's experiment (quantum mechanics)

Other criticisms

Quantum pseudo telepathy (quantum mechanics)

The use of thought experiments in philosophy has received other criticisms, especially in the philosophy of
mind. Daniel Dennett has derisively referred to certain
types of thought experiments such as the Chinese Room
experiment as "intuition pumps", claiming they are simply thinly veiled appeals to intuition which fail when carefully analyzed. Another criticism that has been voiced
is that some science ction-type thought experiments are
too wild to yield clear intuitions, or that any resulting intuitions could not possibly pertain to the real world.

Quantum suicide (quantum mechanics)


Wigner's friend (quantum mechanics)

Famous thought experiments

Schrdinger's cat (quantum mechanics)

Sticky bead argument (general relativity)
Renninger negative-result experiment (quantum
Twin paradox (special relativity)
Wheeler's delayed choice experiment (quantum mechanics)

Thought experiments are popular in physics and include:
Bell's spaceship paradox (special relativity)

The eld of philosophy makes extensive use of thought


Brownian ratchet (Richard Feynman's "perpetual

motion" machine that does not violate the second
law and does no work at thermal equilibrium)

Articial brain

Bucket argument argues that space is absolute, not


Bellum omnium contra omnes

Double-slit experiment (quantum mechanics)

ElitzurVaidman bomb-tester (quantum mechanics)

Avicenna's Floating Man

Big Book (ethics)

Brain-in-a-vat (epistemology, philosophy of mind)
Brainstorm machine

Einstein's box

Buridan's ass

EPR paradox (quantum mechanics) (forms of this

have actually been performed)

Changing places (reexive monism, philosophy of


Feynman sprinkler (classical mechanics)

China brain (physicalism, philosophy of mind)

Galileo's ship (classical relativity principle) 1632

Chinese room (philosophy of mind, articial intelligence, cognitive science)

Galileo's Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment (rebuttal of Aristotelian Gravity)

Coherence (philosophical gambling strategy)

GHZ experiment (quantum mechanics)

Condillac's Statue (epistemology)

Heisenberg's microscope (quantum mechanics)

Experience machine (ethics)

Kepler's Dream (change of point of view as support

for the Copernican hypothesis)

Gettier problem (epistemology)

Ladder paradox (special relativity)

Laplace's demon

ayy ibn Yaqn (epistemology)

Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiment in
the philosophy of language and philosophy of mind

How many men? (taxation as theft)

Computer science

Inverted spectrum

Halting problem (limits of computability)

Kavka's toxin puzzle

Turing machine (limits of computability)

Mary's room (philosophy of mind)

Molyneux's Problem (admittedly, this oscillated between empirical and a-priori assessment)
Newcomb's paradox
Original position (politics)
Philosophical zombie (philosophy of mind, articial
intelligence, cognitive science)
Plank of Carneades
Prisoner's Dilemma
Ship of Theseus, The (concept of identity)
Simulated reality (philosophy, computer science,
cognitive science)
Social contract theories
Survival lottery, The (ethics)
Swamp man (personal identity, philosophy of mind)
Shoemaker's "Time Without Change" (metaphysics)
Ticking time bomb scenario (ethics)
Teleportation (metaphysics)
The Transparent eyeball
Trolley problem (ethics)
The Violinist (ethics)
Utility monster (ethics)
Zeno's paradoxes (classical Greek problems of the
Balls and vase problem (innity and cardinality)
Gabriel's Horn (innity)
Innite monkey theorem (probability)
Lottery paradox (probability)
Sleeping beauty paradox (probability)

Two Generals' Problem

Dining Philosophers (computer science)
Broken window fallacy (law of unintended consequences, opportunity cost)
Laer Curve
Buttered cat paradox
Braitenberg vehicles (robotics, neural control and
sensing systems) (some have actually been built)
Doomsday argument (anthropic principle)
Dyson sphere
The Lady, or the Tiger? (human nature)* [38]
The Planiverse

0.20.11 See also

Alternate history (ction)
Black box
Brainstorm machine
Ding an sich
Futures studies
Futures techniques
Intuition pump
Mapping (see entry under conceptual metaphor)
Nearly possible worlds (see under Possible world)
Possible world
Pure thought
Scenario planning

Levinthal paradox

Scenario test

Rotating locomotion in living systems

Theoretical physics




[1] "[C]onjectures or hypotheses ... are really to be regarded

as thoughtexperimentsthrough which we wish to discover whether something can be explained by a specic
assumption in connection with other natural laws.Hans
Christian rsted(First Introduction to General Physics
16-18, part of a series of public lectures at the University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen 1811, in Danish,
printed by Johan Frederik Schulz. In Kirstine Meyer's
1920 edition of rsted's works, vol.III pp. 151-190. )
First Introduction to Physics: the Spirit, Meaning, and
Goal of Natural Science. Reprinted in German in 1822,
Schweigger's Journal fr Chemie und Physik 36, pp. 458
488, as translated in rsted 1997, pp. 296298
[2] Szbo, rpd. (1958) " 'Deiknymi' als Mathematischer
Terminus fur 'Beweisen' ", Maia N.S. 10 pp. 126 as
cited by Imre Lakatos (1976) in Proofs and Refutations
p.9. (John Worrall and Elie Zahar, eds.) Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-21078-X. The English translation of the title of Szbo's article is "'Deiknymi' as a mathematical expression for 'to prove'", as translated by Andrs
Mt, p.285
[3] Cohen, Martin,Wittgenstein's Beetle and Other Classic
Thought Experiments, Blackwell, (Oxford), 2005, pp.
[4] Galileo on Aristotle and Acceleration. Retrieved 200805-24.
[5] See, for example, Paul Feyerabend, 'Against Method',
Verso (1993)
[6] Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pandectsevery logical rule
of law is capable of illumination from the law of the Pandects.
[7] Witt-Hansen (1976). Although Experiment is a German
word, it is derived from Latin. The synonym Versuch has
purely Germanic roots.
[8] Mach, Ernst (1883), The Science of Mechanics (6th edition, translated by Thomas J. McCormack), LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1960. pp. 32-41, 159-62.
[9] Mach, Ernst (1897), On Thought Experiments, in
Knowledge and Error (translated by Thomas J. McCormack and Paul Foulkes), Dordrecht Holland: Reidel,
1976, pp. 134-47.
[10] Brendal, Elke, Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of
Thought Experiments. Dialectica. V.58, Issue 1, p 89
108, March 2004
[11] Jaynes, E.T. (1989).Clearing up the Mysteries, opening
talk at the 8th International MAXENT Workshop, St
John's College, Cambridge UK.
[12] French, A.P., Taylor, E.F. (1979/1989). An Introduction to Quantum Physics, Van Nostrand Reinhold (International), London, ISBN 0-442-30770-5.
[13] Wheeler, J.A, Zurek, W.H., editors (1983). Quantum
Theory and Measurement, Princeton University Press,


[14] d'Espagnat, B. (2006). On Physics and Philosophy,

Princeton University Press, Princeton, ISBN 978-0-69111964-9
[15] Yeates, 2004, pp.138-143.
[16] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.143.
[17] See Yeates, 2004, pp.138-159.
[18] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.144.
[19] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.144.
[20] The term semifactual was coined by Nelson Goodman
in 1947 (Goodman, N., The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol.44,
No.5, (27 February 1947), pp.113-128). Goodman's original concept has been subsequently developed and expanded by (a) Daniel Cohen (Cohen, D., Semifactuals,
Even-Ifs, and Suciency, International Logic Review,
Vol.16, (1985), pp.102-111), (b) Stephen Barker (Barker,
S., "Even, Still and Counterfactuals, Linguistics and Philosophy, Vol.14, No.1, (February 1991), pp.1-38; Barker,
S., Counterfactuals, Probabilistic Counterfactuals and
Causation, Mind, Vol.108, No.431, (July 1999), pp.427469), and (c) Rachel McCloy and Ruth Byrne (McCloy,
R. & Byrne, R.M.J., Semifactual 'Even If' Thinking
, Thinking and Reasoning, Vol.8, No.1, (February 2002),
[21] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.145.
[22] Sarewitz, D. & Pielke, R.,Prediction in Science and Policy, Technology in Society, Vol.21, No.2, (April 1999),
[23] Nowcasting (obviously based on forecasting) is also
known as very-short-term forecasting; thus, also indicating a very-short-term, mid-range, and long-range forecasting continuum.
[24] Browning, K.A. (ed.), Nowcasting, Academic Press,
(London), 1982.
[25] Murphy, and Brown Murphy, A.H. & Brown, B.G.,
Similarity and Analogical Reasoning: A Synthesis,
pp.3-15 in Browning, K.A. (ed.), Nowcasting, Academic
Press, (London), 1982 describe a large range of specic applications for meteorological nowcasting over wide
range of user demands:
(1) Agriculture: (a) wind and precipitation forecasts for
eective seeding and spraying from aircraft; (b) precipitation forecasts to minimize damage to seedlings; (c) minimum temperature, dewpoint, cloud cover, and wind speed
forecasts to protect crops from frost; (d) maximum temperature forecasts to reduce adverse eects of high temperatures on crops and livestock; (e) humidity and cloud
cover forecasts to prevent fungal disease crop losses ; (f)
hail forecasts to minimize damage to livestock and greenhouses; (g) precipitation, temperature, and dewpoint forecasts to avoid during- and after-harvest losses due to crops
rotting in the eld; (h) precipitation forecasts to minimize
losses in drying raisins; and (i) humidity forecasts to reduce costs and losses resulting from poor conditions for
drying tobacco.



(2) Construction: (a) precipitation and wind speed forecasts to avoid damage to nished work (e.g. concrete)
and minimize costs of protecting exposed surfaces, structures, and work sites; and (b) precipitation, wind speed,
and high/low temperature forecasts to schedule work in
an ecient manner.
(3) Energy: (a) temperature, humidity, wind, cloud, etc.
forecasts to optimize procedures related to generation and
distribution of electricity and gas; (b) forecasts of thunderstorms, strong winds, low temperatures, and freezing
precipitation minimize damage to lines and equipment
and to schedule repairs.
(4) Transportation: (a) ceiling height and visibility, winds
and turbulence, and surface ice and snow forecasts minimize risk, maximize eciency in pre-ight and in-ight
decisions and other adjustments to weather-related uctuations in trac; (b) forecasts of wind speed and direction,
as well as severe weather and icing conditions along ight
paths facilitate optimal airline route planning; (c) forecasts of snowfall, precipitation, and other storm-related
events allow truckers, motorists, and public transportation
systems to avoid damage to weather-sensitive goods, select
optimum routes, prevent accidents, minimize delays, and
maximize revenues under conditions of adverse weather.
(5) Public Safety & General Public: (a) rain, snow, wind,
and temperature forecasts assist the general public in planning activities such as commuting, recreation, and shopping; (b) forecasts of temperature/humidity extremes (or
signicant changes) alert hospitals, clinics, and the public
to weather conditions that may seriously aggravate certain health-related illnesses; (c) forecasts related to potentially dangerous or damaging natural events (e.g., tornados, severe thunderstorms, severe winds, storm surges,
avalanches, precipitation, oods) minimize loss of life and
property damage; and (d) forecasts of snowstorms, surface
icing, visibility, and other events (e.g. oods) enable highway maintenance and trac control organizations to take
appropriate actions to reduce risks of trac accidents and
protect roads from damage.

[32] The term backcasting was coined by John Robinson:

Robinson, J.B., Energy Backcasting: A Proposed
Method of Policy Analysis, Energy Policy, Vol.10, No.4
(December 1982), pp.337-345; Robinson, J.B., Unlearning and Backcasting: Rethinking Some of the Questions We Ask About the Future, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol.33, No.4, (July 1988), pp.325338; Robinson, J., Future Subjunctive: Backcasting as
Social Learning, Futures, Vol.35, No.8, (October 2003),
[33] Robinson's backcasting approach is very similar to the anticipatory scenarios of Ducot and Lubben (Ducot, C. &
Lubben, G.J., A Typology for Scenarios, Futures,
Vol.11, No.1, (February 1980), pp.51-57), and Bunn
and Salo (Bunn, D.W. & Salo, A.A., Forecasting with
scenarios, European Journal of Operational Research,
Vol.68, No.3, (13 August 1993), pp.291-303).
[34] p.814, Dreborg, K.H.,Essence of Backcasting, Futures,
Vol.28, No.9, (November 1996), pp.813-828.
[35] Jansen, L.,Towards a Sustainable Future, en route with
Technology, pp.496-525 in Dutch Committee for LongTerm Environmental Policy (ed.), The Environment: Towards a Sustainable Future (Environment & Policy, Volume 1), Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Dortrecht), 1994.
[36] Plato. Rep. vii, IIII, 514518B.
[37] Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman (1996), History
of Islamic Philosophy, p. 315, Routledge, ISBN 0-41513159-6.

[38] While the problem presented in this short story's scenario

is not unique, it is extremely unusual. Most thought experiments are intentionally (or, even, sometimes unintentionally) skewed towards the inevitable production of a particular solution to the problem posed; and this happens
because of the way that the problem and the scenario are
framed in the rst place. In the case of The Lady, or the
[26] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.145.
Tiger?, the way that the story unfolds is so end-neutral
that, at the nish, there is no correctsolution to the
[27] Chen, D., Cane, M.A., Kaplan, A., Zebiak, S.E. & Huang,
problem. Therefore, all that one can do is to oer one's
D., Predictability of El Nio Over the Past 148 Years
own innermost thoughts on how the account of human na, Nature, Vol.428, No.6984, (15 April 2004), pp.733ture that has been presented might unfold ? according to
736; Anderson, D.,Testing Time for El Nio, Nature,
one's own experience of human nature ? which is, obVol.428, No.6984, (15 April 2004), pp.709, 711.
viously, the purpose of the entire exercise. The extent to
[28] Not only did their hindcasting demonstrate that the comwhich the story can provoke such an extremely wide range
puterized simulation models could predict the onset of El
of (otherwise equipollent) predictions of the participants'
Nio climatic events from changes in the temperature of
subsequent behaviour is one of the reasons the story has
the ocean's surface temperature that occur up to two years
been so popular over time.
earlier meaning that there was now, potentially, at least
2 years' lead time but the results also implied that El
Nio events seemed to be the eects of some causal reg- 0.20.13 Signicant articles
ularity; and, therefore, were not due to simple chance, or
to some other chaoticevent.
[29] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.146.
[30] p.24, Einhorn, H.J. & Hogarth, R.M., Prediction, Diagnosis, and Causal Thinking in Forecasting, Journal of
Forecasting, (JanuaryMarch 1982), Vol.1, No.1, pp.2336.
[31] Taken from Yeates, 2004, p.147.

Brendal, Elke,Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use

of Thought Experiments, Dialectica, Vol.58, No.1,
(March 2004, pp.89108.

Dennett, D.C., Intuition Pumps, pp. 180197

in Brockman, J., The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientic Revolution, Simon & Schuster, (New York),


Cucic, D.A. & Nikolic, A.S.,A short insight about
thought experiment in modern physics, 6th International Conference of the Balkan Physical Union
BPU6, Istanbul Turkey, 2006.
Galton, F., Statistics of Mental Imagery, Mind,
Vol.5, No.19, (July 1880), pp. 301318.
Hempel, C.G.,Typological Methods in the Natural
and Social Sciences, pp. 155171 in Hempel, C.G.
(ed.), Aspects of Scientic Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science, The Free Press,
(New York), 1965.
Jacques, V., Wu, E., Grosshans, F., Treussart,
F., Grangier, P. Aspect, A., & Roch, J. (2007).
Experimental Realization of Wheeler's DelayedChoice Gedanken Experiment, Science, 315, p.

Cohnitz, D., Gedankenexperimente in der Philosophie, Mentis Publ., (Paderborn, Germany), 2006.
Craik, K.J.W., The Nature of Explanation, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1943.
Cushing, J.T., Philosophical Concepts in Physics:
The Historical Relation Between Philosophy and Scientic Theories, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1998.
DePaul, M. & Ramsey, W. (eds.), Rethinking Intuition: The Psychology of Intuition and Its Role in
Philosophical Inquiry, Rowman & Littleeld Publishers, (Lanham), 1998.
Gendler, T.S., Thought Experiment: On the Powers and Limits of Imaginary Cases, Garland, (New
York), 2000.

Kuhn, T., A Function for Thought Experiments

, in The Essential Tension (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 240

Gendler, T.S. & Hawthorne, J., Conceivability

and Possibility, Oxford University Press, (Oxford),

Mach, E., On Thought Experiments, pp. 134

147 in Mach, E., Knowledge and Error: Sketches on
the Psychology of Enquiry, D. Reidel Publishing Co.,
(Dordrecht), 1976. [Translation of Erkenntnis und
Irrtum (5th edition, 1926.].

Hggqvist, S., Thought Experiments in Philosophy,

Almqvist & Wiksell International, (Stockholm),

Popper, K., On the Use and Misuse of Imaginary

Experiments, Especially in Quantum Theory, pp.
442456, in Popper, K., The Logic of Scientic Discovery, Harper Torchbooks, (New York), 1968.
Rescher, N. (1991), Thought Experiment in PreSocratic Philosophy, in Horowitz, T.; Massey,
G.J., Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy, Rowman & Littleeld, (Savage), pp. 3141.
Witt-Hansen, J.,H.C. rsted, Immanuel Kant and
the Thought Experiment, Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, Vol.13, (1976), pp. 4865.



Hanson, N.R., Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry

into the Conceptual Foundations of Science, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1962.
Harper, W.L., Stalnaker, R. & Pearce, G. (eds.), Ifs:
Conditionals, Belief, Decision, Chance, and Time, D.
Reidel Publishing Co., (Dordrecht), 1981.
Hesse, M.B., Models and Analogies in Science,
Sheed and Ward, (London), 1963.
Holyoak, K.J. & Thagard, P., Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought, A Bradford Book, The MIT
Press, (Cambridge), 1995.
Horowitz, T. & Massey, G.J. (eds.), Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy, Rowman & Littleeld, (Savage), 1991.

Adams, Scott, God's Debris: A Thought Experiment,

Andrews McMeel Publishing, (USA), 2001

Kahn, H., Thinking About the Unthinkable, Discus

Books, (New York), 1971.

Brendal, Elke,Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use

of Thought Experiments. Dialectica. V.58, Issue
1, p 89108, March 2004

Kuhne, U., Die Methode des Gedankenexperiments,

Suhrkamp Publ., (Frankfurt/M, Germany), 2005.

Browning, K.A. (ed.), Nowcasting, Academic Press,

(London), 1982.

Leatherdale, W.H., The Role of Analogy, Model

and Metaphor in Science, North-Holland Publishing
Company, (Amsterdam), 1974.

Buzzoni, M., Thought Experiment in the Natural Sciences, Koenigshausen+Neumann, Wuerzburg 2008
Cohen, Martin, Wittgenstein's Beetle and Other
Classic Thought Experiments, Blackwell (Oxford)

rsted, Hans Christian (1997). Selected Scientic Works of Hans Christian rsted. Princeton.
ISBN 0-691-04334-5.. Translated to English by
Karen Jelved, Andrew D. Jackson, and Ole Knudsen, (translators 1997).



Roese, N.J. & Olson, J.M. (eds.), What Might 0.21 Time travel
Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, (Mah- Time machineredirects here. For other uses, see
wah), 1995.
Time machine (disambiguation) and Time travel (disambiguation).
Shanks, N. (ed.), Idealization IX: Idealization in
Contemporary Physics (Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, Volume Time travel is the concept of moving between dierent points in time in a manner analogous to moving be63), Rodopi, (Amsterdam), 1998.
tween dierent points in space, generally using a theoret Shick, T. & Vaugn, L., Doing Philosophy: An Intro- ical invention known as a time machine. Time travel is
duction through Thought Experiments (Second Edi- a recognized concept in philosophy and ction, but has a
tion), McGraw Hill, (New York), 2003.
very limited support in theoretical physics, usually only in
conjunction with quantum mechanics or EinsteinRosen
Sorensen, R.A., Thought Experiments, Oxford Uni- bridges.
versity Press, (Oxford), 1992.
A science ction novel written in 1895 called The Time
Tetlock, P.E. & Belkin, A. (eds.), Counterfactual Machine, by H. G. Wells, was instrumental in moving the
Thought Experiments in World Politics, Princeton concept of time travel to the forefront of the public imagination, but the earlier short story "The Clock That Went
University Press, (Princeton), 1996.
Backward", by Edward Page Mitchell, involves a clock
Thomson, J.J. {Parent, W. (ed.)}, Rights, Restitu- that, by means unspecied, allows three men to travel
tion, and Risks: Essays in Moral Theory, Harvard backward in time. [1] [2] Non-technological forms of
in a number of earlier stories
University Press, (Cambridge), 1986 .
such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Historically,
Vosniadou, S. & Ortony. A. (eds.), Similarity and the concept dates back to the early mythologies of HinAnalogical Reasoning, Cambridge University Press, duism (such as the Mahabharata). More recently, with
advancing technology and a greater scientic understand(Cambridge), 1989.
ing of the universe, the plausibility of time travel has
Wilkes, K.V., Real People: Personal Identity with- been explored in greater detail by science ction writers,
out Thought Experiments, Oxford University Press, philosophers, and physicists.
(Oxford), 1988.
Yeates, L.B., Thought Experimentation: A Cognitive
0.21.1 History of the time travel concept
Approach, Graduate Diploma in Arts (By Research)
dissertation, University of New South Wales, 2004.
Forward time travel
There is no widespread agreement as to which written
work should be recognized as the earliest example of
a time travel story, since a number of early works feaThought experiment entry in the Stanford Encycloture elements ambiguously suggestive of time travel. Anpedia of Philosophy
cient folk tales and myths sometimes involved something
akin to traveling forward in time; for example, in Hindu
Thought experiment at PhilPapers
mythology, the Mahabharata mentions the story of the
Thought experiment at the Indiana Philosophy On- King Raivata Kakudmi, who travels to heaven to meet
the creator Brahma and is shocked to learn that many ages
tology Project
have passed when he returns to Earth.* [3]* [4]
Philosophy Bites podcast: Nigel Warburton inter- The Buddhist Pli Canon also mentions time moving at
views Julian Baggini on Thought Experiments
dierent paces, and in the Payasi Sutta, one of Buddha's
chief disciples Kumara Kassapa explains to the skeptic
Stevinus, Galileo, and Thought Experiments Short Payasi that In the Heaven of the Thirty Three Devas,
essay by S. Abbas Raza of 3 Quarks Daily
time passes at a dierent pace, and people live much
longer.In the period of our century; one hundred years,
Thought experiment generator, an entertaining vionly a single day; twenty four hours would have passed for
sual aid to running your own thought experiment
them.* [5]


External links

Articles on Thought Experiments in the PhilSci In Islam, there is some reference to time travel. The
Archive, an electronic archive for preprints in the Quran tells about several individuals who go to sleep in
a cave only to wake up after 309 years. There is also a
philosophy of science.


reference about time variation where it states one day
for God (Allah) is one thousand years of what you (human beings) count. A similar idea is described in the
Christian New Testament book of II Peter, where Peter
states thatWith the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.(2 Peter 3:8) In the
Old Testament book of Psalms the writer states in relation to God: For a thousand years in your sight are but
like yesterday when it is in the past. (Psalms 90:4)
Another of the earliest known stories to involve traveling forward in time to a distant future was the Japanese
tale of "Urashima Tar",* [6] rst described in the
Nihongi (720).* [7] It was about a young sherman named
Urashima Taro who visits an undersea palace and stays
there for three days. After returning home to his village,
he nds himself 300 years in the future, when he is long
forgotten, his house in ruins, and his family long dead.
Another very old example of this type of story can be
found in the Talmud with the story of Honi HaM'agel
who went to sleep for 70 years and woke up to a world
where his grandchildren were grandparents and where all
his friends and family were dead.* [8]

200 years in the future after falling into a state of sleep
resembling hibernation or suspended animation.
Backward time travel
Backward time travel seems to be a more modern idea,
but its origin is also somewhat ambiguous. One early
story with hints of backward time travel is Memoirs of the
Twentieth Century (1733) by Samuel Madden, which is
mainly a series of letters from British ambassadors in various countries to the British Lord High Treasurer, along
with a few replies from the British Foreign Oce, all
purportedly written in 1997 and 1998 and describing the
conditions of that era.* [10] However, the framing story is
that these letters were actual documents given to the narrator by his guardian angel one night in 1728; for this reason, Paul Alkon suggests in his book Origins of Futuristic
Fiction thatthe rst time-traveler in English literature is
a guardian angel who returns with state documents from
1998 to the year 1728,* [11] although the book does
not explicitly show how the angel obtained these documents. Alkon later qualies this by writing, It would
be stretching our generosity to praise Madden for being
the rst to show a traveler arriving from the future, but
also says that Madden deserves recognition as the rst
to toy with the rich idea of time-travel in the form of an
artifact sent backward from the future to be discovered in
the present.* [10]

Statue of Rip Van Winkle in Irvington, New York

A more recent story involving travel to the future is LouisSbastien Mercier's L'An 2440, rve s'il en ft jamais (
The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Were One), a
utopian novel in which the main character is transported
to the year 2440. An extremely popular work (it went
through 25 editions after its rst appearance in 1771), it
describes the adventures of an unnamed man who, after
engaging in a heated discussion with a philosopher friend
about the injustices of Paris, falls asleep and nds himself
in a Paris of the future. Robert Darnton writes thatdespite its self-proclaimed character of fantasy...L'An 2440
demanded to be read as a serious guidebook to the future.* [9]
More recently, Washington Irving's 1819 story "Rip Van
Winkle" tells of a man named Rip Van Winkle who takes
a nap on a mountain and wakes up 20 years in the future,
when he has been forgotten, his wife dead, and his daughter grown up.* [6] Sleep was also used for time travel
in Faddey Bulgarin's story "Pravdopodobnie Nebylitsi" in
which the protagonist wakes up in the 29th century, and
H.G. Wells' The Sleeper Awakes, about a man who wakes

Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig dance in a vision the Ghost of Christmas

Past shows Scrooge.

In 1836 Alexander Veltman published Predki Kalimerosa:

Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii (The Forebears of

Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon), which
has been called the rst original Russian science ction
novel and the rst novel to use time travel.* [12] In it, the
narrator rides to ancient Greece on a hippogri, meets
Aristotle, and goes on a voyage with Alexander the Great
before returning to the 19th century.
In the science ction anthology Far Boundaries (1951),
the editor August Derleth identies the short storyMissing One's Coach: An Anachronism, written for the
Dublin Literary Magazine* [13] by an anonymous author
in 1838, as a very early time travel story.* [14] In this
story, the narrator is waiting under a tree to be picked
up by a coach which will take him out of Newcastle,
when he suddenly nds himself transported back over a
thousand years. He encounters the Venerable Bede in a
monastery, and gives him somewhat ironic explanations
of the developments of the coming centuries. However,
the story never makes it clear whether these events actually occurred or were merely a dream: the narrator says
that when he initially found a comfortable-looking spot in
the roots of the tree, he sat down, and as my sceptical
reader will tell me, nodded and slept, but then says that
he isresolved not to admitthis explanation. A number
of dreamlike elements of the story may suggest otherwise
to the reader, such as the fact that none of the members
of the monastery seem to be able to see him at rst, and
the abrupt ending in which Bede has been delayed talking
to the narrator and so the other monks burst in thinking
that some harm has come to him and suddenly the narrator nds himself back under the tree in the present (August 1837), with his coach having just passed his spot on
the road leaving him stranded in Newcastle for another
night.* [15]

into slavery. This was the rst known story to feature
an alternate history being created as a result of time
travel.* [18]
The rst time travel story to feature time travel by means
of a machine of some kind was the short story "The Clock
that Went Backward" by Edward Page Mitchell,* [19]
which appeared in the New York Sun in 1881. However,
the mechanism is borderline fantasy in this casea clock
that, when wound, begins to run backward and transports
people in the vicinity backward in time, with no explanation as to where the clock came from or how it gained
this ability.* [20]
Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's
Court (1889), in which the protagonist nds himself in the
time of King Arthur after a ght in which he is hit with a
sledgehammer, was another early time travel story which
helped bring the concept to a wide audience, and was also
one of the rst stories to show history being changed by
a time traveler's actions.

Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau's 1887 book El

Anacronpete* [21] was the rst story to feature a
vessel that had been engineered by an inventor to
transport its riders through time.* [22] Andrew Sawyer
has commented that the story does seem to be the rst
literary description of a time machine noted so far,
adding that Edward Page Mitchell's story The Clock
That Went Backward (1881) is usually described as the
rst time-machine story, but I'm not sure that a clock
quite counts.* [23] This notion of a vehicle designed for
time travel gained popularity with the H. G. Wells story
The Time Machine, published in 1895 (preceded by a
less inuential story of time travel which Wells wrote in
1888, titled "The Chronic Argonauts"). The term time
Charles Dickens' 1843 book A Christmas Carol is consid- machine, coined by Wells, is now universally used to
ered by some* [16] to be one of the rst depictions of time refer to such a vehicle.
travel in both directions, as the main character, Ebenezer
Scrooge, is transported to Christmases past, present and Since that time, both science and ction (see Time travel
yet to come. However, these might be considered mere in ction) have expanded on the concept of time travel.
visions rather than actual time travel, since Scrooge only
viewed each time-period passively, unable to interact with

0.21.2 Theory

A clearer example of backward time travel is found in the

popular 1861 book Paris avant les hommes (Paris before
Men) by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard,
published posthumously. In this story, the main character is transported into the prehistoric past by the magic
of a lame demon(a French pun on Boitard's name),
where he encounters such extinct animals as a Plesiosaur,
as well as Boitard's imagined version of an apelike human ancestor, and is able to actively interact with some
of them.* [17]

Some theories, most notably special and general relativity, suggest that suitable geometries of spacetime or specic types of motion in space might allow time travel
into the past and future if these geometries or motions
were possible.* [24] In technical papers, physicists generally avoid the commonplace language of movingor
travelingthrough time (movementnormally refers
only to a change in spatial position as the time coordinate
is varied), and instead discuss the possibility of closed
In 1881, Edward Everett Hale published Hands O timelike curves, which are worldlines that form closed
, about an unnamed being (possibly the soul of a per- loops in spacetime, allowing objects to return to their own
son who had recently died) free to travel through time past. There are known to be solutions to the equations of
and space, who interferes with Earth history in Ancient general relativity that describe spacetimes which contain
Egypt, preventing Joseph (son of Jacob) from being sold closed timelike curves (such as Gdel spacetime), but the
physical plausibility of these solutions is uncertain.


Relativity predicts that if one were to move away from
the Earth at relativistic velocities and return, more time
would have passed on Earth than for the traveler, so in this
sense it is accepted that relativity allows travel into the
future(according to relativity there is no single objective answer to how much time has really passed between
the departure and the return, but there is an objective
answer to how much proper time has been experienced
by both the Earth and the traveler, i.e., how much each
has aged; see twin paradox). On the other hand, many
in the scientic community believe that backward time
travel is highly unlikely. Any theory that would allow time
travel would introduce potential problems of causality.
The classic example of a problem involving causality is
the "grandfather paradox": what if one were to go back
in time and kill one's own grandfather before one's father
was conceived? But some scientists believe that paradoxes can be avoided, by appealing either to the Novikov
self-consistency principle or to the notion of branching
parallel universes (see the 'Paradoxes' section below).
Tourism in time
Stephen Hawking has suggested that the absence of
tourists from the future is an argument against the existence of time travel: this is a variant of the Fermi paradox. Of course, this would not prove that time travel is
physically impossible, since it might be that time travel
is physically possible but that it is never developed (or
is cautiously never used); and even if it were developed,
Hawking notes elsewhere that time travel might only be
possible in a region of spacetime that is warped in the
correct way, and that if we cannot create such a region
until the future, then time travelers would not be able
to travel back before that date, so "[t]his picture would
explain whythe world hasn't already been overrun by
tourists from the future.* [25] This simply means that,
until a time machine were actually to be invented, we
would not be able to see time travelers. Carl Sagan also
once suggested the possibility that time travelers could
be here, but are disguising their existence or are not recognized as time travelers, because bringing unintentional
changes to the time-space continuum might bring about
undesired outcomes to those travelers. It might also alter
established past events.* [26] There is also the possibility
that if events were changed, we would never notice it because all events following and our memories would have
been instantly altered to remain congruent with the newly
established timeline.
General relativity
However, the theory of general relativity does suggest a
scientic basis for the possibility of backward time travel
in certain unusual scenarios, although arguments from
semiclassical gravity suggest that when quantum eects
are incorporated into general relativity, these loopholes

may be closed.* [27] These semiclassical arguments led
Hawking to formulate the chronology protection conjecture, suggesting that the fundamental laws of nature prevent time travel,* [28] but physicists cannot come to a definite judgment on the issue without a theory of quantum
gravity to join quantum mechanics and general relativity
into a completely unied theory.* [29]

0.21.3 Time travel to the past in physics

Time travel to the past is theoretically allowed using the
following methods:* [30]
Traveling faster than the speed of light
The use of cosmic strings and black holes
Wormholes and Alcubierre drive
Via faster-than-light (FTL) travel
If one were able to move information or matter from one
point to another faster than light, then according to the
theory of relativity, there would be some inertial frame of
reference in which the signal or object was moving backward in time. This is a consequence of the relativity of
simultaneity in special relativity, which says that in some
cases dierent reference frames will disagree on whether
two events at dierent locations happened at the same
timeor not, and they can also disagree on the order of the
two events. Technically, these disagreements occur when
the spacetime interval between the events is 'space-like',
meaning that neither event lies in the future light cone
of the other.* [31] If one of the two events represents the
sending of a signal from one location and the second event
represents the reception of the same signal at another location, then as long as the signal is moving at the speed of
light or slower, the mathematics of simultaneity ensures
that all reference frames agree that the transmission-event
happened before the reception-event.* [31]
However, in the case of a hypothetical signal moving
faster than light, there would always be some frames in
which the signal was received before it was sent, so that
the signal could be said to have moved backward in time.
And since one of the two fundamental postulates of special relativity says that the laws of physics should work
the same way in every inertial frame, then if it is possible
for signals to move backward in time in any one frame,
it must be possible in all frames. This means that if observer A sends a signal to observer B which moves FTL
(faster than light) in A's frame but backward in time in B's
frame, and then B sends a reply which moves FTL in B's
frame but backward in time in A's frame, it could work
out that A receives the reply before sending the original
signal, a clear violation of causality in every frame. An
illustration of such a scenario using spacetime diagrams



can be found here.* [32] The scenario is sometimes re- through the wormhole, no matter how the two ends move
ferred to as a tachyonic antitelephone.
around.* [35] This means that an observer entering the acAccording to special relativity, it would take an in- celerated end would exit the stationary end when the stanite amount of energy to accelerate a slower-than-light tionary end was the same age that the accelerated end had
object to the speed of light. Although relativity does been at the moment before entry; for example, if prior
not forbid the theoretical possibility of tachyons which to entering the wormhole the observer noted that a clock
move faster than light at all times, when analyzed using at the accelerated end read a date of 2007 while a clock
quantum eld theory, it seems that it would not actually be at the stationary end read 2012, then the observer would
exit the stationary end when its clock also read 2007, a
possible to use them to transmit information faster than
light. [33] There is also no widely agreed-upon evidence trip backward in time as seen by other observers outside.
One signicant limitation of such a time machine is that
for the existence of tachyons; the faster-than-light neutrino anomaly had opened the possibility that neutrinos it is only possible to go as* far back in time as the initial
creation of the machine; [36] in essence, it is more of
might be tachyons, but the results of the experiment were
path through time than it is a device that itself moves
found to be invalid upon further analysis.
through time, and it would not allow the technology itself
to be moved backward in time. This could provide an alternative explanation for Hawking's observation: a time
Special spacetime geometries
machine will be built someday, but has not yet been built,
The general theory of relativity extends the special the- so the tourists from the future cannot reach this far back
ory to cover gravity, illustrating it in terms of curvature in time.
in spacetime caused by mass-energy and the ow of mo- According to current theories on the nature of wormmentum. General relativity describes the universe under holes, construction of a traversable wormhole would rea system of eld equations, and there exist solutions to quire the existence of a substance with negative energy
these equations that permit what are called "closed time- (often referred to as "exotic matter"). More technically,
like curves", and hence time travel into the past.* [24] the wormhole spacetime requires a distribution of enThe rst of these was proposed by Kurt Gdel, a solution ergy that violates various energy conditions, such as the
known as the Gdel metric, but his (and many others') ex- null energy condition along with the weak, strong, and
ample requires the universe to have physical characteris- dominant energy conditions.* [37] However, it is known
tics that it does not appear to have.* [24] Whether general that quantum eects can lead to small measurable violarelativity forbids closed time-like curves for all realistic tions of the null energy condition,* [37] and many physiconditions is unknown.
cists believe that the required negative energy may acUsing wormholes
Main article: Wormhole
Wormholes are a hypothetical warped spacetime which
are also permitted by the Einstein eld equations of general relativity,* [34] although it would not be possible to
travel through a wormhole unless it were what is known
as a traversable wormhole.
A proposed time-travel machine using a traversable
wormhole would (hypothetically) work in the following
way: One end of the wormhole is accelerated to some
signicant fraction of the speed of light, perhaps with
some advanced propulsion system, and then brought back
to the point of origin. Alternatively, another way is to
take one entrance of the wormhole and move it to within
the gravitational eld of an object that has higher gravity than the other entrance, and then return it to a position near the other entrance. For both of these methods, time dilation causes the end of the wormhole that
has been moved to have aged less than the stationary end,
as seen by an external observer; however, time connects
dierently through the wormhole than outside it, so that
synchronized clocks at either end of the wormhole will always remain synchronized as seen by an observer passing

tually be possible due to the Casimir eect in quantum physics.* [38] Although early calculations suggested a
very large amount of negative energy would be required,
later calculations showed that the amount of negative energy can be made arbitrarily small.* [39]
In 1993, Matt Visser argued that the two mouths of
a wormhole with such an induced clock dierence
could not be brought together without inducing quantum eld and gravitational eects that would either make
the wormhole collapse or the two mouths repel each
other.* [40] Because of this, the two mouths could not
be brought close enough for causality violation to take
place. However, in a 1997 paper, Visser hypothesized
that a complex "Roman ring" (named after Tom Roman)
conguration of an N number of wormholes arranged in
a symmetric polygon could still act as a time machine,
although he concludes that this is more likely a aw in
classical quantum gravity theory rather than proof that
causality violation is possible.* [41]
Other approaches based on general relativity
Another approach involves a dense spinning cylinder usually referred to as a Tipler cylinder, a GR solution discovered by Willem Jacob van Stockum* [42] in 1936 and
Kornel Lanczos* [43] in 1924, but not recognized as al-


lowing closed timelike curves* [44] until an analysis by
Frank Tipler* [45] in 1974. If a cylinder is innitely long
and spins fast enough about its long axis, then a spaceship
ying around the cylinder on a spiral path could travel
back in time (or forward, depending on the direction of
its spiral). However, the density and speed required is so
great that ordinary matter is not strong enough to construct it. A similar device might be built from a cosmic
string, but none are known to exist, and it does not seem
to be possible to create a new cosmic string.
Physicist Robert Forward noted that a nave application
of general relativity to quantum mechanics suggests another way to build a time machine. A heavy atomic nucleus in a strong magnetic eld would elongate into a
cylinder, whose density and spinare enough to build
a time machine. Gamma rays projected at it might allow
information (not matter) to be sent back in time; however,
he pointed out that until we have a single theory combining relativity and quantum mechanics, we will have no
idea whether such speculations are nonsense.
A more fundamental objection to time travel schemes
based on rotating cylinders or cosmic strings has been
put forward by Stephen Hawking, who proved a theorem
showing that according to general relativity it is impossible to build a time machine of a special type (a time
machine with the compactly generated Cauchy horizon
) in a region where the weak energy condition is satised,
meaning that the region contains no matter with negative
energy density (exotic matter). Solutions such as Tipler's
assume cylinders of innite length, which are easier to analyze mathematically, and although Tipler suggested that
a nite cylinder might produce closed timelike curves if
the rotation rate were fast enough,* [46] he did not prove
this. But Hawking points out that because of his theorem, it can't be done with positive energy density everywhere! I can prove that to build a nite time machine,
you need negative energy.* [47] This result comes from
Hawking's 1992 paper on the chronology protection conjecture, where he examines the case that the causality
violations appear in a nite region of spacetime without
curvature singularitiesand proves that "[t]here will be
a Cauchy horizon that is compactly generated and that in
general contains one or more closed null geodesics which
will be incomplete. One can dene geometrical quantities that measure the Lorentz boost and area increase on
going round these closed null geodesics. If the causality violation developed from a noncompact initial surface, the averaged weak energy condition must be violated on the Cauchy horizon.* [48] However, this theorem does not rule out the possibility of time travel 1) by
means of time machines with the non-compactly generated Cauchy horizons (such as the Deutsch-Politzer time
machine) and 2) in regions which contain exotic matter
(which would be necessary for traversable wormholes or
the Alcubierre drive). Because the theorem is based on
general relativity, it is also conceivable a future theory of
quantum gravity which replaced general relativity would

allow time travel even without exotic matter (though it is
also possible such a theory would place even more restrictions on time travel, or rule it out completely as postulated
by Hawking's chronology protection conjecture).
Experiments carried out
Certain experiments carried out give the impression of reversed causality but are subject to interpretation. For example, in the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment
performed by Marlan Scully, pairs of entangled photons
are divided into signal photonsand idler photons
, with the signal photons emerging from one of two locations and their position later measured as in the doubleslit experiment, and depending on how the idler photon is
measured, the experimenter can either learn which of the
two locations the signal photon emerged from orerase
that information. Even though the signal photons can
be measured before the choice has been made about the
idler photons, the choice seems to retroactively determine
whether or not an interference pattern is observed when
one correlates measurements of idler photons to the corresponding signal photons. However, since interference
can only be observed after the idler photons are measured
and they are correlated with the signal photons, there is
no way for experimenters to tell what choice will be made
in advance just by looking at the signal photons, and under most interpretations of quantum mechanics the results
can be explained in a way that does not violate causality.
The experiment of Lijun Wang might also show causality violation since it made it possible to send packages
of waves through a bulb of caesium gas in such a way
that the package appeared to exit the bulb 62 nanoseconds before its entry. But a wave package is not a single
well-dened object but rather a sum of multiple waves of
dierent frequencies (see Fourier analysis), and the package can appear to move faster than light or even backward
in time even if none of the pure waves in the sum do so.
This eect cannot be used to send any matter, energy, or
information faster than light,* [49] so this experiment is
understood not to violate causality either.
The physicists Gnter Nimtz and Alfons Stahlhofen, of
the University of Koblenz, claim to have violated Einstein's theory of relativity by transmitting photons faster
than the speed of light. They say they have conducted an
experiment in which microwave photons traveled instantaneouslybetween a pair of prisms that had been
moved up to 3 ft (0.91 m) apart, using a phenomenon
known as quantum tunneling. Nimtz told New Scientist
magazine: For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of.However, other
physicists say that this phenomenon does not allow information to be transmitted faster than light. Aephraim
Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of
Toronto, Canada, uses the analogy of a train traveling
from Chicago to New York, but dropping o train cars
at each station along the way, so that the center of the



train moves forward at each stop; in this way, the speed

of the center of the train exceeds the speed of any of the
individual cars.* [50]
Some physicists have performed experiments that attempted to show causality violations, but so far without
success. The Space-time Twisting by Light(STL)
experiment run by physicist Ronald Mallett attempts to
observe a violation of causality when a neutron is passed
through a circle made up of a laser whose path has been
twisted by passing it through a photonic crystal. Mallett has some physical arguments that suggest that closed
timelike curves would become possible through the center of a laser that has been twisted into a loop. However,
other physicists dispute his arguments (see objections).
Shengwang Du claims in a peer-reviewed journal to have
observed single photons' precursors, saying that they
travel no faster than c in a vacuum. His experiment involved slow light as well as passing light through a vacuum. He generated two single photons, passing one
through rubidium atoms that had been cooled with a laser
(thus slowing the light) and passing one through a vacuum. Both times, apparently, the precursors preceded
the photons' main bodies, and the precursor traveled at c
in a vacuum. According to Du, this implies that there is
no possibility of light traveling faster than c (and, thus, violating causality).* [51] Some members of the media took
this as an indication of proof that time travel was impossible.* [52]* [53]

traveling twin


planes (ret. trip)
planes (trip out)

Twin paradox diagram

things up so that in a small amount of his own subjective

time, a large amount of subjective time has passed for
other people on Earth. For example, an observer might
take a trip away from the Earth and back at relativistic
velocities, with the trip only lasting a few years according
to the observer's own clocks, and return to nd that thousands of years had passed on Earth. It should be noted,
though, that according to relativity there is no objective
answer to the question of how much timereallypassed
during the trip; it would be equally valid to say that the
trip had lasted only a few years or that the trip had lasted
thousands of years, depending on the choice of reference

Non-physics-based experiments
Several experiments have been carried out to try to entice future This form of travel into the futureis theoretically
humans, who might invent time travel technology, to allowed (and has been demonstrated at very small time
come back and demonstrate it to people of the present scales) using the following methods: [30]
time. Events such as Perth's Destination Day (2005)
Using velocity-based time dilation under the theory
or MIT's Time Traveler Convention heavily publicized
of special relativity, for instance:
permanent advertisementsof a meeting time and
place for future time travelers to meet. Back in 1982,
Traveling at almost the speed of light to a disa group in Baltimore, Maryland., identifying itself as
tant star, then slowing down, turning around,
the Krononauts, hosted an event of this type welcoming
and traveling at almost the speed of light back
visitors from the future.* [54]* [55] These experiments
to Earth* [59] (see the Twin paradox)
only stood the possibility of generating a positive result
demonstrating the existence of time travel, but have
Using gravitational time dilation under the theory of
failed so far no time travelers are known to have
general relativity, for instance:
attended either event. It is hypothetically possible that
Residing inside of a hollow, high-mass object;
future humans have traveled back in time, but have
Residing just outside of the event horizon of a
traveled back to the meeting time and place in a parallel
black hole, or suciently near an object whose
universe. [56]
mass or density causes the gravitational time
Another factor is that for all the time travel devices condilation near it to be larger than the time dilasidered under current physics (such as those that operate
tion factor on Earth.
using wormholes), it is impossible to travel back to before
the time machine was actually made.* [57]* [58]
Additionally, it might be possible to see the distant future
of the Earth using methods which do not involve relativity
0.21.4 Time travel to the future in physics at all, although it is even more debatable whether these
should be deemed a form of time travel":
There are various ways in which a person could travel
into the futurein a limited sense: the person could set


Suspended animation
Time dilation

distant observers by residing inside a spherical shell with
a diameter of 5 meters and the mass of Jupiter.* [30] For
such a person, every one second of theirpersonaltime
would correspond to four seconds for distant observers.
Of course, squeezing the mass of a large planet into such
a structure is not expected to be within our technological
capabilities in the near future.
There is a great deal of experimental evidence supporting
the validity of equations for velocity-based time dilation
in special relativity* [61] and gravitational time dilation in
general relativity.* [62]* [63]* [64] However, with current
technologies it is only possible to cause a human traveler
to age less than companions on Earth by a very small fraction of a second, the current record being about 20 milliseconds for the cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev.

Time perception
Time perception can be apparently sped up for living organisms through hibernation, where the body temperature and metabolic rate of the creature is reduced. A
more extreme version of this is suspended animation,
where the rates of chemical processes in the subject
would be severely reduced.

Transversal time dilation

Main article: Time dilation

Time dilation is permitted by Albert Einstein's special and
general theories of relativity. These theories state that,
relative to a given observer, time passes more slowly for
bodies moving quickly relative to that observer, or bodies
that are deeper within a gravity well.* [60] For example,
a clock which is moving relative to the observer will be
measured to run slow in that observer's rest frame; as a
clock approaches the speed of light it will almost slow to a
stop, although it can never quite reach light speed so it will
never completely stop. For two clocks moving inertially
(not accelerating) relative to one another, this eect is reciprocal, with each clock measuring the other to be ticking slower. However, the symmetry is broken if one clock
accelerates, as in the twin paradox where one twin stays
on Earth while the other travels into space, turns around
(which involves acceleration), and returnsin this case
both agree the traveling twin has aged less. General relativity states that time dilation eects also occur if one
clock is deeper in a gravity well than the other, with the
clock deeper in the well ticking more slowly; this eect
must be taken into account when calibrating the clocks
on the satellites of the Global Positioning System, and it
could lead to signicant dierences in rates of aging for
observers at dierent distances from a black hole.

Time dilation and suspended animation only allow

travelto the future, never the past, so they do not violate causality, and it is debatable whether they should be
called time travel. However time dilation can be viewed
as a better t for our understanding of the term time
travelthan suspended animation, since with time dilation less time actually does pass for the traveler than for
those who remain behind, so the traveler can be said to
have reached the future faster than others, whereas with
suspended animation this is not the case.

It is hypothesized forward time travel could be experimentally proven using circulating lasers instead of super
massive objects. If a subatomic particle with a short lifetime were to be observed lasting longer this would suggest
it had traveled into the future at an accelerated rate.* [65]

0.21.5 Other ideas




Main article: Temporal paradox

Parallel universes might provide a way out of paradoxes.

Everett's many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quanIt has been calculated that, under general relativity, a per- tum mechanics suggests that all possible quantum events
son could travel forward in time at a rate four times that of can occur in mutually exclusive histories.* [66] These

alternate, or parallel, histories would form a branching tree symbolizing all possible outcomes of any interaction. If all possibilities exist, any paradoxes could
be explained by having the paradoxical events happening in a dierent universe. This concept is most often used in science-ction, but some physicists such as
David Deutsch have suggested that if time travel is possible and the MWI is correct, then a time traveler should
indeed end up in a dierent history than the one he
started from.* [67]* [68]* [69] On the other hand, Stephen
Hawking has argued that even if the MWI is correct,
we should expect each time traveler to experience a single self-consistent history, so that time travelers remain
within their own world rather than traveling to a dierent one.* [25] And the physicist Allen Everett argued that
Deutsch's approach involves modifying fundamental
principles of quantum mechanics; it certainly goes beyond simply adopting the MWI. Everett also argues
that even if Deutsch's approach is correct, it would imply
that any macroscopic object composed of multiple particles would be split apart when traveling back in time
through a wormhole, with dierent particles emerging in
dierent worlds.* [70]

mation faster than classical signals. The fact that these
quantum phenomena apparently do not allow FTL time
travel is often overlooked in popular press coverage of
quantum teleportation experiments. How the rules of
quantum mechanics work to preserve causality is an active area of research.

0.21.6 Philosophical understandings of

time travel
Main article: Philosophy of space and time

Theories of time travel are riddled with questions about

causality and paradoxes. Compared to other fundamental concepts in modern physics, time is still not understood very well. Philosophers have been theorizing about
the nature of time since before the era of the ancient
Greek philosophers. Some philosophers and physicists
who study the nature of time also study the possibility of
time travel and its logical implications. The probability
of paradoxes and their possible solutions are often conDaniel Greenberger and Karl Svozil proposed that sidered.
quantum theory gives a model for time travel without For more information on the philosophical considerations
paradoxes.* [71]* [72] The quantum theory observation of time travel, consult the work of David Lewis. For more
causes possible states to 'collapse' into one measured information on physics-related theories of time travel,
state; hence, the past observed from the present is deter- consider the work of Kurt Gdel (especially his theorized
ministic (it has only one possible state), but the present universe) and Lawrence Sklar.
observed from the past has many possible states until our
actions cause it to collapse into one state. Our actions will
then be seen to have been inevitable.
Presentism vs. eternalism
Using quantum entanglement
Main article: Quantum mechanics of time travel

The relativity of simultaneity in modern physics favors

the philosophical view known as eternalism or fourdimensionalism (Sider, 2001), in which physical objects are either temporally extended spacetime worms, or
spacetime worm stages, and this view would be favored
further by the possibility of time travel (Sider, 2001).
Eternalism, also sometimes known as block universe
theory, builds on a standard method of modeling time
as a dimension in physics, to give time a similar ontology
to that of space (Sider, 2001). This would mean that time
is just another dimension, that future events arealready
there, and that there is no objective ow of time. This
view is disputed by Tim Maudlin in his The Metaphysics
Within Physics.

Quantum-mechanical phenomena such as quantum teleportation, the EPR paradox, or quantum entanglement
might appear to create a mechanism that allows for fasterthan-light (FTL) communication or time travel, and in
fact some interpretations of quantum mechanics such
as the Bohm interpretation presume that some information is being exchanged between particles instantaneously
in order to maintain correlations between particles.* [73]
This eect was referred to as "spooky action at a distance" by Einstein.
Presentism is a school of philosophy that holds that neiNevertheless, the fact that causality is preserved in quan- ther the future nor the past exist, and there are no nontum mechanics is a rigorous result in modern quantum present objects. In this view, time travel is impossible
eld theories, and therefore modern theories do not al- because there is no future or past to travel to. However,
low for time travel or FTL communication. In any spe- some 21st-century presentists have argued that although
cic instance where FTL has been claimed, more detailed past and future objects do not exist, there can still be defanalysis has proven that to get a signal, some form of inite truths about past and future events, and thus it is
classical communication must also be used.* [74] The no- possible that a future truth about a time traveler deciding
communication theorem also gives a general proof that to travel back to the present date could explain the time
quantum entanglement cannot be used to transmit infor- traveler's actual appearance in the present.* [75]* [76]


The grandfather paradox
Main article: Grandfather paradox
One subject often brought up in philosophical discussion
of time is the idea that, if one were able to go back in
time, paradoxes could ensue if the time traveler were to
change things. The best examples of this are the grandfather paradox and the idea of autoinfanticide. The grandfather paradox is a hypothetical situation in which a time
traveler goes back in time and attempts to kill his paternal grandfather at a time before his grandfather met his
grandmother. If he did so, then his father never would
have been born, and neither would the time traveler himself, in which case the time traveler never would have
gone back in time to kill his grandfather.

Consider now the fact that in Tim's universe his grandfather actually died in 1993 and not in 1955. This new fact
about Tim's situation reveals that him killing his grandfather is not compossible with the current set of facts. Tim
cannot kill his grandfather because his grandfather died
in 1993 and not when he was young. Thus, Lewis concludes, the statements Tim doesnt but can, because
he has what it takes, and, Tim doesnt, and cant,
because it is logically impossible to change the past, are
not contradictions; they are both true given the relevant
set of facts. The usage of the word canis equivocal:
he canand can notunder dierent relevant facts.
So what must happen to Tim as he takes aim? Lewis believes that his gun will jam, a bird will y in the way, or
Tim simply slips on a banana peel. Either way, there will
be some logical force of the universe that will prevent
Tim every time from killing his grandfather.* [78]

Autoinfanticide works the same way, where a traveler

goes back and attempts to kill himself as an infant. If
he were to do so, he never would have grown up to go
back in time to kill himself as an infant.
This discussion is important to the philosophy of time
travel because philosophers question whether these paradoxes make time travel impossible. Some philosophers
answer the paradoxes by arguing that it might be the case
that backward time travel could be possible but that it
would be impossible to actually change the past in any
way,* [77] an idea similar to the proposed Novikov selfconsistency principle in physics.
Theory of compossibility
David Lewis's analysis of compossibility and the implications of changing the past is meant to account for the
possibilities of time travel in a one-dimensional conception of time without creating logical paradoxes. Consider
Lewisexample of Tim. Tim hates his grandfather and
would like nothing more than to kill him. The only problem for Tim is that his grandfather died years ago. Tim
wants so badly to kill his grandfather himself that he constructs a time machine to travel back to 1955 when his
grandfather was young and kill him then. Assuming that
Tim can travel to a time when his grandfather is still alive,
the question must then be raised: can Tim kill his grandfather?
For Lewis, the answer lies within the context of the usage
of the wordcan. Lewis explains that the wordcan
must be viewed against the context of pertinent facts relating to the situation. Suppose that Tim has a rie, years of
rie training, a straight shot on a clear day and no outside
force to restrain Tim's trigger nger. Can Tim shoot his
grandfather? Considering these facts, it would appear that
Tim can in fact kill his grandfather. In other words, all
of the contextual facts are compossible with Tim killing
his grandfather. However, when reecting on the compossibility of a given situation, we must gather the most
inclusive set of facts that we are able to.

Ideas from ction

Further information: Time travel in ction

Rules of time travel

Time travel themes in science ction and the media can generally be grouped into three general categories (based on eect methods are extremely varied and numerous) each of which can be further subdivided.* [79]* [80]* [81]* [82] However, there are no formal
names for these three categories, so concepts rather than
formal names will be used with notes regarding what categories they are placed under (Note: These classications
do not address the method of time travel itself, i.e. how to
travel through time, but instead call to attention diering
rules of what happens to history.). As used in this section,
timeline refers to all physical events in history, so that in
time travel stories where events can be changed, the time
traveler can create a new or altered timeline. This usage of timelineis fairly common in time travel ction,* [83] and is distinct from the usage of timeline
to refer to a type of chart created by humans to illustrate
a particular series of events (see timeline). This concept
is also distinct from the concept of a world line, a term
from Einstein's theory of relativity which refers to the entire history of a single object (usually idealized as a point
particle) that forms a distinct path through 4-dimensional
1. There is a single xed history, which
is self-consistent and unchangeable. In this
version, everything happens on a single timeline which does not contradict itself and cannot interact with anything potentially existing
outside of it.


traveler is rendered a noncorporeal phantom unable to physically
interact with the past such as in
some Pre-Crisis Superman stories
and Michael Garrett's Brief Encounterin Twilight Zone Magazine
May 1981.
2. History is exible and is subject to
change (Plastic Time)

A man traveling a few seconds into the past in a single selfconsistent timeline. This scenario raises questions about free will,
since once the traveler has decided to enter the time machine, then
as soon as his own double appears, there is absolutely no way for
him to change his mind.

1.1 This can be simply achieved

by applying the Novikov selfconsistency principle, named after
Igor Dmitrievich Novikov. The
principle states that the timeline is
totally xed, and any actions taken
by a time traveler were part of history all along, so it is impossible for
the time traveler to changehistory in any way. The time traveler's
actions may be the cause of events
in their own past though, which
leads to the potential for circular causation and the predestination
paradox; for examples of circular
causation, see Robert A. Heinlein's
story "By His Bootstraps". In ction, these phenomena are often referred to as stable time loops.
The Novikov self-consistency principle proposes that the local laws
of physics in a region of spacetime
containing time travelers cannot be
any dierent from the local laws
of physics in any other region of
spacetime.* [84]
1.2 Alternatively, new physical laws
take eect regarding time travel
that thwart attempts to change the
past (contradicting the assumption
mentioned in 1.1 above that the
laws that apply to time travelers are
the same ones that apply to everyone else). These new physical laws
can be as unsubtle as to reject time
travelers who travel to the past to
change it by pulling them back to
the point from when they came as
Michael Moorcock's The Dancers
at the End of Time or where the

2.1 Changes to history are easy and

can impact the traveler, the world,
or both
Examples include Doctor
Who and the Back to
the Future trilogy. In
some cases, any resulting paradoxes can be devastating, threatening the
very existence of the universe. In other cases the
traveler simply cannot return home. The extreme
version of this (Chaotic
Time) is that history is
very sensitive to changes
with even small changes
having large impacts such
as in Ray Bradbury's "A
Sound of Thunder".
In Doctor Who the
Doctor claims time
can be changed at any
moment. In the Fourth
Doctor serial Pyramids
of Mars his companion
Sarah Jane Smith says
they can leave 1911,
despite the alien Sutekh
trying to break free, as
she comes from 1980 and
knows the world wasn't
destroyed in 1911. The
Doctor takes her to 1980
and shows the world has
been destroyed because
they didn't stop Sutekh.
The Doctor claims a man
can change the course
of history, but it takes a
being of Sutekh's power
to destroy the future.
2.2 History is change resistant in direct relationship to the importance


of the event i.e., small trivial events
can be readily changed but large
ones take great eort.
In the Twilight Zone
episode "Back There" a
traveler tries to prevent
the assassination of
President Lincoln and
fails, but his actions have
made subtle changes to
the status quo in his own
time (e.g. a man who
had been the butler of his
gentleman's club is now a
rich tycoon).
In the Twilight Zone
episode "The 7th Is Made
Up of Phantoms" three
modern-day soldiers on
maneuvers in Montana
near the site of the
historic Battle of Little
Big Horn vanish and
nd themselves back at
that 1876 action; they
join the ght but the
outcome of the battle
the famous last stand
of George Armstrong
Custer remains the
same despite the trio's
weapons. However, their
names are later found by
their present-day army
companions inscribed on
the battleeld memorial
roll of those who were
killed there.
In the 2002 lm adaptation of The Time Machine, it is explained via
a vision why Hartdegen
could not save his sweetheart Emma doing so
would have resulted in his
never developing the time
machine he used to try
and save her.
In The Saga of Darren Shan, major events
in the past cannot be
changed, but their details can change while

providing the same outcome. Using this model,
if a time traveler were
to go back in time and
kill Adolf Hitler, another
Nazi would simply take
his place and commit his
same actions, leaving the
broader course of history
In the Doctor Who
episode "The Waters of
Mars", Captain Adelaide
Brooke's death on Mars is
the most singular catalyst
of human travel outside
the solar system. At rst,
the Tenth Doctor realizes
her death is axed point
in timeand does not
intervene, but later dees
this rule, realising that
he is the last Time Lord
and therefore is in charge
of the laws of time, and
transports her and her
crew to Earth. Rather
than allow human history to change, Captain
Brooke commits suicide
on Earth, leaving history
mostly unchanged. Similarly in "Vincent and
the Doctor" the Eleventh
Doctor and Amy Pond
change history so artist
Vincent Van Gogh will
know he is appreciated in
the future. Despite this,
he still commits suicide.
2.3 There is a xed timeline that history likes to travel, however large
enough changes to events can alter
history altogether. In other words,
small events which are not too signicant will not have a noticeable
change in history's nal outcome
In TimeRiders, the main
in time to stop the
Assassination of John F.
Kennedy in 1963. One
of the team, who stays
in the present, sees the
world change slightly
as Kennedy was never


killed, however it quickly
reverts to the original
timeline as there was
another killer in 1963
posted in case the rst
killer (whom the main
characters stopped) failed
in the assassination.
The main plot of the television series Doraemon
involves a robotic cat who
tries to change the life of
one Nobita. He is sent
from the 22nd century
by Nobita's grandson, but
when Nobita questions if
the future were to be
changed how he still exists, his grandson uses an
analogy to that of traveling from one city to another. There are many
methods of doing so, such
as by plane, by boat or by
train, but the end result is
the same and you arrive at
your destination.

time, he/she ends up in a new timeline where

historical events can dier from the timeline
he/she came from, but his/her original timeline does not cease to exist (this means the
grandfather paradox can be avoided since even
if the time traveler's grandparent is killed at a
young age in the new timeline, he/she still survived to have children in the original timeline,
so there is still a causal explanation for the traveler's existence). Time travel may actually create a new timeline that diverges from the original timeline at the moment the time traveler
appears in the past, or the traveler may arrive
in an already existing parallel universe (though
unless the parallel universe's history was identical to the time traveler's history up until the
point where the time traveler appeared, it is
questionable whether the latter version qualies as 'time travel').
James P. Hogan's The Proteus Operation fully explains parallel universe time travel in chapter 20
where it has Einstein explaining
that all the possible outcomes already exist and all time travel does
is change which already existing
branch you will experience.
Doctor Who has featured many alternate timelines such as that in
Day of the Daleks (see above).
In Pyramids of Mars the Doctor
claims, Every point in time has
its alternative.

Time travel under the parallel universe hypothesis. This scenario

has the potential to preserve free will, but breaks symmetry between universes.

Though Star Trek has a long tradition of using the 2.1 mechanism, as seen in "The City on
the Edge of Forever", "Tomorrow
Is Yesterday", "Time and Again",
"Future's End", "Before and After", "Endgame" and as late as
Enterprise's Temporal Cold War
episodes, "Parallels" had an example of what Data called quantum
realities. He states, But there
is a theory in quantum physics that
all possibilities that can happen do
happen in alternate quantum realities,suggesting the writers were
thinking of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

3. Alternate timelines. In this version of time

travel, there are multiple coexisting alternate
histories, so that when the traveler goes back in

Michael Crichton's novel Timeline

takes the approach that all time
travel really is travel to an already
existing parallel universe where


time passes at a slower rate than
our own but actions in any of these
parallel universes may have already
occurred in our past. It is unclear
from the novel if any sizable change
in events of these parallel universe
can be made.
In the Homelinesetting of
GURPS Innite Worlds there are
branching from an early part of
Homeline's history, but changes to
an echo's history does not aect
Homeline's history.
tampering with an echo's history
can cause the parallel universe to
shift quanta, making access to that
echo harder if not impossible.
An example in this category might
dictate that the alternative version
of the past lies not in some other
dimension, but simply at a distant
location in space or a future period of time that replicates conditions in the traveler's past. For example, in a Futurama episode titled
"The Late Philip J. Fry", Professor
Farnsworth designs a forward-only
time travel device. Trapped in the
future, he and two colleagues travel
forward all the way to the end of the
universe, at which point they witness a new Big Bang which gives
rise to a new universe whose history
mirrors their own history. Then
they continue to go forward until
they reach the exact time of their
initial departure, in which they accidentally kill that Universe's versions of themselves and take their
place. Although this journey is not
truly backward time travel, the nal
result is the same.
In the Japanese manga, Dragon Ball
Z, the character Trunks travels back
in time to warn the characters of
their imminent deaths. This does
not change his timeline, but creates
a new one in which they do not die.
Later two of the characters destroy
the lab where a monster called Cell
is being created, creating a third
timeline. Later it is revealed that
Trunks is killed by Cell in the future, then travels to three years be-

fore any of the events occur, creating a fourth timeline. No matter what any character does in the
past, their own original timeline is
In Dj Vu the main character travels several times between parallel
timelines to solve a criminal case.
Timelines are very similar and he
fails to solve and stop the crime in
rst two attempts but succeeds in
the last timeline. The main hero in
the last timeline dies while stopping
the crime, so the paradox of meeting his double is avoided.
In Terminator 2: The New John
Connor Chronicles by Russell
Blackford Skynet and the resistance have created at least three
timelines due to use of Time
Displacement Equipment.
resistance in one timeline discovers
how to travel from one timeline to
another, and fears that Skynet will
learn this and destroy humanity
throughout the Terminator multiverse. Therefore, they set out to
destroy Skynet in each timeline.
In the Japanese visual novel,
"Steins;Gate" the protagonist
Okabe Rintarou learns to travel
in between World linesthat
act as alternate timelines based on
changes done to the world through
his abilities to send text messages
into the past. These changes were
calculated by a device known as a
Divergence Meterthat would
measure changes by number values
below 0, with a measure above 1
indicating a shift in line stronger
enough to shift to him to a world
with a drastically changed history.
In Marvel Comics it is claimed time
travel creates alternate timelines.
The time-traveler Kang the Conqueror creates alternate versions
of himself due to his time travel.
However travel through these alternate timelines is possible, which
Kang uses to kill all alternate versions of him.

Immutable timelines Time travel in a type 1 universe
does not allow paradoxes such as the grandfather paradox to occur, where one deduces both a conclusion and
its opposite (in the case of the grandfather paradox, one
can start with the premise of the time traveler killing his
grandfather, and reach the conclusion that the time traveler will not be able to kill his grandfather since he was
never born) though it can allow other paradoxes to occur.

of dying (which would cause a paradox), he experiences a return to the End of Time
Example 2: Time travelers sometimes visit the
End of Time from their own epochs in the past.
Those that attempt to return to their own period
are likely to reappear inadvertently at the End
of Time.

In 1.1, the Novikov self-consistency principle asserts that

the existence of a method of time travel constrains events The general consequences are that time travel to the travto remain self-consistent. This will cause any attempt eler's past is dicult, and many time travelers nd themto violate such consistency to fail, even if seemingly ex- selves adventuring deeper and deeper into their future.
tremely improbable events are required.
If interaction with the past is not possible then the traveler
simply becomes an invisible insubstantial phantom unable
Example: You have a device that can send
to interact with the past as in the case of James Harrigan
a single bit of information back to itself at a
in Michael Garrett's Brief Encounter.
precise moment in time. You receive a bit
While a Type 1 universe will prevent a grandfather
at 10:00:00 p.m., then no bits for thirty secparadox it does not prevent paradoxes in other aspects
onds after that. If you send a bit back to
of physics such as the predestination paradox and the
10:00:00 p.m., everything works ne. Howbootstrap paradox (GURPS Innite Worlds calls this
ever, if you try to send a bit to 10:00:15 p.m.
Free Lunch Paradox).
(a time at which no bit was received), your
The predestination paradox is where the traveler's actions
transmitter will mysteriously fail. Or your dog
create some type of causal loop, in which some event A in
will distract you for fteen seconds. Or your
the future helps cause event B in the past via time travel,
transmitter will appear to work, but as it turns
and the event B in turn is one of the causes of A. For
out your receiver failed at exactly 10:00:15
instance, a time traveler might go back to investigate a
p.m., etc. Examples of this kind of universe
specic historical event like the Great Fire of London,
are found in Robert Forward's novel Timemasand their actions in the past could then inadvertently end
ter, the Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like
up being the original cause of that very event.
the Past", and the 1980 Jeannot Szwarc lm
Somewhere In Time (based on Richard MatheExamples of this kind of causal loop are found in Robert
son's novel Bid Time Return).
Forward's novel Timemaster, the Twilight Zone episode
"No Time Like the Past", EC Comics stories like Man
In 1.2, time travel is constrained to prevent paradox. How who was Killed in Time(Weird Science #5), Why
this occurs is dependent on whether interaction with the Papa Left Home(Weird Science #11),Only Time will
past is possible.
Tell(Weird Fantasy #1), The Connection(Weird
#9), Skeleton Key(Weird Fantasy #16),
If interaction with the past is possible and one attempts
Clockwise(Weird Fantasy #18), the
to make a paradox, one undergoes involuntary or uncon1980
lm Somewhere In Time (based on
trolled time travel. In the time-travel stories of Connie
Bid Time Return) the Michael
Willis, time travelers encounter slippagewhich preMoorcock
Man, and La Jete/12 Monvents them from either reaching the intended time or
translates them a sucient distance from their destination at the intended time, as to prevent any paradox from Causal loops are also featured in 1972's Doctor Who, in
the three part The Day of the Daleks, where three freedom
ghters from the future attempt to kill a British diplomat
they believe responsible for World War Three, and the
Example: A man who travels into the past with
subsequent easy conquest of Earth by the Daleks. In the
intentions to kill Hitler nds himself on a Monfuture they were taught an explosion at the diplomat's (Sir
tana farm in late April 1945.
Reginald Styles) mansion with foreign delegates inside
caused the nations of the world to attack each other. The
In the "The Dancers at the End of Time" series, Michael Doctor (Jon Pertwee), gures out that they caused the exMoorcock invented a plot device called the Morphail Ef- plosion all along by way of a temporal paradox. However
fect. This causes a time traveler to be ejected from the this event is averted when the freedom ghter is warned
time in which he or she is about to cause a paradox.
after the Doctor returns to the 20th Century. A more
clear example occurs in The Curse of Fenric, where the
Example 1: A man from the End of Time peDoctor's companion Ace saves her mother in 1943, thus
riod travels to the past and is executed. Instead
enabling her existence.


In the 2006 crime thriller Dj Vu there appears to be
causal loops, as Agent Doug Carlin decides to send a message back in time to save his partner's life, but this will
eventually cause his death. Later in the movie, though,
Carlin is able to change events and create an alternate reality. This apparent paradox can be explained by multiple
previous unseen time travels in a type 3 universe.
In the video game Escape from Monkey Island there's a
section in which the player, controlling Guybrush Threepwood, gets some items from his future self in the Swamp
of Time. Soon after that, he will become the future Guybrush and will have to give the items to his past self in the
same order. This is an example of causal loop because
those items were created purely from the time travel. If
the player doesn't repeat every action properly, it will
cause a paradox that sends Guybrush back to the entrance
of the swamp, implying a type 1.2 universe.

A version of the ontological or bootstrap paradox. The appearance of the traveler is the result of his disappearance a few seconds later. In this scenario, the traveler is traveling along a closed
timelike curve.

The philosopher Kelley L. Ross argues in Time Travel
Paradoxes* [86] that in an ontological paradox scenario
involving a physical object, there can be a violation of the
second law of thermodynamics. Ross uses Somewhere in
Time as an example where Jane Seymour's character gives
Christopher Reeve's character a watch she has owned for
many years, and when he travels back in time he gives the
same watch to Jane Seymour's character 60 years in the
past. As Ross states
The watch is an impossible object. It violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics,
the Law of Entropy. If time travel makes that
watch possible, then time travel itself is impossible. The watch, indeed, must be absolutely
identical to itself in the 19th and 20th centuries,
since Reeve carries it with him from the future
instantaneously into the past and bestows it on
Seymour. The watch, however, cannot be identical to itself, since all the years in which it is
in the possession of Seymour and then Reeve
it will wear in the normal manner. Its entropy
will increase. The watch carried back by Reeve
will be more worn than the watch that would
have been acquired by Seymour.
On the other hand, the second law of thermodynamics
is understood by modern physicists to be a statistical law
rather than an absolute one, so spontaneous reversals of
entropy or failure to increase in entropy are not impossible, just improbable (see for example the uctuation
theorem). In addition, the second law of thermodynamics only states that entropy should increase in systems which are isolated from interactions with the external world, so Igor Novikov (creator of the Novikov
self-consistency principle) has argued that in the case
of macroscopic objects like the watch whose worldlines
form closed loops, the outside world can expend energy
to repair wear/entropy that the object acquires over the
course of its history, so that it will be back in its original
condition when it closes the loop.* [87]

The Novikov self-consistency principle can also result in

an ontological paradox (also known as the knowledge or
information paradox, or bootstrap paradox)* [85] where
the very existence of some object or information is a time
loop. GURPS Innite Worlds gives the example (from The
Eyre Aair) of a time traveler going to Shakespeare's time
with a book of all his works. Shakespeare pressed for
time simply copies the information in the book from the
future. The paradox is that nobody actually writes the
Mutable timelines Time travel in a Type 2 universe
In The Final Countdown (lm), a modern-day nuclear- is much more complex. The biggest problem is how to
powered United States Navy aircraft carrier passes explain changes in the past. One method of explanation
through a strange storm and ends up near Pearl Harbor is that once the past changes, so do the memories of all
the day before the Japanese surprise attack of Dec. 7, observers. This would mean that no observer would ever
1941. However, a second storm the following morning observe the changing of the past (because they will not
prevents the ship's commander from interfering with the remember changing the past). This would make it hard
historical timeline and using his ship's awesome repower to tell whether you are in a Type 1 universe or a Type
to thwart the attack, by pulling the ship back to the present 2 universe. You could, however, infer such information
day. But in the process, one of his senior ocers is left by knowing if a) communication with the past were posbehind in 1941 creating a bootstrap paradox, as that of- sible or b) it appeared that the time line had never been
cer, armed with his extensive modern-day knowledge of changed as a result of an action someone remembers taknaval ships and aviation, will, in the future that unfolds, ing, although evidence exists that other people are changplay a crucial and signicant role in the construction and ing their time lines fairly often.
future history of that very ship.

An example of this kind of universe is presented in Thrice

Upon a Time, a novel by James P. Hogan. The Back to the
Future trilogy lms also seem to feature a single mutable
timeline (see the "Back to the Future FAQ" for details
on how the writers imagined time travel worked in the
movies' world). By contrast, the short story Brooklyn
Projectby William Tenn provides a sketch of life in a
Type 2 world where no one even notices as the timeline
changes repeatedly.
In type 2.1, attempts are being made at changing the
timeline, however, all that is accomplished in the rst
tries is that the method in which decisive events occur
is changed; nal conclusions in the bigger scheme cannot
be brought to a dierent outcome.
As an example, the movie Dj Vu depicts a paper note
sent to the past with vital information to prevent a terrorist attack. However, the vital information results in the
killing of an ATF agent, but does not prevent the terrorist
attack; the very same agent died in the previous version of
the timeline as well, albeit under dierent circumstances.
Finally, the timeline is changed by sending a human into
the past, arguably astrongermeasure than simply sending back a paper note, which results in preventing both a
murder and the terrorist attack. As in the Back to the Future movie trilogy, there seems to be a ripple eect too
as changes from the past propagateinto the present,
and people in the present have altered memory of events
that occurred after the changes made to the timeline.
The science ction writer Larry Niven suggests in his essay The Theory and Practice of Time Travelthat in
a type 2.1 universe, the most ecient way for the universe to correcta change is for time travel to never
be discovered, and that in a type 2.2 universe, the very
large (or innite) number of time travelers from the endless future will cause the timeline to change wildly until
it reaches a history in which time travel is never discovered. However, many other stablesituations might
also exist in which time travel occurs but no paradoxes
are created; if the changeable-timeline universe nds itself in such a state no further changes will occur, and to
the inhabitants of the universe it will appear identical to
the type 1.1 scenario. This is sometimes referred to as
the Time Dilution Eect.
Few if any physicists or philosophers have taken seriously
the possibility ofchangingthe past except in the case of
multiple universes, and in fact many have argued that this
idea is logically incoherent,* [77] so the mutable timeline
idea is rarely considered outside of science ction.
Also, deciding whether a given universe is of Type 2.1
or 2.2 can not be done objectively, as the categorization
of timeline-invasive measures as strongor weak
is arbitrary, and up to interpretation: An observer can
disagree about a measure being weak, and might, in
the lack of context, argue instead that simply a mishap
occurred which then led to no eective change.
An example would be the paper note sent back to the past
in the lm Dj Vu, as described above. Was it a too

weakchange, or was it just a local-time alteration which
had no extended eect on the larger timeline? As the
universe in Dj Vu seems not entirely immune to paradoxes (some arguably minute paradoxes do occur), both
versions seem to be equally possible.
Alternate histories In Type 3, any event that appears
to have caused a paradox has instead created a new time
line. The old time line remains unchanged, with the time
traveler or information sent simply having vanished, never
to return. A diculty with this explanation, however, is
that conservation of mass-energy would be violated for
the origin timeline and the destination timeline. A possible solution to this is to have the mechanics of time
travel require that mass-energy be exchanged in precise
balance between past and future at the moment of travel,
or to simply expand the scope of the conservation law
to encompass all timelines. Some examples of this kind
of time travel can be found in David Gerrold's book The
Man Who Folded Himself and The Time Ships by Stephen
baxter, plus several episodes of the TV shows Stargate,
Star Trek: The Next Generation and the android saga in
the anime Dragon Ball Z, as well as in The Legend of
Zelda series of Video Games which feature a heavy inuence of time and alternate realities, based on various
outcomes of a single scenario. In a slightly dierent exercise of conservation, Robert Heinlein's The Door Into
Summer required that one send an equivalent mass into
both the future and past but you couldn't choose which
'direction' each mass went.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K.
Rowling, Harry Potter and his friend Hermione Granger
travel back in time because, as Harry says There must
be something that happened around then that Professor
Dumbledore wants us to change.The book only presents
the altered time line (twice) and not the unaltered
one.* [88]
In Groundhog Day (lm) the central character (a
snarky and arrogant TV weatherman unwillingly assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) becomes caught in a time
loop that eectively produces multiple time lines he
awakens each new morning to nd himself still stuck in
the town on Feb. 2. Only he is aware of the time shift
and has memories of his previous interactions eachday
with the townspeople and the members of his own news
crew; for them, each day begins totally anew, like a slate
that has been wiped clean. At rst, he uses his retained
knowledge to unfairly try to take advantage of the others,
knowing there will be no long-term consequences; when
he tires of that, he grows despondent and tries toescape
his time loop, multiple times, by killing himself, only to
awaken again each morning still caught in the same situation. He gradually and eventually transforms himself,
becoming a better person, both in terms of learning new
abilities, such as how to play the piano and speak French,
and, more importantly, in learning how to treat other peo-



ple better, and only in that way is he able to nally escape

his time trap.

the Looking-Glass (1871): the White Queen is living backward, hence her memory is working both
ways. Her kind of time travel is uncontrolled: she
moves through time with a constant speed of 1 and
she cannot change it. T.H. White, in the rst part of
his Arthurian novel The Once and Future King, The
Sword in the Stone (1938) used the same idea: the
wizard Merlyn lives backward in time, because he
was born at the wrong end of timeand has to
live backward from the front. Some people call
it having second sight, he says. This method of
gradual time travel is not as popular in modern science ction, though a form of it does occur in the
lm Primer.

Gradual and instantaneous

In literature, there are two methods of time travel:

Time travel or spacetime travel

A gradual time travel, as in the movie Primer. When the time
machine is red, everything inside is going through time at normal rate, but backward. During entry/exit it seems there would
have to be fusion/separation between the forward and reversed
versions of the traveler.

1. The most commonly used method of time travel in

science ction is the instantaneous movement from
one point in time to another, like using the controls on a CD player to skip to a previous or next
song, though in most cases, there is a machine of
some sort, and some energy expended in order to
make this happen (like the time-traveling DeLorean
in Back to the Future or the TARDIS (Time and
Relative Dimension in Space) that traveled through
time in Doctor Who). In some cases, there is not
even the beginning of a scientic explanation for this
kind of time travel; it's popular probably because it
is more spectacular and makes time travel simple.
TheUniversal Remoteused by Adam Sandler in
the movie Click works in the same manner, although
only in one direction, the future. While his character Michael Newman can travel back to a previous
point it is merely a playback with which he cannot

An objection that is sometimes raised against the concept

of time machines in science ction is that they ignore the
motion of the Earth between the date the time machine
departs and the date it returns. The idea that a traveler can
go into a machine that sends him or her to 1865 and step
out into exactly the same spot on Earth might be said to ignore the issue that Earth is moving through space around
the Sun, which is moving in the galaxy, and so on, so that
advocates of this argument imagine that realistically
the time machine should actually reappear in space far
away from the Earth's position at that date. However, the
theory of relativity rejects the idea of absolute time and
space; in relativity there can be no universal truth about
the spatial distance between events which occur at different times* [89] (such as an event on Earth today and an
event on Earth in 1865), and thus no objective truth about
which point in space at one time is at the same positionthat the Earth was at another time. In the theory of
special relativity, which deals with situations where gravity is negligible, the laws of physics work the same way in
every inertial frame of reference and therefore no frame's
perspective is physically better than any other frame's,
and dierent frames disagree about whether two events
at dierent times happened at the same positionor
dierent positions. In the theory of general relativity,
which incorporates the eects of gravity, all coordinate
systems are on equal footing because of a feature known
as dieomorphism invariance.* [90]

2. In The Time Machine, H. G. Wells explains that

we are moving through time with a constant speed.
Time travel then is, in Wells' words, stopping or
accelerating one's drift along the time-dimension,
or even turning about and traveling the other way.
George Pal, director of the 1960 adaptation based
on Wells's classic, accordingly chose to depict time
travel by employing time-lapse photography. To
expand on the audio playback analogy used above,
this would be like rewinding or fast forwarding an
analogue audio cassette and playing the tape at a
chosen point. Perhaps the oldest example of this
method of time travel is in Lewis Carroll's Through

Nevertheless, the idea that the Earth moves away from the
time traveler when he takes a trip through time has been
used in a few science ction stories, such as the 2000 AD
comic Strontium Dog, in which Johnny Alpha usesTime
Bombsto propel an enemy several seconds into the future, during which time the movement of the Earth causes
the unfortunate victim to re-appear in space. Much earlier, Clark Ashton Smith used this form of time travel
in several stories such as "The Letter from Mohaun Los"
(1932) where the protagonist ends up on a planet millions of years in the future which happened to occupy
the same space through which Earth had passed. Other



science ction stories try to anticipate this objection and [8]Choni HaMe'agel. Jewish search. Retrieved November
6, 2009.
oer a rationale for the fact that the traveler remains on
Earth, such as the 1957 Robert Heinlein novel The Door
[9] Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Preinto Summer where Heinlein essentially handwaved the isRevolutionary France (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996),
sue with a single sentence: You stay on the world line
you were on.In his 1980 novel The Number of the Beast
a continua deviceallows the protagonists to dial in [10] Alkon, Paul K. (1987). Origins of Futuristic Fiction. The
University of Georgia Press. pp. 9596. ISBN 0-8203the coordinates of space and time and it instantly moves
them therewithout explaining how such a device might
[11] Alkon, Paul K. (1987). Origins of Futuristic Fiction. The
University of Georgia Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-8203-0932The television series Seven Days also dealt with this probX.
lem; when the chrononaut would be 'rewinding', he would
also be propelling himself backward around the Earth's [12] Akutin, Yury (1978)
orbit, with the intention of landing at some chosen spa"" (Alexander Veltman and his novel Strannik,
tial location, though seldom hitting the mark precisely. In
in Russian).
Piers Anthony's Bearing an Hourglass, the potent Hourglass of the Incarnation of Time naturally moves the In- [13] Missing One's Coach: An Anachronism. Dublin University magazine 11. March 1838.
carnation in space according to the numerous movements
of the globe through the solar system, the solar system [14] Derleth, August (1951). Far Boundaries. Pellegrini &
through the galaxy, etc.; but by carefully negating some
Cudahy. p. 3.
of the movements he can also travel in space within the
limits of the planet. The television series Doctor Who [15] Derleth, August (1951). Far Boundaries. Pellegrini &
Cudahy. pp. 1138.
avoided this issue by establishing early on in the series
that TARDISes are able to move about in space in addi- [16] Flynn, John L.Time Travel Literature. Archived from
tion to traveling in time.
the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2006-10-28.


See also



[1] Curiosities : The Clock That Went Backward,by

Edward Page Mitchell (1881)". sfsite.com.
[2] Vandermeer. The Time Traveler's Almanac. TOR. pp.
154, 450. The Clock That Went Backward, released in
1881 in The Sun is the rst time-travel story ever published, coming out several years before HG Well's The
Time Machine. Although it is popularly believed that The
Chronic Argonauts was the rst ction published with a
time-travel theme, another story, also in this anthology,
predates it by almost a decade: Edward Page Mitchell's
The Clock That Went Backward
[3] mythfolklore.net, Revati, Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India
[4] mayapur.com, Lord Balarama, Sri Mayapur
[5] Indian Philosophy Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya: People's Publishing House, New Delhi. (First Published:
1964, 7th Edition: 1993)
[6] Yorke, Christopher (February 2006). Malchronia: Cryonics and Bionics as Primitive Weapons in the War on
Time. Journal of Evolution and Technology 15 (1): 73
85. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
[7] Rosenberg, Donna (1997). Folklore, myths, and legends:
a world perspective. McGraw-Hill. p. 421. ISBN 0-84425780-X.

[17] Rudwick, Martin J. S. (1992). Scenes From Deep Time.

The University of Chicago Press. pp. 166169. ISBN
[18] Nahin, Paul J. (2001). Time machines: time travel in
physics, metaphysics, and science ction. Springer. p. 54.
ISBN 0-387-98571-9.
[19] Page Mitchell, Edward. The Clock That Went Backward (PDF). Retrieved 4 December 2011.
[20] Nahin, Paul J. (2001). Time machines: time travel in
physics, metaphysics, and science ction. Springer. p. 55.
ISBN 0-387-98571-9.
[21] Uribe, Augusto (June 1999). The First Time Machine:
Enrique Gaspar's Anacronpete. The New York Review
of Science Fiction. 11, no. 10 (130): 12.
[22] Noted in the Introduction to an English translation of the
book, The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey, translated by Yolanda Molina-Gaviln and Andrea L. Bell.
[23] Westcott, Kathryn. HG Wells or Enrique Gaspar:
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Physical Review D 46

[44] Earman, John (1995). Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers, and

Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes. Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-19509591-X.

[29] Hawking, Stephen; Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy

Ferris, Alan Lightman (2002). The Future of Spacetime.
W. W. Norton. p. 150. ISBN 0-393-02022-3.

[45] Tipler, Frank J (1974). Rotating Cylinders and the

Possibility of Global Causality Violation. Physical Review D 9 (8): 2203. Bibcode:1974PhRvD...9.2203T.

[30] Gott, J. Richard (2002). Time Travel in Einstein's Universe. p.33-130

[31] Jarrell, Mark.The Special Theory of Relativity(PDF).
pp. 711. Archived from the original on 2006-09-13.
Retrieved 2006-10-27.
[32] Sharp Blue: Relativity, FTL and causality Richard
Baker. Theculture.org. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
[33] Chase, Scott I. Tachyons entry from Usenet Physics
FAQ. Retrieved 2006-10-27.
[34] Visser, Matt (1996). Lorentzian Wormholes. SpringerVerlag. p. 100. ISBN 1-56396-653-0.
[35] Thorne, Kip S. (1994). Black Holes and Time Warps. W.
W. Norton. p. 502. ISBN 0-393-31276-3.
[36] Thorne, Kip S. (1994). Black Holes and Time Warps. W.
W. Norton. p. 504. ISBN 0-393-31276-3.
[37] Visser, Matt (1996). Lorentzian Wormholes. SpringerVerlag. p. 101. ISBN 1-56396-653-0.
[38] Cramer, John G.. NASA Goes FTL Part 1: Wormhole
Physics. Archived from the original on 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
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arXiv:hep-th/9202090. Bibcode:1993PhRvD..47..554V.
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arXiv:gr-qc/9702043. Bibcode:1997PhRvD..55.5212V.
[42] van Stockum, Willem Jacob (1936). The Gravitational
Field of a Distribution of Particles Rotating about an Axis
of Symmetry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
[43] Lanczos, Kornel (1924). On a Stationary Cosmology
in the Sense of Einsteins Theory of Gravitation. General Relativity and Gravitation (Springland Netherlands)
29 (3): 363399. doi:10.1023/A:1010277120072.

[46] Earman, John (1995). Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers, and

Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes. Oxford University Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-19509591-X.
[47] Hawking, Stephen; Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy
Ferris, Alan Lightman (2002). The Future of Spacetime.
W. W. Norton. p. 96. ISBN 0-393-02022-3.
[48] Hawking, Stephen (1992).
Chronology protection conjecture.
Physical Review D 46
[49] Wright, Laura (November 6, 2003).Score Another Win
for Albert Einstein. Discover.
[50] Anderson, Mark (August 1824, 2007). Light seems to
defy its own speed limit. New Scientist 195 (2617). p.
[51] ust.hk; The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
[52] It's ocial: Time machines won't work latimes.com.
Los Angeles Times. (2011-07-25). Retrieved 2011-09-05.
[53] dailymail.co.uk; Time travel is sci- fantasy: Scientists
prove nothing can travel faster than the speed of light |
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[54] Franklin, Ben A. (March 11, 1982),The night the planets were aligned with Baltimore lunacy, The New York
[55] Museum of the Future. Lehman.cuny.edu. Retrieved
[56] Jaume Garriga; Alexander Vilenkin (2001). Many
worlds in one. Phys. Rev. D 64 (4): 043511.
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[57] Taking the Cosmic Shortcut ABC Science Online.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2002-02-21. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
[58] Transcript of interview with Dr. Marc Rayman at
Space Place"". Spaceplace.nasa.gov. 2005-09-08.
Archived from the original on June 3, 2010. Retrieved
[59] Time Can Vary? pbs.org
[60] Serway, Raymond A. (2000) Physics for Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics, Fifth Edition, Brooks/Cole,
p. 1258, ISBN 0030226570.



[61] Roberts, Tom (October 2007). What is the experimental basis of Special Relativity?". Retrieved 4 December

[79] Grey, William (1999). Troubles with Time Travel.

Philosophy (Cambridge University Press) 74 (1): 5570.

[62] Scout Rocket Experiment. Retrieved 4 December


[80] Rickman, Gregg (2004). The Science Fiction Film Reader.

Limelight Editions. ISBN 0-87910-994-7.

[63] Hafele-Keating Experiment. Retrieved 4 December


[81] Nahin, Paul J. (2001). Time machines: time travel in

physics, metaphysics, and science ction. Springer. ISBN

[64] Pogge, Richard W. (27 April 2009).GPS and Relativity

. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
[82] Schneider, Susan (2009). Science Fiction and Philosophy:
From Time Travel to Superintelligence. Wiley-Blackwell.
[65] Lisa Zyga (Apr 4, 2006).Professor predicts human time
ISBN 1-4051-4907-8.
travel this century.
[83] Prucher, Je (2007) Brave New Words: The Oxford Dic[66] Vaidman, Lev.Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum
tionary of Science Fiction, p. 230.
Mechanics. Retrieved 2006-10-28.
[84] Friedman, John; Michael Morris; Igor Novikov; Fer[67] Deutsch, David (1991). Quantum mechanics near
nando Echeverria; Gunnar Klinkhammer; Kip Thorne;
closed timelike curves.
Physical Review D 44
Ulvi Yurtsever (1990). Cauchy problem in space(10): 31973217. Bibcode:1991PhRvD..44.3197D.
times with closed timelike curves. Physical Redoi:10.1103/PhysRevD.44.3197.
view D 42 (6): 1915. Bibcode:1990PhRvD..42.1915F.
[68] See also the discussion in Quantum Mechanics to the
Rescue?" from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [85] Sukys, Paul (1999). Lifting the scientic veil: science aparticle Time travel and Modern Physics.
preciation for the nonscientist. Ardsley House Publishers.
[69] Explained here by Dr Pieter Kok: youtube.com.
[70] Everett, Allen (2004). Time travel paradoxes, path
integrals, and the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Physical Review D 69 (124023).
arXiv:gr-qc/0410035. Bibcode:2004PhRvD..69l4023E.
[71] Greenberger, Daniel M.; Svozil, Karl (2005). Quantum
Theory Looks at Time Travel. Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics?. The Frontiers Collection. p. 63. arXiv:quantph/0506027.
doi:10.1007/3-540-26669-0_4. ISBN 3-540-22188-3.
[72] Kettlewell, Julianna (2005-06-17).New model 'permits
time travel'". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
[73] Goldstein, Sheldon. Bohmian Mechanics. Retrieved
[74] Nielsen, Michael; Chuang, Isaac (2000). Quantum Computation and Quantum Information. Cambridge. p. 28.
ISBN 0-521-63235-8.
[75] Keller, Simon; Michael Nelson (September 2001).
Presentists should believe in time-travel (PDF). Australian Journal of Philosophy 79.3 (3): 333345.
[76] This view is contested by another contemporary advocate
of presentism, Craig Bourne, in his recent book A Future
for Presentism, although for substantially dierent (and
more complex) reasons.
[77] see this discussion between two philosophers, for example
[78] Lewis, David (1976). The paradoxes of time travel.
American Philosophical Quarterly 13: 14552. arXiv:grqc/9603042. Bibcode:1996gr.qc.....3042K.

pp. 236237. ISBN 0-8476-9600-6.

[86] Kelley L. Ross, "Time Travel Paradoxes"
[87] Gott, J. Richard (2001). Time Travel in Einstein's Universe. Houghton Miin. p. 23. ISBN 0-395-95563-7.
[88] Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban.
Scolastic Press, 1999, p. 396. Also see Richard H. Jones,
Time Travel and Harry Potter. Outskirts Press, 2009.
[89] Geroch, Robert (1978). General Relativity From A to B.
The University of Chicago Press. p. 124. ISBN 0-22628863-3.
[90] Max Planck Institut fr Gravitationsphysik (2005-09-12).
Einstein Online: Actors on a changing stage. Einsteinonline.info. Retrieved 2010-05-25.

0.21.10 Bibliography
Curley, Mallory (2005). Beatle Pete, Time Traveller.
Randy Press.
Davies, Paul (1996). About Time. Pocket Books.
ISBN 0-684-81822-1.
Davies, Paul (2002). How to Build a Time Machine.
Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-100534-3.
Gale, Richard M (1968). The Philosophy of Time.
Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-00042-0.
Gott, J. Richard (2002). Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel
Through Time. Boston: Mariner Books. ISBN 0618-25735-7.



Gribbin, John (1985). In Search of Schrdinger's

Cat. Corgi Adult. ISBN 0-552-12555-5.

Professor Predicts Human Time Travel This Century

Miller, Kristie (2005). Time travel and the open

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Time Traveler Convention at MIT

Nahin, Paul J. (2001). Time Machines: Time

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Nahin, Paul J. (1997). Time Travel: A writer's guide
to the real science of plausible time travel. Writer's
Digest Books. Cincinnati, Ohio. ISBN 0-89879748-9
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Pagels, Heinz (1985). Perfect Symmetry, the Search
for the Beginning of Time. Simon & Schuster. ISBN

Time Machines in Physics almost 200 citations

from 1937 through 2001
Time Travel and Modern Physics at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Time Travel at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Aparta Krystian: Conventional Models of Time and
Their Extensions in Science Fiction
Time travellers from the future 'could be here in
Time machine on arxiv.org
Time Travel impossible, Scientists say
Time Travel a No Go? No Way

Pickover, Cliord (1999). Time: A Traveler's

Guide. Oxford University Press Inc, USA. ISBN 019-513096-0.

0.22 Turtles all the way down

Randles, Jenny (2005). Breaking the Time Barrier.

Simon & Schuster Ltd. ISBN 0-7434-9259-5.

For the Awake episode, see Turtles All the Way Down.
"Turtles all the way down" is a jocular expression of

Shore, Graham M (2003).

Constructing Time Machines. Int. J. Mod. Phys.
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Toomey, David (2007). The New Time Travelers: A
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Wittenberg, David (2013). Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative. Fordham University
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External links

Black holes, Wormholes and Time Travel, a Royal

Society Lecture
SF Chronophysics, a discussion of Time Travel as it
relates to science ction
On the Net: Time Travel by James Patrick Kelly
How Time Travel Will Work at HowStuWorks
Time Travel in Flatland?
NOVA Online: Time Travel

The humorous anecdote holds that the world is carried by a chain

of increasingly large turtles, and beneath each one is yet another:
it is turtles all the way down.

the innite regress problem in cosmology posed by the



"unmoved mover" paradox. The metaphor in the anecdote represents a popular notion of the myth that Earth
is actually at and is supported on the back of a World
Turtle, which itself is propped up by a chain of larger and
larger turtles. Questioning what the nal turtle might be
standing on, the anecdote humorously concludes that it is
turtles all the way down.
The phrase has been commonly known since at least the
early 20th century. A comparable metaphor describing
the circular cause and consequence for the same problem
is the "chicken and egg problem". The same problem in
epistemology is known as the Mnchhausen trilemma.



Hawking, 1988* [1]

Hawking's suggested connection to Russell may be due

to Russell's 1927 lecture Why I Am Not a Christian. In it,
while discounting the First Cause argument intended to
be a proof of God's existence, Russell comments:
If everything must have a cause, then God
must have a cause. If there can be anything
without a cause, it may just as well be the world
as God, so that there cannot be any validity in
that argument. It is exactly of the same nature
as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon
an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, 'How about the tortoise?' the Indian said, 'Suppose we change the
In John R. Ross's 1967 linguistics dissertation Constraints
on Variables in Syntax, the scientist is identied as the
Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James. Of
the story's provenance, Ross writes:* [2]

Bertrand Russell

The origins of the turtle story are uncertain. It has been

recorded since the mid 19th century, and may possibly
date to the 18th. One recent version appears in Stephen
Hawking's 1988 book A Brief History of Time, which
A well-known scientist (some say it was
Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on
astronomy. He described how the earth orbits
around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits
around the center of a vast collection of stars
called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a
little old lady at the back of the room got up
and said: What you have told us is rubbish.
The world is really a at plate supported on the
back of a giant tortoise.The scientist gave a
superior smile before replying, What is the
tortoise standing on?" You're very clever,
young man, very clever,said the old lady.
But it's turtles all the way down!"

After a lecture on cosmology and the

structure of the solar system, William James
was accosted by a little old lady.
Your theory that the sun is the centre of the
solar system, and the earth is a ball which
rotates around it has a very convincing ring to
it, Mr. James, but it's wrong. I've got a better
theory,said the little old lady.
And what is that, madam?" Inquired James
That we live on a crust of earth which is on
the back of a giant turtle,
Not wishing to demolish this absurd little
theory by bringing to bear the masses of
scientic evidence he had at his command,
James decided to gently dissuade his opponent
by making her see some of the inadequacies
of her position.
If your theory is correct, madam,he asked,
what does this turtle stand on?"
You're a very clever man, Mr. James, and
that's a very good question,replied the little
old lady, but I have an answer to it. And it
is this: The rst turtle stands on the back of a
second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly
under him.
But what does this second turtle stand on?"
persisted James patiently.
To this the little old lady crowed triumphantly.
It's no use, Mr. James it's turtles all the way
J. R. Ross, Constraints on Variables in
Syntax 1967



The earliest known version of the story in itsturtleform unsigned anecdote about a schoolboy and an old woman
appeared in 1854, in a transcript of remarks by preacher living in the woods:
Joseph Frederick Berg addressed to Joseph Barker:
The world, marm,said I, anxious to disMy opponent's reasoning reminds me of
play my acquired knowledge, is not exactly
the heathen, who, being asked on what the
round, but resembles in shape a attened orworld stood, replied, On a tortoise.But on
ange; and it turns on its axis once in twentywhat does the tortoise stand? On another
four hours.
tortoise.With Mr. Barker, too, there are
Well, I don't know anything about its axes,
tortoises all the way down. (Vehement and
replied she, but I know it don't turn round,
vociferous applause.)
for if it did we'd be all tumbled o; and as to
Second Evening: Remarks of Rev. Dr.
its being round, any one can see it's a square
Berg* [3]
piece of ground, standing on a rock!"
Standing on a rock! but upon what does that
Why, on another, to be sure!"
But what supports the last?"
Lud! child, how stupid you are! There's rocks
all the way down!"* [6]
Background in Hindu mythology
Further information: World Turtle and World Elephant
The explicit reference to innite regression (all the way

William James

Four World Elephants resting on a World Turtle

Many 20th-century attributions point to William James as

the source.* [4] James referred to the fable of the elephant
and tortoise several times, but told the innite regress
story with rocks all the way downin his 1882 essay,
Rationality, Activity and Faith":

down) cannot be shown to predate the 19th century,

but in the 17th and 18th centuries, there are references
to the story in the form of a World Elephant standing on
a World Turtle claimed, without good evidence, to come
from Hindu mythology.

Like the old woman in the story who described the world as resting on a rock, and then
explained that rock to be supported by another
rock, and nally when pushed with questions
said it was rocks all the way down,he who
believes this to be a radically moral universe
must hold the moral order to rest either on an
absolute and ultimate should or on a series of
shoulds all the way down.* [5]

Henry David Thoreau, in his journal entry of 4 May

1852,* [7] writes:

In the form of rocks all the way down, the story predates James to at least 1838, when it was printed in an

Men are making speeches... all over the

country, but each expresses only the thought,
or the want of thought, of the multitude. No
man stands on truth. They are merely banded
together as usual, one leaning on another and
all together on nothing; as the Hindoos made
the world rest on an elephant, and the elephant
on a tortoise, and had nothing to put under the



There is an allusion to the story in David Hume's 0.22.2 Notable modern allusions or variaDialogues Concerning Natural Religion (published in
Since the 1980s or so the story or trope has been so well
known that frequent references were made in pop culture
How can we satisfy ourselves without
and popular literature. Many variants now have asciengoing on in innitum? And, after all, what
tistreplying toa little old lady, the scientist variously
satisfaction is there in that innite progrestaking the identity of Arthur Stanley Eddington, Thomas
sion? Let us remember the story of the Indian
Huxley, Linus Pauling, or Carl Sagan, etc., although in
philosopher and his elephant. It was never
the 1970s the Hinduor Orientalbackground still
more applicable than to the present subject. If
seems to have received more frequent mention.
the material world rests upon a similar ideal
world, this ideal world must rest upon some
other; and so on, without end. It were better,
therefore, never to look beyond the present
material world.
Hume, 1779* [8]

Cliord Geertz's,Thick Description: Towards an Interpretive Theory of Culture, in his 1973 book The Interpretation of Culture still casts the dialogue as taking place
between an Englishman and an Indian.* [12] Carl Sagan
recited a version of the story as an apocryphal anecdote in
his 1979 book Broca's Brain: Reections on the Romance
of Science, as an exchange between aWestern traveler
The rst known reference to a Hindu source is found in a and an Oriental philosopher.
letter by Jesuit Emanual de Veiga (1549-1605), written at Robert Anton Wilson's book Prometheus Rising (1983)
Chandagiri on 18 September 1599, in which the relevant opens with the William James version of the story, the
passage reads
punchline being given in the form: It's turtles-turtlesturtles, all the way!"
Alii dicebant terram novem constare angulis,
quibus clo innititur. Alius ab his dissentiens
volebat terram septem elephantis fulciri, elephantes uero ne subsiderent, super testudine
pedes xos habere. Qurenti quis testudinis corpus rmaret, ne dilaberetur, respondere

The Discworld novels, written by Terry Pratchett (from

1983) involve a ctional at world which rests on the back
of four giant elephants, all of whom stand on the back
of a giant World-Turtle called Great A'Tuin. Once when
questioned about what the turtle sits on, it is related that
the turtle doesn't sit on anything; it swims.

Others hold that the earth has nine corners by

which the heavens are supported. Another disagreeing from these would have the earth supported by seven elephants, and the elephants do
not sink down because their feet are xed on a
tortoise. When asked who would x the body
of the tortoise, so that it would not collapse, he
said that he did not know.* [9]

Thomas King uses the story to frame each of his ve

Massey Lectures collected in The Truth About Stories

Veiga's account seems to have been received by Samuel

Purchas, who has a close paraphrase in his Purchas His
Pilgrims (1613/1626), that the Earth had nine corners,
whereby it was borne up by the Heaven. Others dissented, and said, that the Earth was borne up by seven
Elephants; the Elephants feet stood on Tortoises, and they
were borne by they know not what.* [10]

Far-Seer (1992), Part One of Robert J. Sawyer's threepart novel, the Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy, retells the
story, replacing turtles with armourbacks (ankylosaurs).

Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court discussed his favored versionof the tale in a footnote to
his plurality opinion in Rapanos v. United States (decided
June 19, 2006):
In our favored version, an Eastern guru
arms that the earth is supported on the back
of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger,
he says it stands upon an elephant; and when
asked what supports the elephant he says it
is a giant turtle. When asked, nally, what
supports the giant turtle, he is briey taken
aback, but quickly replies Ah, after that it is
turtles all the way down.
Antonin Scalia, Antonin Scalia. RAPANOS v. UNITED STATES. Cornell Law
School Legal Information Institute's Supreme
Court collection.

Purchas' account is again reected by John Locke in his

1689 tract An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,
introducing the story as attributed to Hindu mythology
as a trope referring to the problem of induction in philosophical debate. Locke compares one who would say that
properties inherent insubstanceto the Indian who said
the world was on an elephant which was on a tortoise
but being again pressed to know what gave support to
the broad-backed tortoise, replied something, he knew
Turtles All the Way Downis a song on Bualo hardcore
not what.* [11]


punk band Every Time I Die's fth studio album New
Junk Aesthetic (2009).
In Scott Westerfeld's Behemoth (2010) an Armenian
grandmother says the Earth rests on the back of a turtle,
which is supported by an elephant (the reverse of Discworld). When challenged by her son about what the elephant stands upon, she saysDon't try to be clever, young
man. It's elephants all the way down!"
"Turtles All the Way Down" was the title of the nal
episode of Awake (2012), and was the nal line of the
female psychiatrist at the end.
Turtles All the Way Downis a song by country outlaw artist Sturgill Simpson, which discusses human understanding of space and time. It appears on his 2014
album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.* [13]
A teacher in Lev Grossman's The Magicians (2009) relays
the Russell version of the story while discussing the nature of magic. In the sequel The Magician's Land (2014),
the giant turtle criesIt's turtles all the way downafter
Janet magically freezes his habitat.


[3] Barker, Joseph (1854). Great Discussion on the Origin,

Authority, and Tendency of the Bible, between Rev. J. F.
Berg, D.D., of Philadelphia, and Joseph Barker, of Ohio.
Boston: J. B. Yerrinton & Son, Printers. p. 48.
[4] Robert Anton Wilson (1983).
Prometheus Rising.
Phoenix, AZ: New Falcon Publishers. p. 25. ISBN 156184-056-4
[5] William, James (July 1882). Rationality, Activity and
Faith. The Princeton Review: 82.
[6] Unwritten Philosophy. New York Mirror 16 (12).
1838-09-15. p. 91.
[7] The Picket Line Excerpts from H.D. Thoreau's journals
[8] Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion/Part 4
[9] J. Charpentier, 'A Treatise on Hindu Cosmography from
the Seventeenth Century (Brit. Mus. MS. Sloane 2748
A).' Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University
of London 3(2) (1924), pp. 317-342, citing John Hay, De
rebus Japonicis, Indicis, and Peruanis epistul recentiores
(Antwerp, 1605, p. 803f.)

In calculus,Turtles all the Way Downrefers to repeated [10] Will Sweetman, Indology mailing list, citing Dieter Henrich, 'Die wahrhafte Schildkrte"' Hegel-Studien 2
applications of the chain rule for multiply-composed
(1963), pp. 281-91, and J. Charpentier, 'A Treatise on


See also

Cartesian theater
Cosmological argument
God of the gaps
Matryoshka doll
Mnchhausen trilemma
Primum Mobile
Primum movens
Yertle the Turtle
Transnite induction
Teleological argument



[1] Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-05340-1.
[2] John R. Ross (1967). Constraints on variables in syntax.
(Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Available at MIT Theses (http://hdl.handle.net/
1721.1/15166). See page iv of the ms., page 4 of the electronic le.

Hindu Cosmography from the Seventeenth Century (Brit.

Mus. MS. Sloane 2748 A).' Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London 3(2) (1924), pp. 317342.

[11] Locke, John (1689). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XXIII, section 2
[12] Geertz, Cliord (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures.
New York, NY: Basic Books. pp. 2829. ISBN
[13] http://gardenandgun.com/article/

Chapter 1

1.1 Crocodile dilemma

1.1.2 Notes
[1] Barile, Margherita. Crococile Dilemma MathWorld
. Retrieved 2009-09-05.

The crocodile paradox is a paradox in logic in the same

family of paradoxes as the liar paradox.* [1] The premise
states that a crocodile, who has stolen a child, promises
the father that his son will be returned if and only if he can
correctly predict whether or not the crocodile will return
the child.
The transaction is logically smooth but unpredictable if
the father guesses that the child will be returned, but a
dilemma arises for the crocodile if he guesses that the
child will not be returned. In the case that the crocodile
decides to keep the child, he violates his terms: the father's prediction has been validated, and the child should
be returned. However, in the case that the crocodile decides to give back the child, he still violates his terms,
even if this decision is based on the previous result: the
father's prediction has been falsied, and the child should
not be returned. The question of what the crocodile
should do is therefore paradoxical, and there is no justiable solution.* [2]* [3]* [4]
The crocodile dilemma serves to expose some of the logical problems presented by metaknowledge. In this regard, it is similar in construction to the unexpected hanging paradox, which Richard Montague (1960) used to
demonstrate that the following assumptions about knowledge are inconsistent when tested in combination:* [2]

[2] J. Siekmann, ed. (1989). Lecture Notes in Articial Intelligence. Springer-Verlag. p. 14. ISBN 3540530827.
[3] Young, Ronald E (2005). Traveling East. iUniverse. pp.
89. ISBN 0595795846.
[4] Murray, Richard (1847). Murray's Compendium of logic.
p. 159.

1.2 Double bind

Not to be confused with double-blind.
A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma
in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which
a successful response to one message results in a failed
response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person
will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The
double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the
inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor
opt out of the situation.

(i) If is known to be true, then

Double bind theory was rst described by Gregory Bateson and his colleagues in the 1950s.* [1]

(ii) It is known that (i).

Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion the use of confusion makes them
both dicult to respond to as well as to resist.* [2]

(iii) If implies , and is

known to be true, then is also
known to be true.

A double bind generally includes dierent levels of abstraction in the order of messages and these messages can
either be stated explicitly or implicitly within the context
of the situation, or they can be conveyed by tone of voice
It also bears similarities to the liar paradox. Ancient or body language. Further complications arise when freGreek sources were the rst to discuss the crocodile quent double binds are part of an ongoing relationship to
dilemma.* [1]
which the person or group is committed.* [3]* [4]


See also

List of paradoxes

Double bind theory is more clearly understood in the context of complex systems and cybernetics because human
communication and the mind itself function in an interactive manner similar to ecosystems. Complex systems



theory helps us to understand the interdependence of the

dierent parts of a message and provides an ordering in
what looks like chaos.

5. If necessary, a tertiary injunctionis imposed

on the subject to prevent them from escaping the
dilemma. See phrase examples below for clarication.


6. Finally, Bateson states that the complete list of the

previous requirements may be unnecessary, in the
event that the subject is already viewing their world
in double bind patterns. Bateson goes on to give the
general characteristics of such a relationship:


The double bind is often misunderstood to be a simple

contradictory situation, where the subject is trapped by
two conicting demands. While it's true that the core of
the double bind is two conicting demands, the dierence lies in how they are imposed upon the subject, what
the subject's understanding of the situation is, and who
(or what) imposes these demands upon the subject. Unlike the usual no-win situation, the subject has diculty
in dening the exact nature of the paradoxical situation
in which he or she is caught. The contradiction may be
unexpressed in its immediate context and therefore invisible to external observers, only becoming evident when a
prior communication is considered. Typically, a demand
is imposed upon the subject by someone who they respect
(such as a parent, teacher or doctor) but the demand itself
is inherently impossible to fulll because some broader
context forbids it. For example, this situation arises when
a person in a position of authority imposes two contradictory conditions but there exists an unspoken rule that
one must never question authority.

(a) When the subject is involved in an intense relationship; that is, a relationship in which he feels
it is vitally important that he discriminate accurately what sort of message is being communicated so that he may respond appropriately;
(b) And, the subject is caught in a situation in which
the other person in the relationship is expressing
two orders of message and one of these denies
the other;
(c) And, the subject is unable to comment on the
messages being expressed to correct his discrimination of what order of message to respond
to: i.e., he cannot make a metacommunicative

Gregory Bateson and his colleagues dened the double

Thus, the essence of a double bind is two conicting debind as follows* [3] (paraphrased):
mands, each on a dierent logical level, neither of which
can be ignored or escaped. This leaves the subject torn
1. The situation involves two or more people, one of both ways, so that whichever demand they try to meet, the
whom (for the purpose of the denition), is desig- other demand cannot be met.I must do it, but I can't do
nated as thesubject. The others are people who itis a typical description of the double-bind experience.
are considered the subject's superiors: gures of auFor a double bind to be eective, the subject must be
thority (such as parents), whom the subject respects.
unable to confront or resolve the conict between the demand placed by the primary injunction and that of the
2. Repeated experience: the double bind is a recurrent
secondary injunction. In this sense, the double bind diftheme in the experience of the subject, and as such,
ferentiates itself from a simple contradiction to a more
cannot be resolved as a single traumatic experience.
inexpressible internal conict, where the subject really
3. A primary injunction" is imposed on the subject wants to meet the demands of the primary injunction, but
fails each time through an inability to address the situaby the others in one of two forms:
tion's incompatibility with the demands of the secondary
injunction. Thus, subjects may express feelings of ex (a) Do X, or I will punish you";
treme anxiety in such a situation, as they attempt to full
(b) Do not do X, or I will punish you.
the demands of the primary injunction albeit with obvious contradictions in their actions.
(or both a and b)
The punishment may include the withdrawing of
love, the expression of hate and anger, or abandon- 1.2.2 History
ment resulting from the authority gure's expression
The term double bind was rst used by the anthropologist
of helplessness.
Gregory Bateson and his colleagues (including Don D.
4. Asecondary injunctionis imposed on the subject, Jackson, Jay Haley and John H. Weakland) in the midconicting with the rst at a higher and more abstract 1950s in their discussions on complexity of communilevel. For example: You must do X, but only do cation in relation to schizophrenia. Bateson made clear
it because you want to. It is unnecessary for this that such complexities are common in normal circumstances, especially in play, humor, poetry, ritual and
injunction to be expressed verbally.



ction(see Logical Types below). Their ndings indicated that the tangles in communication often diagnosed
as schizophrenia are not necessarily the result of an organic brain dysfunction. Instead, they found that destructive double binds were a frequent pattern of communication among families of patients, and they proposed that
growing up amidst perpetual double binds could lead to
learned patterns of confusion in thinking and communication.


Complexity in communication

Human communication is complex (see Albert Mehrabian) and context is an essential part of it. Communication consists of the words said, tone of voice, and body
language. It also includes how these relate to what has
been said in the past; what is not said, but is implied; how
these are modied by other nonverbal cues, such as the
environment in which it is said, and so forth. For example, if someone saysI love you, one takes into account
who is saying it, their tone of voice and body language,
and the context in which it is said. It may be a declaration of passion or a serene rearmation, insincere and/or
manipulative, an implied demand for a response, a joke,
its public or private context may aect its meaning, and
so forth.
Conicts in communication are common and often we
ask What do you mean?" or seek clarication in other
ways. This is called meta-communication: communication about the communication. Sometimes, asking for
clarication is impossible. Communication diculties in
ordinary life often occur when meta-communication and
feedback systems are lacking or inadequate or there isn't
enough time for clarication.
Double binds can be extremely stressful and become destructive when one is trapped in a dilemma and punished
for nding a way out. But making the eort to nd the
way out of the trap can lead to emotional growth.[body
language and double-bind see (* [5])]



The classic example given of a negative double bind is of a

mother telling her child that she loves him or her, while at
the same time turning away in disgust.* [6] (The words are
socially acceptable; the body language is in conict with
it). The child doesn't know how to respond to the conict
between the words and the body language and, because
the child is dependent on the mother for basic needs, he
or she is in a quandary. Small children have diculty
articulating contradictions verbally and can neither ignore
them nor leave the relationship.
Another example is when one is commanded tobe spontaneous. The very command contradicts spontaneity,
but it only becomes a double bind when one can neither

ignore the command nor comment on the contradiction.

Often, the contradiction in communication isn't apparent
to bystanders unfamiliar with previous communications.

1.2.5 Phrase examples

Mother telling her child: You must love me.
The primary injunction here is the command
itself: you must"; the secondary injunction is
the unspoken reality that love is spontaneous,
that for the child to love the mother genuinely,
it can only be of his or her own accord.
Grown-up-in-authority to child: Speak when
you're spoken toand Don't talk back!"
These phrases have such time-honoured status
that the contradiction between them is rarely
perceived: If the child speaks when spoken to
then he cannot avoid answering back. If he
does not answer back then he fails to speak
when spoken to. Whatever the child does he
is always in the wrong.
Child-abuser to child: You should have escaped
from me earlier, now it's too latebecause now, nobody will believe that you didn't want what I have
done, while at the same time blocking all of the
child's attempts to escape.
Child-abusers often start the double-bind relationship by "grooming" the child, giving little
concessions, or gifts or privileges to them, thus
the primary injunction is: You should like
what you are getting from me!"
When the child begins to go along (i.e. begins to like what she or he is receiving from
the person), then the interaction goes to the
next level and small victimization occurs, with
the secondary injunction being: I am punishing you! (for whatever reason the child-abuser
is coming up with (e.g. because you were
bad/naughty/messy, orbecause you deserve
it, or because you made me do it, etc )).
If child shows any resistance (or tries to escape)
from the abuser, then the words: You should
have escaped from me earlier (...)" serve as the
third level or tertiary injunction.
Then the loop starts to feed on itself, allowing
for ever worse victimization to occur.
Mother to son:Leave your sister alone!", while the
son knows his sister will approach and antagonize
him to get him into trouble.


The primary injunction is the command, which
he will be punished for breaking. The secondary injunction is the knowledge that his
sister will get into conict with him, but his
mother will not know the dierence and will
default to punishing him. He may be under the
impression that if he argues with his mother, he
may be punished. One possibility for the son
to escape this double bind is to realize that his
sister only antagonizes him to make him feel
anxious (if indeed it is the reason behind his
sister's behavior).
If he were not bothered about punishment, his
sister might not bother him. He could also
leave the situation entirely, avoiding both the
mother and the sister. The sister can't claim
to be bothered by a non-present brother, and
the mother can't punish (nor scapegoat) a nonpresent son. There are other solutions that are
realised through creative application of logic
and reasoning.


Positive double binds

Bateson also described positive double binds, both in relation to Zen Buddhism with its path of spiritual growth,
and the use of therapeutic double binds by psychiatrists
to confront their patients with the contradictions in their
life in such a way that would help them heal. One of Bateson's consultants, Milton H. Erickson (5 volumes, edited
by Rossi) eloquently demonstrated the productive possibilities of double binds through his own life, showing the
technique in a brighter light.


Theory of logical types

Cybernetics contains Russell and Whitehead's Theory of

Logical Types: there is a logical discontinuity between
set and element, and in some cases the set cannot be an
element of itself. These types must not be muddled and
must be kept separate. For example the name of a
class cannot also be a member of the class. A message is made up of words and the context that modies
it. The context is of a higher logical type than the words.
For example, the word catcannot scratch you. The
real animal and the word cat are of two dierent logical
types.* [7] Another examplethis one of purely nonverbal communication among animals is: two puppies are
playing and they growl at each other and nip each other
gently. The rst level of the message could be described
as,I am threatening you; I will bite youA higher level
of the message is,this is play ghting; I won't hurt you.
(See chapters: A Theory of Play and Fantasy and Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia--subsection The Base in
Communications Theory, both in Steps to an Ecology of


1.2.8 Science
One of the causes of double binds is the loss of feedback
systems. Gregory Bateson and Lawrence S. Bale describe
double binds that have arisen in science that have caused
decades-long delays of progress in science because science (who is this 'science' fellow?) had dened something
as outside of its scope (or not science)--see Bateson
in his Introduction to Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972,
2000), pp. xv-xxvi; and Bale in his article, Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics and the Social/Behavioral Sciences (esp.
pp. 18) on the paradigm of classical science vs. that of
systems theory/cybernetics. (See also Bateson's description in his Forward of how the double bind hypothesis
fell into place).

1.2.9 Schizophrenia
The Double Bind Theory was rst articulated in relationship to schizophrenia, but Bateson and his colleagues hypothesized that schizophrenic thinking was not necessarily an inborn mental disorder but a learned confusion in
thinking. It is helpful to remember the context in which
these ideas were developed. Bateson and his colleagues
were working in the Veteran's Administration Hospital
(19491962) with World War II veterans. As soldiers
they'd been able to function well in combat, but the effects of life-threatening stress had aected them. At that
time, 18 years before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was
ocially recognized, the veterans had been saddled with
the catch-all diagnosis of schizophrenia. Bateson didn't
challenge the diagnosis but he did maintain that the seeming nonsense the patients said at times did make sense
within context, and he gives numerous examples in section III of Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Pathology in
Relationship. For example, a patient misses an appointment, and when Bateson nds him later the patient says
'the judge disapproves'; Bateson responds, You need a
defense lawyersee following (pp. 1956) Bateson also
surmised that people habitually caught in double binds
in childhood would have greater problemsthat in the
case of the schizophrenic, the double bind is presented
continually and habitually within the family context from
infancy on. By the time the child is old enough to have
identied the double bind situation, it has already been internalized, and the child is unable to confront it. The solution then is to create an escape from the conicting logical
demands of the double bind, in the world of the delusional
system (see in Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia Illustrations from Clinical Data).
One solution to a double bind is to place the problem in a
larger context, a state Bateson identied as Learning III,
a step up from Learning II (which requires only learned
responses to reward/consequence situations). In Learning
III, the double bind is contextualized and understood as
an impossible no-win scenario so that ways around it can
be found.



Bateson's double bind theory was never followed up by

research into whether family systems imposing systematic double binds might be a cause of schizophrenia. This
complex theory has been only partly tested, and there are
gaps in the current psychological and experimental evidence required to establish causation. The current understanding of schizophrenia takes into account a complex
interaction of genetic, neurological as well as emotional
stressors, including family interaction and it has been argued that if the double bind theory overturns ndings
suggesting a genetic basis for schizophrenia then more
comprehensive psychological and experimental studies
are needed, with dierent family types and across various family contexts.* [8]

helped to prevent the species from becoming extinct,

and at the same time, the horn threatens the species
with extinction. The horn therefore has a contradictory
role in Rhinoceros survival (and evolution), exactly as a
schizophrenic symptom has a contradictory role in the
psychological development of the identied patientit
simultaneously protects and threatens.
The pressures that drive evolution therefore represent a
genuine double bind. And there is truly no escape: It
always happens.No species can escape natural selection,
including our own.

Bateson suggested that all evolution is driven by the double bind, whenever circumstances change: If any environment becomes toxic to any species, that species will die
Psychiatrists and psychologists manipulate and lie to their out unless it transforms into another species, in which
patients and turn them into scapegoats. Even if there is case, the species becomes extinct anyway.
a catastrophic failure of parenting it will not be articulated by the mental health profession. People with unre- Most signicant here is Bateson's exploration of what he
solvable conicts in their youth are treated like prisoners. later came to call 'the pattern that connects' [10]that
This rebirthing is eectively a form of brainwashing. In problems of communication which span more than one
these circumstances a belief in the double bind theory of level (e.g., the relationship between the individual and
the family) should also be expected to be found spanning
schizophrenia is untenable.
other pairs of levels in the hierarchy (e.g. the relationship
between the genotype and the phenotype):


Evolution of Species as a Logical

Level Distinct from Survival of the

After many years of research into schizophrenia, Bateson continued to explore problems of communication and
learning, rst with dolphins, and then with the more abstract processes of evolution. Bateson emphasised that
any communicative system characterized by dierent
logical levels might be subject to double bind problems.
Especially including the communication of characteristics from one generation to another (genetics and evolution).
"...evolution always followed the pathways of viability.
As Lewis Carroll has pointed out, the theory [of natural selection] explains quite satisfactorily why there are
no bread-and-butter-ies today.* [9]

We are very far, then, from being able to pose specic

questions for the geneticist; but I believe that the wider
implications of what I have been saying modify somewhat
the philosophy of genetics. Our approach to the problems
of schizophrenia by way of a theory of levels or logical
types has disclosed rst that the problems of adaptation
and learning and their pathologies must be considered in
terms of a hierarchic system in which stochastic change
occurs at the boundary points between the segments of
the hierarchy. We have considered three such regions
of stochastic changethe level of genetic mutation, the
level of learning, and the level of change in family organization. We have disclosed the possibility of a relationship of these levels which orthodox genetics would
deny, and we have disclosed that at least in human societies the evolutionary system consists not merely in the
selective survival of those persons who happen to select
appropriate environments but also in the modication of
family environment in a direction which might enhance
the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of the individual members.* [11]

Bateson used the ctional Bread and Butter Fly (from

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found
There) to illustrate the double bind in terms of natural
selection. The gnat points out that the insect would be
doomed if he found his food (which would dissolve his
1.2.11 Usage in Zen Buddhism
own head), and starve if he did not. Alice suggests that
this must happen quite often, to which the gnat repliesit According to philosopher and theologian Alan Watts, the
always happens.
double bind has long been used in Zen Buddhism as
An example from zoology might be the Rhinoceros horn. a therapeutic tool. The Zen Master purposefully imThis appendage evolved as a 'defensive weapon'. But the poses the double bind upon his students (through variRhino is now almost extinct because its hornthe very ous skilful means, called upaya), hoping that they
thing which gave it an evolutionary advantage against li- achieve enlightenment (satori). One of the most promions and other predators is imagined to be a power- nent techniques used by Zen Masters (especially those of
ful supernatural medicine by some humans. The horn the Rinzai school) is called the koan, in which the master
protects the individual, which in evolutionary time has gives his or her students a question, and instructs them


to pour all their mental energies into nding the answer
to it. As an example of a koan, a student can be asked
to present to the master their genuine self, Show me
who you really are. According to Watts, the student
will eventually realize there is nothing they can do, yet
also nothing they cannot do, to present their actual self;
thus, they truly learn the Buddhist concept of anatman
(non-self) via reductio ad absurdum.
Zen koan: Be genuineor Who are you?"
Argued by Watts to be the underlying theme of
all Zen koans, the idea here is to present your
true self to the roshi (master). The more the
students try, the phonier they are, and even the
actof not trying is just another version of


Girard's mimetic double bind

Ren Girard, in his literary theory of mimetic desire,* [12] proposes what he calls a model-obstacle, a
role model who demonstrates an object of desire and yet,
in possessing that object, becomes a rival who obstructs
fulllment of the desire.* [13] According to Girard, the
internal mediationof this mimetic dynamic operates along the same lines as what Gregory Bateson called
the double bind.* [14] Girard found in Sigmund
Freud's psychoanalytic theory, a precursor to mimetic desire.* [15] The individual who 'adjusts' has managed to
relegate the two contradictory injunctions of the double
bindto imitate and not to imitateto two dierent domains of application. This is, he divides reality in such a
way as to neutralize the double bind.* [16] While critical of Freud's doctrine of the unconscious mind, Girard
sees the ancient Greek tragedy, Oedipus the King, and
key elements of Freud's Oedipus complex, patricidal and
incestuous desire, to serve as prototypes for his own analysis of the mimetic double bind.* [16]
Far from being restricted to a limited number of pathological cases, as American theoreticians suggest, the double binda contradictory double imperative, or rather a whole
network of contradictory imperatives is an
extremely common phenomenon. In fact, it is
so common that it might be said to form the
basis of all human relationships.
Bateson is undoubtedly correct in believing
that the eects of the double bind on the child
are particularly devastating. All the grown-up
voices around him, beginning with those of the
father and mother (voices which, in our society at least, speak for the culture with the force
of established authority) exclaim in a variety
of accents, Imitate us!Imitate me!I
bear the secret of life, of true being!The

more attentive the child is to these seductive
words, and the more earnestly he responds to
the suggestions emanating from all sides, the
more devastating will be the eventual conicts.
The child possesses no perspective that will allow him to see things as they are. He has no basis for reasoned judgements, no means of foreseeing the metamorphosis of his model into a
rival. This model's opposition reverberates in
his mind like a terrible condemnation; he can
only regard it as an act of excommunication.
The future orientation of his desiresthat is,
the choice of his future modelswill be signicantly aected by the dichotomies of his
childhood. In fact, these models will determine
the shape of his personality.
If desire is allowed its own bent, its
mimetic nature will almost always lead it into
a double bind. The unchanneled mimetic impulse hurls itself blindly against the obstacle
of a conicting desire. It invites its own rebus and these rebus will in turn strengthen
the mimetic inclination. We have, then, a selfperpetuating process, constantly increasing in
simplicity and fervor. Whenever the disciple
borrows from his model what he believes to
be the trueobject, he tries to possess that
truth by desiring precisely what this model desires. Whenever he sees himself closest to
the supreme goal, he comes into violent conict with a rival. By a mental shortcut that
is both eminently logical and self-defeating,
he convinces himself that the violence itself is
the most distinctive attribute of this supreme
goal! Ever afterward, violence will invariably
awaken desire...
Ren Girard, Violence and the Sacred
From Mimetic Desire to the Monstrous
Double, pp.156157

1.2.13 Neuro-linguistic programming

The eld of neuro-linguistic programming also makes use
of the expression double bind. Grinder and Bandler
(both of whom had personal contact with Bateson) asserted that a message could be constructed with multiple
messages, whereby the recipient of the message is given
the impression of choicealthough both options have the
same outcome at a higher level of intention. This is called
a double bindin NLP terminology,* [17] and has applications in both sales and therapy. In therapy, the practitioner may seek to challenge destructive double binds
that limit the client in some way and may also construct
double binds in which both options have therapeutic consequences. In a sales context, the speaker may give the respondent the illusion of choice between two possibilities.



For example, a salesperson might ask:Would you like to 1.2.15 Notes

pay cash or by credit card?", with both outcomes presupposing that the person will make the purchase; whereas [1] Bateson, G., Jackson, D. D., Haley, J. & Weakland, J.
(1956), Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia. in Behavioral
the third option (that of not buying) is intentionally exScience, Vol 1, 251264
cluded from the spoken choices.
Note that in the NLP context, the use of the phrasedouble binddoes not carry the primary denition of two
conicting messages; it is about creating a false sense of
choice which ultimately binds to the intended outcome.
In thecash or credit card?" example, this is not aBateson double bindsince there is no contradiction, although
it still is anNLP double bind. Similarly if a salesman
were selling a book about the evils of commerce, it could
perhaps be aBateson double bindif the buyer happened
to believe that commerce was evil, yet felt compelled or
obliged to buy the book.


See also


[2] Bateson, G. (1972). Double bind, 1969. Steps to an ecology of the mind: A revolutionary approach to man's understanding of himself, 271-278. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press
[3] Bateson, G., Jackson, D. D., Haley, J. & Weakland, J.,
1956, Toward a theory of schizophrenia. (in: 'Behavioral
Science', vol.1, 251264)
[4] Bateson, Gregory (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind:
Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution,
and Epistemology. University Of Chicago Press.
[5] Zysk, Wolfgang (2004), Krpersprache Eine neue
Sicht, Doctoral Dissertation 2004, University DuisburgEssen (Germany).

No-win situation

[6] Koopmans, Mathijs. Schizophrenia and the Family: Double Bind Theory Revisited 1997.

Zeno's Paradoxes

[7] Bateson (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind.

Buridan's bridge

[8] Koopmans, Mathijs (1997).Schizophrenia and the Family: Double Bind Theory Revisited.

Catch-22 (logic)
Cognitive dissonance
Loaded question
False dilemma
Master suppression techniques
Mutually exclusive events
Ronald David Laing
Expressed emotion
Self and others
Four sides model
Psychological manipulation

[9] Bateson, Gregory (April 1967). Cybernetic Explanation. American Behavioral Scientist 10 (8): 2932.
[10] Bateson, Gregory (1979). Mind and Nature. ISBN 157273-434-5.
[11] Bateson, Gregory (1960). A.M.A. Archives of General
Psychiatry 2: 477491. Missing or empty |title= (help)
[12] IntroductionRen Girard. 5 November 2010.The
hypothesis. Version franaise L'hypothse.
[13] Girard, Ren (1965). Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self
and Other in Literary Structure. Deceit, Desire, and the
Novel. p. 101. LCCN 65028582.
[14] Fleming, C. (2004). Ren Girard: Violence and Mimesis.
Key Contemporary Thinkers. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-74562947-6. LCCN ocm56438393.
[15] Meloni, Maurizio (2002). A Triangle of Thoughts: Girard, Freud, Lacan. Journal Of European Psychoanalysis. Winter-Spring (14).
[16] Girard, Ren; Gregory, Patrick (2005). Violence and the
Sacred. Continuum Impacts. pp. 187188, 156157.
ISBN 978-0-8264-7718-7. LCCN 77004539.
[17] Bandler, R., Grinder, J. (1981) Reframing: NeuroLinguistic Programming and the Transformation of
Meaning Real People Press. ISBN 0-911226-25-7





1.3.1 The dilemma

Watts, Alan (1999). The Way of Zen. Vintage. Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the nature of piety in
ISBN 0-375-70510-4.
Plato's Euthyphro. Euthyphro proposes (6e) that the pious ( ) is the same thing as that which is loved by
Bateson, Gregory. (1972, 1999) Steps to an Ecology the gods ( ), but Socrates nds a problem with
of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychia- this proposal: the gods may disagree among themselves
try, Evolution, and Epistemology.Part III: Form and (7e). Euthyphro then revises his denition, so that piety
Pathology in Relationship. University of Chicago is only that which is loved by all of the gods unanimously
Press, 1999, originally published, San Francisco: (9e).
Chandler Pub. Co., 1972.
At this point the dilemma surfaces. Socrates asks whether
Gibney, Paul (May 2006) The Double Bind the gods love the pious because it is the pious, or whether
Theory: Still Crazy-Making After All These the pious is pious only because it is loved by the gods
in Psychotherapy in Australia.
Vol. (10a). Socrates and Euthyphro both accept the rst op12. No. 3. http://www.psychotherapy.com.au/ tion: surely the gods love the pious because it is the pious.
But this means, Socrates argues, that we are forced to reTheDoubleBindTheory.pdf
ject the second option: the fact that the gods love some Koopmans, Matthijs (1998) Schizophrenia and the thing cannot explain why the pious is the pious (10d).
Family II: Paradox and Absurdity in Human Com- Socrates points out that if both options were true, they
munication Reconsidered. http://www.goertzel. together would yield a vicious circle, with the gods loving
the pious because it is the pious, and the pious being the
pious because the gods love it. And this in turn means,
Zysk, Wolfgang (2004), Krpersprache Eine Socrates argues, that the pious is not the same as the godneue Sicht, Doctoral Dissertation 2004, University beloved, for what makes the pious the pious is not what
Duisburg-Essen (Germany).
makes the god-beloved the god-beloved. After all, what
makes the god-beloved the god-beloved is the fact that
the gods love it, whereas what makes the pious the pi1.2.17 External links
ous is something else (9d-11a). Thus Euthyphro's theory
does not give us the very nature of the pious, but at most
a quality of the pious (11ab).

1.3.2 In philosophical theism


The dilemma can be modied to apply to philosophical

theism, where it is still the object of theological and philosophical discussion, largely within the Christian, Jew Reference in Encyclopedia of NLP
ish, and Islamic traditions. As German philosopher and
Double-bind loop feeding on itself, an illustration by mathematician Gottfried Leibniz presented this version
chart (and a poem)
of the dilemma: It is generally agreed that whatever
God wills is good and just. But there remains the question
whether it is good and just because God wills it or whether
God wills it because it is good and just; in other words,
1.3 Euthyphro dilemma
whether justice and goodness are arbitrary or whether
they belong to the necessary and eternal truths about the
The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato's dialogue
nature of things.* [1]
Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, Is the
pious ( ) loved by the gods because it is pious, or
is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" (10a)
Explanation of the dilemma
The dilemma has had a major eect on the philosophical theism of the monotheistic religions, but in a modied
form: Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it
is commanded by God?" Ever since Plato's original discussion, this question has presented a problem for some
theists, though others have thought it a false dilemma, and
it continues to be an object of theological and philosophical discussion today.

The rst horn The rst horn of the dilemma (i.e.

that which is right is commanded by God because
it is right) goes by a variety of names, including
intellectualism, rationalism, realism, naturalism, and
objectivism. Roughly, it is the view that there are independent moral standards: some actions are right or wrong
in themselves, independent of God's commands. This is
the view accepted by Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato's

dialogue. The Mu'tazilah school of Islamic theology also
defended the view (with, for example, Nazzam maintaining that God is powerless to engage in injustice or
lying),* [2] as did the Islamic philosopher Averroes.* [3]
Thomas Aquinas never explicitly addresses the Euthyphro dilemma, but Aquinas scholars often put him on
this side of the issue.* [4]* [5] Aquinas draws a distinction between what is good or evil in itself and what is
good or evil because of God's commands,* [6] with unchangeable moral standards forming the bulk of natural
law.* [7] Thus he contends that not even God can change
the Ten Commandments (adding, however, that God can
change what individuals deserve in particular cases, in
what might look like special dispensations to murder or
steal).* [8] Among later Scholastics, Gabriel Vsquez is
particularly clear-cut about obligations existing prior to
anyone's will, even God's.* [9]* [10] Modern natural law
theory saw Grotius and Leibniz also putting morality
prior to God's will, comparing moral truths to unchangeable mathematical truths, and engaging voluntarists like
Pufendorf in philosophical controversy.* [11] Cambridge
Platonists like Benjamin Whichcote and Ralph Cudworth
mounted seminal attacks on voluntarist theories, paving
the way for the later rationalist metaethics of Samuel
Clarke and Richard Price;* [12]* [13]* [14] what emerged
was a view on which eternal moral standards, though
dependent on God in some way, exist independently of
God's will and prior to God's commands. Contemporary
philosophers of religion who embrace this horn of the Euthyphro dilemma include Richard Swinburne* [15]* [16]
and T. J. Mawson* [17] (though see below for complications).
Sovereignty: If there are moral standards independent of God's will, then "[t]here is something over
which God is not sovereign. God is bound by the
laws of morality instead of being their establisher.
Moreover, God depends for his goodness on the extent to which he conforms to an independent moral
standard. Thus, God is not absolutely independent.
[18] 18th-century philosopher Richard Price, who
takes the rst horn and thus sees morality asnecessary and immutable, sets out the objection as follows:It may seem that this is setting up something
distinct from God, which is independent of him, and
equally eternal and necessary.* [19]
Omnipotence: These moral standards would limit
God's power: not even God could oppose them
by commanding what is evil and thereby making
it good. This point was inuential in Islamic theology: In relation to God, objective values appeared as a limiting factor to His power to do as He
wills... Ash'ari got rid of the whole embarrassing
problem by denying the existence of objective values which might act as a standard for God's action.


[20] Similar concerns drove the medieval voluntarists Duns Scotus and William of Ockham.* [21]
As contemporary philosopher Richard Swinburne
puts the point, this hornseems to place a restriction
on God's power if he cannot make any action which
he chooses obligatory... [and also] it seems to limit
what God can command us to do. God, if he is to be
God, cannot command us to do what, independently
of his will, is wrong.* [22]
Freedom of the will: Moreover, these moral standards would limit God's freedom of will: God could
not command anything opposed to them, and perhaps would have no choice but to command in accordance with them.* [23] As Mark Murphy puts the
point,if moral requirements existed prior to God's
willing them, requirements that an impeccable God
could not violate, God's liberty would be compromised.* [24]
Morality without God: If there are moral standards
independent of God, then morality would retain its
authority even if God did not exist. This conclusion
was explicitly (and notoriously) drawn by early modern political theorist Hugo Grotius: What we have
been saying [about the natural law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which
cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness,
that there is no God, or that the aairs of men are
of no concern to him* [25] On such a view, God
is no longer a law-giverbut at most a lawtransmitterwho plays no vital role in the foundations of morality.* [26] Nontheists have capitalized
on this point, largely as a way of disarming moral
arguments for God's existence: if morality does not
depend on God in the rst place, such arguments
stumble at the starting gate.* [27]
The second horn The second horn of the dilemma (i.e.
that which is right is right because it is commanded by
God) is sometimes known as divine command theory or
voluntarism. Roughly, it is the view that there are no
moral standards other than God's will: without God's
commands, nothing would be right or wrong. This view
was partially defended by Duns Scotus, who argued that
not all Ten Commandments belong to the Natural Law.
Scotus held that while our duties to God (found on the
rst tablet) are self-evident, true by denition, and unchangeable even by God, our duties to others (found on
the second tablet) were arbitrarily willed by God and are
within his power to revoke and replace.* [28]* [29]* [30]
William of Ockham went further, contending that (since
there is no contradiction in it) God could command us
not to love God* [31] and even to hate God.* [32] Later
Scholastics like Pierre D'Ailly and his student Jean de
Gerson explicitly confronted the Euthyphro dilemma,
taking the voluntarist position that God does not command good actions because they are good or prohibit


evil ones because they are evil; but... these are therefore good because they are commanded and evil because
prohibited.* [33] Protestant reformers Martin Luther
and John Calvin both stressed the absolute sovereignty
of God's will, with Luther writing that for [God's] will
there is no cause or reason that can be laid down as a
rule or measure for it,* [34] and Calvin writing that
everything which [God] wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it.* [35] The voluntarist emphasis on God's absolute power was carried
further by Descartes, who notoriously held that God had
freely created the eternal truths of logic and mathematics,
and that God was therefore capable of giving circles unequal radii,* [36] giving triangles other than 180 internal degrees, and even making contradictions true.* [37]
Descartes explicitly seconded Ockham: why should
[God] not have been able to give this command [i.e., the
command to hate God] to one of his creatures?"* [38]
Thomas Hobbes notoriously reduced the justice of God
to irresistible power* [39] (drawing the complaint of
Bishop Bramhall that this overturns... all law).* [40]
And William Paley held that all moral obligations bottom
out in the self-interested urgeto avoid Hell and enter
Heaven by acting in accord with God's commands.* [41]
Islam's Ash'arite theologians, al-Ghazali foremost among
them, embraced voluntarism: scholar George Hourani
writes that the view was probably more prominent
and widespread in Islam than in any other civilization.
[42]* [43] Wittgenstein said that ofthe two interpretations of the Essence of the Good, that which holds that
the Good is good, in virtue of the fact that God wills it
isthe deeper, while that which holds thatGod wills
the good, because it is goodisthe shallow, rationalistic
one, in that it behaves 'as though' that which is good could
be given some further foundation.* [44] Today, divine
command theory is defended by many philosophers of religion, though typically in a restricted form (see below).
Problems This horn of the dilemma also faces several
No reasons for morality: If there is no moral standard other than God's will, then God's commands
are arbitrary (i.e., based on pure whimsy or caprice).
This would mean that morality is ultimately not
based on reasons: if theological voluntarism is
true, then God's commands/intentions must be arbitrary; [but] it cannot be that morality could wholly
depend on something arbitrary... [for] when we say
that some moral state of aairs obtains, we take
it that there is a reason for that moral state of affairs obtaining rather than another.* [45] And as
Michael J. Murray and Michael Rea put it, this
would alsocas[t] doubt on the notion that morality
is genuinely objective.* [46] An additional problem
is that it is dicult to explain how true moral actions
can exist if one acts only out of fear of God or in an
attempt to be rewarded by him.* [47]

No reasons for God: This arbitrariness would also
jeopardize God's status as a wise and rational being,
one who always acts on good reasons. As Leibniz
writes: Where will be his justice and his wisdom
if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary
will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the denition of tyrants, justice consists in
that which is pleasing to the most powerful? Besides
it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must
precede the act.* [48]
Anything goes:* [49] This arbitrariness would also
mean that anything could become good, and anything could become bad, merely upon God's command. Thus if God commanded usto gratuitously
inict pain on each other* [50] or to engage incruelty for its own sake* [51] or to hold an annual
sacrice of randomly selected ten-year-olds in a particularly gruesome ritual that involves excruciating
and prolonged suering for its victims,* [52] then
we would be morally obligated to do so. As 17thcentury philosopher Ralph Cudworth put it: nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully
unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be
commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs
upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just,
and righteous.* [53]
Moral contingency: If morality depends on the
perfectly free will of God, morality would lose its
necessity: If nothing prevents God from loving
things that are dierent from what God actually
loves, then goodness can change from world to world
or time to time. This is obviously objectionable to
those who believe that claims about morality are,
if true, necessarily true.* [49] In other words, no
action is necessarily moral: any right action could
have easily been wrong, if God had so decided,
and an action which is right today could easily become wrong tomorrow, if God so decides. Indeed,
some have argued that divine command theory is
incompatible with ordinary conceptions of moral
supervenience.* [54]
Why do God's commands obligate?: Mere commands do not create obligations unless the commander has some commanding authority. But this commanding authority cannot itself be based on those
very commands (i.e., a command to obey commands), otherwise a vicious circle results. So, in order for God's commands to obligate us, he must derive commanding authority from some source other
than his own will. As Cudworth put it: For it was
never heard of, that any one founded all his authority of commanding others, and others [sic] obligation or duty to obey his commands, in a law of his
own making, that men should be required, obliged,


or bound to obey him. Wherefore since the thing
willed in all laws is not that men should be bound
or obliged to obey; this thing cannot be the product
of the meer [sic] will of the commander, but it must
proceed from something else; namely, the right or
authority of the commander.* [55] To avoid the circle, one might say our obligation comes from gratitude to God for creating us. But this presupposes
some sort of independent moral standard obligating
us to be grateful to our benefactors. As 18th-century
philosopher Francis Hutcheson writes:Is the Reason exciting to concur with the Deity this, 'The Deity is our Benefactor?' Then what Reason excites
to concur with Benefactors?"* [56] Or nally, one
might resort to Hobbes's view: The right of nature whereby God reigneth over men, and punisheth
those that break his laws, is to be derived, not from
his creating them (as if he required obedience, as
of gratitude for his benets), but from his irresistible
power.* [57] In other words, might makes right.

God's goodness: If all goodness is a matter of God's

will, then what shall become of God's goodness?
Thus William P. Alston writes,since the standards
of moral goodness are set by divine commands, to
say that God is morally good is just to say that he
obeys his own commands... that God practises what
he preaches, whatever that might be;"* [50] Hutcheson deems such a view an insignicant tautology,
amounting to no more than this, 'That God wills
what he wills.'"* [58] Alternatively, as Leibniz puts
it, divine command theorists deprive God of the
designation good: for what cause could one have
to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite dierent he would have done equally
well?"* [59] A related point is raised by C. S. Lewis:
if good is to be dened as what God commands,
then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of
meaning and the commands of an omnipotent end
would have the same claim on us as those of the
'righteous Lord.'"* [60] Or again Leibniz:this opinion would hardly distinguish God from the devil.
[61] That is, since divine command theory trivializes God's goodness, it is incapable of explaining the
dierence between God and an all-powerful demon.
The is-ought problem and the naturalistic fallacy:
According to David Hume, it is hard to see how
moral propositions featuring the relation ought could
ever be deduced from ordinary is propositions, such
asthe being of a God.* [62] Divine command theory is thus guilty of deducing moral oughts from ordinary ises about God's commands.* [63] In a similar
vein, G. E. Moore argued (with his open question argument) that the notion good is indenable, and any
attempts to analyze it in naturalistic or metaphysical
terms are guilty of the so-called naturalistic fallacy.* [64] This would block any theory which ana-

lyzes morality in terms of God's will: and indeed, in

a later discussion of divine command theory, Moore
concluded that when we assert any action to be
right or wrong, we are not merely making an assertion about the attitude of mind towards it of any being or set of beings whatever.* [65]
No morality without God: If all morality is a matter of God's will, then if God does not exist, there is
no morality. This is the thought captured in the slogan (often attributed to Dostoevsky) "If God does
not exist, everything is permitted." Divine command
theorists disagree over whether this is a problem for
their view or a virtue of their view. Many argue
that morality does indeed require God's existence,
and that this is in fact a problem for atheism. But
divine command theorist Robert Merrihew Adams
contends that this idea (that no actions would be
ethically wrong if there were not a loving God) is
one that will seem (at least initially) implausible
to many, and that his theory mustdispel [an] air
of paradox.* [66]

Responses to the dilemma

Many philosophers and theologians have addressed the
Euthyphro dilemma since the time of Plato, though not always with reference to the Platonic dialogue. According
to scholar Terence Irwin, the issue and its connection with
Plato was revived by Ralph Cudworth and Samuel Clarke
in the 17th and 18th centuries.* [67] More recently, it
has received a great deal of attention from contemporary
philosophers working in metaethics and the philosophy of
religion. Philosophers and theologians aiming to defend
theism against the threat of the dilemma have developed
a variety of responses.

standards Contemporary
philosophers Joshua Homan and Gary S. Rosenkrantz
take the rst horn of the dilemma, branding divine
command theory a subjective theory of valuethat
makes morality arbitrary.* [68] They accept a theory of
morality on which right and wrong, good and bad, are
in a sense independent of what anyone believes, wants, or
prefers.* [69] They do not address the aforementioned
problems with the rst horn, but do consider a related
problem concerning God's omnipotence: namely, that
it might be handicapped by his inability to bring about
what is independently evil. To this they reply that God
is omnipotent, even though there are states of aairs he
cannot bring about: omnipotence is a matter of maximal power, not an ability to bring about all possible
states of aairs. And supposing that it is impossible for
God not to exist, then since there cannot be more than
one omnipotent being, it is therefore impossible for any
being to have more power than God (e.g., a being who


is omnipotent but not omnibenevolent).
omnipotence remains intact.* [70]

Thus God's

Richard Swinburne and T. J. Mawson have a slightly

more complicated view. They both take the rst horn
of the dilemma when it comes to necessary moral truths.
But divine commands are not totally irrelevant, for God
and his will can still have an impact on contingent moral
truths.* [71]* [72]* [16]* [17] On the one hand, the most
fundamental moral truths hold true regardless of whether
God exists or what God has commanded: Genocide
and torturing children are wrong and would remain so
whatever commands any person issued.* [22] This is
because, according to Swinburne, such truths are true as
a matter of logical necessity: like the laws of logic, one
cannot deny them without contradiction.* [73] This parallel oers a solution to the aforementioned problems of
God's sovereignty, omnipotence, and freedom: namely,
that these necessary truths of morality pose no more of a
threat than the laws of logic.* [74]* [75]* [76] On the other
hand, there is still an important role for God's will. First,
there are some divine commands that can directly create moral obligations: e.g., the command to worship on
Sundays instead of on Tuesdays.* [77] Notably, not even
these commands, for which Swinburne and Mawson take
the second horn of the dilemma, have ultimate, underived authority. Rather, they create obligations only because of God's role as creator and sustainer and indeed
owner of the universe, together with the necessary moral
truth that we owe some limited consideration to benefactors and owners.* [78]* [79] Second, God can make an indirect moral dierence by deciding what sort of universe
to create. For example, whether a public policy is morally
good might indirectly depend on God's creative acts: the
policy's goodness or badness might depend on its eects,
and those eects would in turn depend on the sort of universe God has decided to create.* [80]* [81]
Restricted divine command theory One common response to the Euthyphro dilemma centers on a distinction between value and obligation. Obligation, which
concerns rightness and wrongness (or what is required,
forbidden, or permissible), is given a voluntarist treatment. But value, which concerns goodness and badness,
is treated as independent of divine commands. The result
is a restricted divine command theory that applies only to
a specic region of morality: the deontic region of obligation. This response is found in Francisco Surez's discussion of natural law and voluntarism in De legibus* [82] and
has been prominent in contemporary philosophy of religion, appearing in the work of Robert M. Adams,* [83]
Philip L. Quinn,* [84] and William P. Alston.* [85]
A signicant attraction of such a view is that, since it
allows for a non-voluntarist treatment of goodness and
badness, and therefore of God's own moral attributes,
some of the aforementioned problems with voluntarism
can perhaps be answered. God's commands are not arbitrary: there are reasons which guide his commands based

ultimately on this goodness and badness.* [86] God could

not issue horrible commands: God's own essential goodness* [63]* [87]* [88] or loving character* [89] would keep
him from issuing any unsuitable commands. Our obligation to obey God's commands does not result in circular reasoning; it might instead be based on a gratitude whose appropriateness is itself independent of divine commands.* [90] These proposed solutions are controversial,* [91] and some steer the view back into problems associated with the rst horn.* [92] But by freeing
up a realm of value independent of God's will, this view
might result in a satisfactory form of divine command
One problem remains for such views: if God's own essential goodness does not depend on divine commands,
then on what does it depend? Something other than God?
Here the restricted divine command theory is commonly
combined with a view reminiscent of Plato: God is identical to the ultimate standard for goodness.* [93] Alston
oers the analogy of the standard meter bar in France.
Something is a meter long inasmuch as it is the same
length as the standard meter bar, and likewise, something
is good inasmuch as it approximates God. If one asks
why God is identied as the ultimate standard for goodness, Alston replies that this is the end of the line,
with no further explanation available, but adds that this is
no more arbitrary than a view that invokes a fundamental moral standard.* [94] On this view, then, even though
goodness is independent of God's will, it still depends on
God, thus God's sovereignty remains intact.
This solution has been criticized by Wes Morriston. If we
identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God's nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain properties of God (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then
the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those
properties, or are those properties good because God has
them?* [95] Nevertheless, Morriston concludes that the
appeal to God's essential goodness is the divine-command
theorist's best bet. To produce a satisfying result, however, it would have to give an account of God's goodness
that does not trivialize it and does not make God subject
to an independent standard of goodness.* [96]
False dilemma response Augustine, Anselm, and
Aquinas all wrote about the issues raised by the Euthyphro dilemma, although, like William James* [97] and
Wittgenstein* [44] later, they did not mention it by name.
As philosopher and Anselm scholar Katherin A. Rogers
observes, many contemporary philosophers of religion
suppose that there are true propositions which exist as
platonic abstracta independently of God.* [98] Among
these are propositions constituting a moral order, to
which God must conform in order to be good.* [99] Classical Judaeo-Christian theism, however, rejects such a
view as inconsistent with God's omnipotence, which requires that God and what he has made is all that there
is.* [98] The classical tradition,Rogers notes, also



steers clear of the other horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, Sacks wrote, In Judaism, the Euthyphro dilemma
divine command theory.* [100] From a classical theis- does not exist.* [108] Jewish philosophers Avi Sagi
tic perspective, therefore, the Euthyphro dilemma is false. and Daniel Statman criticized the Euthyphro dilemma as
As Rogers puts it, Anselm, like Augustine before him misleadingbecauseit is not exhaustive": it leaves out
and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro a third option, namely that God acts only out of His
dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral nature.* [109]
order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.
Like Aristotle, Aquinas rejected PlatonMoral philosopher Peter Singer, disputing the perspective Aquinas
his view, to speak of abstractions not only
thatGod is goodand could never advocate something
as more perfect exemplars than fully deslike torture, states that those who propose this arecaught
is to put a premium on generality and
in a trap of their own making, for what can they possibly
this analysis, the abstract good
mean by the assertion that God is good? That God is
Euthyphro dilemma is an unnecapproved of by God?" [101]
essary obfuscation. Aquinas frequently quoted with approval Aristotle's denition, Good is what all desire.
Jewish thought The basis of the false dilemma re- * [112]* [113] As he claried,When we say that good is
sponse God's nature is the standard for value pre- what all desire, it is not to be understood that every kind
dates the dilemma itself, appearing rst in the thought of of good thing is desired by all, but that whatever is desired
the eighth-century BC Hebrew prophets, Amos, Hosea, has the nature of good.* [114] In other words, even those
Micah and Isaiah. (Amos lived some three centuries who desire evil desire itonly under the aspect of good,
before Socrates and two before Thales, traditionally re- i.e., of what is desirable.* [115]Evil, be thou my good,
garded as the rst Greek philosopher.)Their message, says Milton's Satan.* [116] The dierence between desirwrites British scholar Norman H. Snaith, is recognized ing good and desiring evil is that in the former, will and
by all as marking a considerable advance on all previ- reason are in harmony, whereas in the latter, they are in
ous ideas,* [102] not least in its special consideration discord.* [117]
for the poor and down-trodden.* [103] As Snaith obAquinas's discussion of sin provides a good point of enserves, tsedeq, the Hebrew word for righteousness,actutry to his philosophical explanation of why the nature of
ally stands for the establishment of God's will in the land.
God is the standard for value. Every sin,he writes,
This includes justice, but goes beyond it,because God's
consists in the longing for a passing [i.e., ultimately unwill is wider than justice. He has a particular regard for
real or false] good.* [118] Thus,in a certain sense it is
the helpless ones on earth.* [104] Tsedeq is the norm
true what Socrates says, namely that no one sins with full
by which all must be judgedand it depends entirely
knowledge.* [119]No sin in the will happens without
upon the Nature of God.* [105]
an ignorance of the understanding.* [120] God, howHebrew has few abstract nouns. What the Greeks thought ever, has full knowledge (omniscience) and therefore by
of as ideas or abstractions, the Hebrews thought of as ac- denition (that of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as well as
tivities.* [106] In contrast to the Greek dikaiosune (jus- Aquinas) can never will anything other than what is good.
tice) of the philosophers, tsedeq is not an idea abstracted It has been claimed for instance, by Nicolai Hartmann,
from this world of aairs. As Snaith writes:
who wrote:There is no freedom for the good that would
not be at the same time freedom for evil* [121] that
Tsedeq is something that happens here, and
this would limit God's freedom, and therefore his omcan be seen, and recognized, and known. It folnipotence. Josef Pieper, however, replies that such argulows, therefore, that when the Hebrew thought
ments rest upon an impermissibly anthropomorphic conof tsedeq (righteousness), he did not think of
ception of God.* [122] In the case of humans, as Aquinas
Righteousness in general, or of Righteousness
says, to be able to sin is indeed a consequence,* [123] or
as an Idea. On the contrary, he thought of
even a sign, of freedom (quodam libertatis signum).* [124]
a particular righteous act, an action, concrete,
Humans, in other words, are not puppets manipulated by
capable of exact description, xed in time and
God so that they always do what is right. However, it
space.... If the word had anything like a gendoes not belong to the essence of the free will to be able
eral meaning for him, then it was as it was
to decide for evil.* [125] To will evil is neither freerepresented by a whole series of events, the
dom nor a part of freedom.* [124] It is precisely humans'
sum-total of a number of particular happencreatureliness that is, their not being God and therefore
ings.* [105]
omniscient that makes them capable of sinning.* [126]
Consequently, writes Pieper, the inability to sin should
The Hebrew stance on what came to be called the problem be looked on as the very signature of a higher freedom
of universals, as on much else, was very dierent from contrary to the usual way of conceiving the issue.* [122]
that of Plato and precluded anything like the Euthyphro Pieper concludes: Only the will [i.e., God's] can be the
dilemma.* [107] This has not changed. In 2005, Jonathan right standard of its own willing and must will what is


right necessarily, from within itself, and always. A deviation from the norm would not even be thinkable. And
obviously only the absolute divine will is the right standard of its own act* [127]* [128] and consequently of
all human acts. Thus the second horn of the Euthyphro
dilemma, divine command theory, is also disposed of.


1.3.3 In popular culture

In the song "No Church in the Wild" from the album
Watch the Throne, rapper Jay-Z references the dilemma
with the line, Is pious pious 'cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do y'all seek.* [135]

William James William James, in his essay "The 1.3.4 See also
Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life", dismisses the
Ethical dilemma
rst horn of the Euthyphro dilemma and stays clear of
the second. He writes:Our ordinary attitude of regard Morality
ing ourselves as subject to an overarching system of moral
Ethics in the Bible
relations, true 'in themselves,' is ... either an out-and-out
superstition, or else it must be treated as a merely provisional abstraction from that real Thinker ... to whom the
existence of the universe is due.* [129] Moral obliga- 1.3.5 Notes
tions are created bypersonal demands,whether these
demands* [130] come from the weakest creatures, from [1] Leibniz 1702(?), p. 516.
the most insignicant persons, or from God. It follows [2] Wolfson 1976, p. 579.
that ethics have as genuine a foothold in a universe
where the highest consciousness is human, as in a uni- [3] Hourani 1962, pp. 1340.
verse where there is a God as well.However, whether
[4] Haldane 1989, p. 40.
the purely human systemworks as well as the other
is a dierent question. [129]
[5] Irwin 2007, I, pp. 553556.
For James, the deepest practical dierence in the moral
life is between what he calls the easy-going and the
strenuous mood.* [131] In a purely human moral system, it is hard to rise above the easy-going mood, since
the thinker's various ideals, known to him to be mere
preferences of his own, are too nearly of the same denominational value;* [132] he can play fast and loose with
them at will. This too is why, in a merely human world
without a God, the appeal to our moral energy falls short
of its maximum stimulating power.Our attitude isentirely dierentin a world where there are none but nite demandersfrom that in a world where there is also
an innite demander.This is because the stable and
systematic moral universe for which the ethical philosopher asks is fully possible only in a world where there is a
divine thinker with all-enveloping demands, for in that
case,actualized in his thought already must be that ethical philosophy which we seek as the pattern which our
own must evermore approach.Even though exactly
what the thought of this innite thinker may be is hidden
from us, our postulation of him serves to let loose
in us the strenuous mood* [131] and confront us with
an existential* [133] challengein which our total
character and personal genius ... are on trial; and if we
invoke any so-called philosophy, our choice and use of
that also are but revelations of our personal aptitude or
incapacity for moral life. From this unsparing practical
ordeal no professor's lectures and no array of books can
save us.* [131] In the words of Richard M. Gale,God
inspires us to lead the morally strenuous life in virtue of
our conceiving of him as unsurpassably good. This supplies James with an adequate answer to the underlying
question of the Euthyphro.* [134]

[6] Aquinas c. 12651274, 2a2ae 57.2.

[7] Aquinas c. 12651274, 2a1ae 94.5.
[8] Aquinas c. 12651274, 1a2ae 100.8.
[9] Pink 2005.
[10] Irwin 2007, II, pp. 610.
[11] See esp. Grotius 1625, 1.1.10 and Leibniz 1702(?); see
also Leibniz 1706, pp. 6475.
[12] Gill 1999, esp. pp. 27274.
[13] Mackie 1980, Chapters 2, 8.
[14] Gill 2011.
[15] Swinburne 1993, pp. 209216.
[16] Swinburne 2008.
[17] Mawson 2008.
[18] Murray & Rea 2008, p. 247.
[19] Price 1769, Chapter 5.
[20] Hourani 1960, p. 276.
[21] Haldane 1989, pp. 4243.
[22] Swinburne 1993, p. 210.
[23] See Adams 1999, p. 47-49 for a detailed discussion of
this problem; also see Surez 1872, 2.6.22-23.
[24] Murphy 2012, Metaethical theological voluntarism: Considerations in Favor.



[25] Grotius 1625, Prolegomenon, 11.

[55] Cudworth 1731, 1.2.4.

[26] Kretzmann 1999, p. 423.

[56] Hutcheson 1742, I.

[27] Oppy 2009, pp. 352356.

[57] Hobbes, 31.5.

[28] Williams 2013, Ethics and Moral Psychology: The natural


[58] Hutcheson 1738, 2.7.5.

[29] Williams 2002, pp. 312316.

[59] Leibniz 1710, p. 176.

[30] See Cross 1999, p. 92 for the view that our duties to others hold automatically [i.e., without God's commands]
unless God commands otherwise.

[60] Lewis 1943, p. 79.

[31] William of Ockham. Quodlibeta 3.13

[62] Hume 1739,

[32] William of Ockham. Reportata 4.16; see also Osborne


[63] Wierenga 1983, p. 397.

[33] D'Ailly, Pierre. Questions on the Books of the Sentences

1.14; quoted in Wainwright 2005, p. 74, quoting Idziak
63-4; see Wainwright 2005, p. 74 for similar quotes from

[61] Leibniz 1702(?), p. 561.

[64] Moore 1903, Chapters 1, 2, 4.

[65] Moore 1912, p. 79.
[66] Adams 1979, p. 77.

[34] Luther 1525, 88.

[67] Irwin 2006.

[35] Calvin 1536, 3.23.2.

[68] Homan & Rosenkrantz 2002, pp. 143145.

[36] Descartes, III 25.

[69] Homan & Rosenkrantz 2002, pp. 145147.

[37] Descartes, III 235.

[70] Homan & Rosenkrantz 2002, pp. 166, 173176.

[38] Descartes, III 343.

[71] Swinburne 1974.

[39] Hobbes. Of Liberty and Necessity12

[72] Swinburne 1993, Chapter 11.

[40] Hobbes. A Defense of True Liberty, 12f

[41] Paley, William. Principles2.3
[42] Hourani 1960, p. 270.

[73] Swinburne 1993, p. 192.

[74] Swinburne 1993, Chapter 9.
[75] Swinburne 1974, pp. 217222.

[43] See Frank 1994, pp. 3236 for the view that al-Ghazali incorporated rationalist elements that moved him away from
traditional Ash'arite voluntarism.

[76] Mawson 2008, pp. 2629.

[44] Janik & Toulmin 1973, p. 194. The passage is also quoted
in Baggett 2002, p. 19.

[78] Swinburne 1974, pp. 211215.

[77] Swinburne 1974, p. 211.

[45] Murphy 2012, Perennial diculties for metaethical theological voluntarism: Theological voluntarism and arbitrariness.

[79] Swinburne 2008, pp. 1012.

[46] Murray & Rea 2008, pp. 246247.

[81] Mawson 2008, pp. 2932.

[47] Doomen 2011.

[82] Surez 1872, 2.6 Is the natural law truly a preceptive

divine law?".

[48] Leibniz 1686, II.

[49] Murray & Rea 2008, p. 246.
[50] Alston 2002, p. 285.

[80] Swinburne 2008, p. 10.

[83] Adams 1973, esp. p. 109 and Adams 1999, esp. p. 250.
[84] Quinn 2007, esp. p. 71.

[51] Adams 1973.

[85] Alston 1990, pp. 306307.

[52] Morriston 2009, p. 249.

[86] Alston 1990, pp. 317318.

[53] Cudworth 1731, 1.1.5.

[87] Quinn 2007, pp. 8185.

[54] Klagge 1984, pp. 374375.

[88] Alston 1990, p. 317.



[89] Adams 1979. In this early work, Adams's view is that it is [110] Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Bk. 1,
logically possible butunthinkablethat God would issue
lectio 10, n. 158.
horrible commands: the believer's concepts of ethical
rightness and wrongness would break down in the situation [111] McInerny 1982, pp. 122123.
in which he believed that God commanded cruelty for its
own sake(p. 324). In later work, Adams contends that [112] Aristotle, Ethics 1.1; Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle's
Ethics 1, 9 and 11.
God cannot be sadistic(Adams 1999, p. 47).
[90] Adams 1999, pp. 252253.

[113] Aquinas c. 12651274, I 5,1.

[91] For criticisms, see Chandler 1985; Morriston 2001; Shaw [114] Aquinas c. 12651274, I 6,2 ad 2.
2002; and Zagzebski 2004, pp. 259261
[92] See Adams 1999, pp. 4749 on the problems of divine
omnipotence and freedom of the will

[115] Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle's Ethics 1,10.

[116] Milton, John. Paradise Lost IV, 110.

[93] See Adams 1999, Chapter 1; Quinn 2007; Alston 1990

distances himself from Platonism; see also Kretzmann [117] Aquinas c. 12651274, I/II q24, a2.
1999, pp. 375376 for a similar solution, put in terms
[118] Aquinas c. 12651274, I/II 72,2.
of divine simplicity.
[94] Alston 1990, pp. 318-322.

[119] Aquinas c. 12651274, I/II 58,2 and I/II 77,2.

[95] Morriston 2001, p. 253.

[120] Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles 4,92.

[96] Morriston 2001, p. 266.

[121] Hartmann, Nicolai. Ethik (3rd edition). Berlin, 1949, p.

378. Cited in Pieper 2001, pp. 7879.

[97] James 1891.

[98] Rogers 2008, p. 8.

[122] Pieper 2001, p. 79.

[99] Rogers 2008, p. 186.

[123] Aquinas. De Veritate 24,3 ad 2.

[100] Rogers 2008, p. 186; see also Rogers 2000, pp. 127133. [124] Aquinas. De Veritate 22,6.
[101] Singer, Peter (1993). Practical Ethics (3d ed.). Cam- [125] Aquinas. De Veritate 24,3 ad 2; Commentary on the Senbridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 34. ISBN 978tences of Peter Lombard 2d,44,1,1 ad 1.
[102] Snaith 1944, p. 59. Written over many centuries by many
authors, the Old Testament displays a marked ethical evolution in its portrayal and therefore understanding of
God. In its earliest-written books, God appears at times
as no more than a nationalistic tribal deity who orders the
extermination of entire peoples hostile to Israel, such as
the Midianites (Numbers 31: 154) and Amalekites (1
Samuel 15: 125). By the time of Amos, however, such
primitive and immature notionsare a thing of the past
(Snaith 1944, p. 52; see also pp. 6162, 6667). For a
recent overview, see Head 2010.

[126] Pieper 2001, p. 80.

[127] Aquinas c. 12651274, I 63,1.
[128] Pieper 2001, pp. 8081.
[129] James 1891, Section II.
[130] Gale 1999, p. 44: In his essay, James used 'desire',
'demand' and 'claim' interchangeably, using 'desire' and
'demand' each eleven times and 'claim' ve.

[103] Snaith 1944, pp. 6869. It was this bias towards the [131] James 1891, Section V.
poor and needy(Snaith 1944, p. 70) in the message
of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus Christ that inspired [132] James is acutely aware of how hard it is to avoid complete moral skepticism on the one hand, and on the other
the "preferential option for the poor" of late-twentiethescape bringing a wayward personal standard of our own
century Latin American liberation theology.
along with us, on which we simply pin our faith.He briey
discusses several notions proposed as bases of the ethi[104] Snaith 1944, p. 70.
cal system, but nds little to help choose among them.
[105] Snaith 1944, p. 77.
(James 1891, Section III)
[106] Snaith 1944, p. 174.
[107] Snaith 1944, pp. 9, 187188.
[108] Sacks 2005, p. 164.
[109] Sagi & Statman 1995, pp. 6263.

[133] Gale 1999, p. 40.

[134] Gale 1999, p. 44.
[135] Kanye West No Church in the Wild Lyrics. Retrieved
5 November 2013.





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Dordrecht: Klumer. ISBN 978-9027706935.
Leibniz, Gottfried (1706). Opinion on the Principles of Pufendorf. In Riley. Political Writings.
pp. 6475.
Leibniz, Gottfried (1710). Thodice.
Lewis, C. S. (1967) [1943]. The Poison of Subjectivism. Christian Reections.
Luther, Martin (1525). On the Bondage of the Will.
Mackie, J. L. (1980). Hume's Moral Theory. ISBN
Mawson, T. J. (2008).
The Euthyphro Dilemma.
Think 7 (20): 2533.
McInerny, Ralph (1982). St. Thomas Aquinas. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-01707-7.
Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia Ethica.
Moore, G. E. (1912). Ethics.
Morriston, Wes (2001). Must there be a standard
of moral goodness apart from God. Philosophia
Christi. 2 3 (1): 127138.
Morriston, Wes (2009). What if God commanded something terrible: a worry for divinecommand meta-ethics.
Religious Studies
(Cambridge University Press) 45:
Murphy, Mark (2012). Theological Voluntarism
. In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition ed.).
Murray, Michael J.; Rea, Michael (2008). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge:
Cambridge. ISBN 978-0521619554.
Oppy, Graham (2009). Arguing about Gods. ISBN
Osborne, Thomas M. (2005).Ockham as a divinecommand theorist. Religious Studies 41 (1): 122.
Pieper, Josef (2001). The Concept of Sin. translated
by Edward T. Oakes, S.J. South Bend, Indiana: St
Augustine's Press. ISBN 978-1-890318-07-9.
Pink, Thomas (2005). Action, Will, and Law
in Late Scholasticism. Moral Philosophy on the
Threshold of Modernity: 3150. doi:10.1007/14020-3001-0_3.

Price, Richard (1769). A Review of the Principal
Questions of Morals.
Philip (2007).
In David Copp.
Rogers, Katherin A. (2000). Divine Goodness.
Perfect Being Theology. Edinburgh University Press.
ISBN 978-0-7486-1012-9.
Rogers, Katherin A. (2008). Anselm on Freedom.
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Sacks, Jonathan (2005). To Heal a Fractured World:
The Ethics of Responsibility. New York: Schocken
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Sagi, Avi; Statman, Daniel (1995). Religion and
Morality. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 978-905183-838-1.
Singer, Peter (1993). Practical Ethics (3d ed.).
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Shaw, Joseph (2002). Divine commands at the
foundations of morality. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (3): 419439.
Snaith, Norman H. (1983) [1944]. The Distinctive
Ideas of the Old Testament. London: Epworth Press.
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deo legislatore: in decem libros distributus.
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Think 7 (20):


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Wolfson, Harry (1976). The Philosophy of the contexts, the assertion that "if you are not with us, you
Kalam. ISBN 978-0674665804.
are against us"). This fallacy also can arise simply by
accidental omission of additional options rather than by
Zagzebski, Linda (2004). Divine Motivation Theory. deliberate deception. Additionally, it can be the result
ISBN 978-0521535762.
of habitual, patterned, black-and-white and/or intensely
political/politicized thinking whereby a model of binary
(or polar) opposites is assigned or imposed to whatever
1.3.7 Further reading
regarded object/context, almost automatically--a process
Jan Aertsen Medieval philosophy and the transcen- that may ignore both complexity and alternatives to more
dentals: the case of Thomas Aquinas (2004: New extreme juxtaposed archetypes; binary opposition is explored extensively in critical theory.
York, Brill) ISBN 90-04-10585-9
Some philosophers and scholars believe that unless a
John M. Frame Euthyphro, Hume, and the Biblical
distinction can be made rigorous and precise it isn't really
God retrieved February 13, 2007
a distinction.* [1] An exception is analytic philosopher
Paul Helm [ed.] Divine Commands and Morality John Searle, who called it an incorrect assumption that
(1981: Oxford, Oxford University Press) ISBN 0- produces false dichotomies.* [2] Searle insists that it is
a condition of the adequacy of a precise theory of an in19-875049-8
determinate phenomenon that it should precisely charac Peter J. King, Morality & religion I (PDF le)
terize that phenomenon as indeterminate; and a distincfor a family of
Greg Koukl, Euthyphro's Dilemma, Stand to Reason tion is no less a distinction for allowing
commentary, 2002
two options are presented, they often are, although not
Plato Euthyphro (any edition; the Penguin version always, two extreme points on some spectrum of possican be found in The Last Days of Socrates ISBN 0- bilities; this may lend credence to the larger argument by
giving the impression that the options are mutually exclusive of each other, even though they need not be. Furthermore, the options in false dichotomies typically are
1.3.8 External links
presented as being collectively exhaustive, in which case
the fallacy may be overcome, or at least weakened, by
Euthyphro by Plato from Project Gutenberg
considering other possibilities, or perhaps by considering
Interactive Euthyphro Dilemma from Philosophy a whole spectrum of possibilities, as in fuzzy logic.
God and Morality - an article on the Euthyphro 1.4.1 Examples
Morton's fork

1.4 False dilemma

Morton's fork, a choice between two equally unpleasant

options, is often a false dilemma. The phrase originates
from an argument for taxing English nobles:

A false dilemma (also called black-and-white thinking, bifurcation, denying a conjunct, the eitheror falEither the nobles of this country appear
lacy, false dichotomy, fallacy of exhaustive hypothewealthy, in which case they can be taxed for
ses, the fallacy of false choice, the fallacy of the false
good; or they appear poor, in which case they
alternative, or the fallacy of the excluded middle) is
are living frugally and must have immense sava type of informal fallacy that involves a situation in
ings, which can be taxed for good.* [3]
which only limited alternatives are considered, when in
fact there is at least one additional option. The opposite This is a false dilemma and a "Catch-22", because it fails
of this fallacy is argument to moderation.
to allow for the possibility that some members of the noThe options may be a position that is between two ex- bility may in fact lack liquid assets, as well as the possitremes (such as when there are shades of grey) or may bility that those who appear poor may actually be poor.
be completely dierent alternatives. Phrasing that implies two options (dilemma, dichotomy, black-and-white)
False choice
may be replaced with other number-based nouns, such as
a false trilemma" if something is reduced to only three The presentation of a false choice often reects a deliboptions.
erate attempt to eliminate several options that may ocFalse dilemma can arise intentionally, when fallacy is cupy the middle ground on an issue. A common arguused in an attempt to force a choice (such as, in some ment against noise pollution laws involves a false choice.


It might be argued that in New York City noise should
not be regulated, because if it were, the city would drastically change in a negative way. This argument assumes
that, for example, a bar must be shut down to prevent disturbing levels of noise emanating from it after midnight.
This ignores the fact that the bar could simply lower its
noise levels, or install soundproong structural elements
to keep the noise from excessively transmitting onto others' properties.
Black-and-white thinking
See also: Splitting (psychology)
See also: Binary opposition
In psychology, a phenomenon related to the false
dilemma is black-and-white thinking. Many people routinely engage in black-and-white thinking, an example
of which is someone who categorizes other people as all
good or all bad.* [4]


See also

Correlative-based fallacies
Critical theory
Degrees of truth

None of the above
One-party system
Show election
Learned helplessness

1.4.3 References
[1] Jacques Derrida (1991) Afterword: Toward An Ethic of
Discussion, published in the English translation of Limited
Inc., pp.123-4, 126
[2] Searle, John. (1983) The Word Turned Upside Down. The
New York Review of Books, Volume 30, Number 16, October 27, 1983.
[3] Evans, Ivor H. (1989). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase &
Fable, 14th edition, Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-0162007.
[4] AJ Giannini. Use of ction in therapy. Psychiatric Times.

1.4.4 External links

The Black-or-White Fallacy entry in The Fallacy

Hobson's choice
Law of excluded middle
Loaded question
Lovehate relationship
Multi-valued logic
Nolan Chart
Pascal's Wager
Principle of bivalence
Rogerian argument
Sorites paradox
Strange loop
Thinking outside the box
Two-party system

1.5 Prisoner's dilemma

This article is about game theory. For the 1988 novel,
see Prisoner's Dilemma (novel). For the Doctor Who
audiobook, see The Prisoner's Dilemma. For the 2001
play, see The Prisoner's Dilemma (play).
The prisoner's dilemma is a canonical example of a
game analyzed in game theory that shows why two purely
rationalindividuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the
game with prison sentence rewards and gave it the name
prisoner's dilemma(Poundstone, 1992), presenting it
as follows:
Two members of a criminal gang are arrested
and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary
connement with no means of speaking to or
exchanging messages with the other. The prosecutors do not have enough evidence to convict
the pair on the principal charge. They hope to
get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser


charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors oer
each prisoner a Faustian bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray
the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other
by remaining silent. Here is the oer:
If A and B each betray the other, each of
them serves 2 years in prison
If A betrays B but B remains silent, A
will be set free and B will serve 3 years
in prison (and vice versa)
If A and B both remain silent, both of
them will only serve 1 year in prison (on
the lesser charge)

It is implied that the prisoners will have no opportunity

to reward or punish their partner other than the prison
sentences they get, and that their decision will not aect
their reputation in the future. Because betraying a partner oers a greater reward than cooperating with them,
all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray
the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely
rational prisoners is for them to betray each other.* [1]
The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray,
when they would get a better reward if they both cooperated. In reality, humans display a systematic bias towards
cooperative behavior in this and similar games, much
more so than predicted by simple models of rational
self-interested action.* [2]* [3]* [4]* [5] A model based on
a dierent kind of rationality, where people forecast how
the game would be played if they formed coalitions and
then they maximize their forecasts, has been shown to
make better predictions of the rate of cooperation in this
and similar games given only the payos of the game.* [6]

1.5.1 Strategy for the classic prisoners'

The normal game is shown below:
Here, regardless of what the other decides, each prisoner
gets a higher pay-o by betraying the other (defecting
). The reasoning involves an argument by dilemma: B
will either cooperate or defect. If B cooperates, A should
defect, since going free is better than serving 1 year. If
B defects, A should also defect, since serving 2 years is
better than serving 3. So either way, A should defect.
Parallel reasoning will show that B should defect.
In traditional game theory, some very restrictive assumptions on prisoner behaviour are made. It is assumed that
both understand the nature of the game, and that despite
being members of the same gang, they have no loyalty to
each other and will have no opportunity for retribution or
reward outside the game. Most importantly, a very narrow interpretation of rationalityis applied in dening
the decision-making strategies of the prisoners. Given
these conditions and the payos above, prisoner A will
betray prisoner B. The game is symmetric, so Prisoner B
should act the same way. Since both rationallydecide to defect, each receives a lower reward than if both
were to stay quiet. Traditional game theory results in both
players being worse o than if each chose to lessen the
sentence of his accomplice at the cost of spending more
time in jail himself.

1.5.2 Generalized form

The structure of the traditional PrisonersDilemma can

be generalized from its original prisoner setting. Suppose
that the two players are represented by the colors, red and
blue, and that each player chooses to eitherCooperate
There is also an extendediteratedversion of the game, or Defect.
where the classic game is played over and over between
the same prisoners, and consequently, both prisoners con- If both players cooperate, they both receive the reward,
tinuously have an opportunity to penalize the other for R, for cooperating. If Blue defects while Red cooperprevious decisions. If the number of times the game will ates, then Blue receives the temptation, T payo while
be played is known to the players, then (by backward in- Red receives the sucker's, S, payo. Similarly, if
duction) two classically rational players will betray each Blue cooperates while Red defects, then Blue receives the
other repeatedly, for the same reasons as the single shot sucker's payo S while Red receives the temptation payvariant. In an innite or unknown length game there is no o T. If both players defect, they both receive the punxed optimum strategy, and Prisoner's Dilemma tourna- ishment payo P.
ments have been held to compete and test algorithms.
This can be expressed in normal form:
The prisoner's dilemma game can be used as a model and to be a prisoner's dilemma game in the strong sense,
for many real world situations involving cooperative be- the following condition must hold for the payos:
haviour. In casual usage, the label prisoner's dilemma
may be applied to situations not strictly matching the for- T > R > P > S
mal criteria of the classic or iterative games: for instance, The payo relationship R > P implies that mutual coopthose in which two entities could gain important benets eration is superior to mutual defection, while the payo
from cooperating or suer from the failure to do so, but relationships T > R and P > S imply that defection is the
nd it merely dicult or expensive, not necessarily im- dominant strategy for both agents. That is, mutual defecpossible, to coordinate their activities to achieve cooper- tion is the only strong Nash equilibrium in the game (i.e.,
the only outcome from which each player could only do



worse by unilaterally changing strategy). The dilemma

then is that mutual cooperation yields a better outcome
than mutual defection but it is not the rational outcome
because the choice to cooperate, at the individual level, is
not rational from a self-interested point of view.

will defect on the last no matter what is done, and so on.

The same applies if the game length is unknown but has
a known upper limit.

If the game is played exactly N times and both players

know this, then it is always game theoretically optimal to
defect in all rounds. The only possible Nash equilibrium
is to always defect. The proof is inductive: one might
as well defect on the last turn, since the opponent will
not have a chance to punish the player. Therefore, both
will defect on the last turn. Thus, the player might as
well defect on the second-to-last turn, since the opponent

of the game; after that, the player does what his or her
opponent did on the previous move. Depending on the
situation, a slightly better strategy can betit for tat with
forgiveness.When the opponent defects, on the next
move, the player sometimes cooperates anyway, with a
small probability (around 15%). This allows for occasional recovery from getting trapped in a cycle of defections. The exact probability depends on the line-up of

Unlike the standard prisoners' dilemma, in the iterated

prisoners' dilemma the defection strategy is counterintuitive and fails badly to predict the behavior of human
players. Within standard economic theory, though, this
Special case: Donation game
is the only correct answer. The superrational strategy in
Thedonation game[7] is a form of prisoner's dilemma the iterated prisoners' dilemma with xed N is to coopin which cooperation corresponds to oering the other erate against a superrational opponent, and in the limit
player a benet b at a personal cost c with b > c. Defec- of large N, experimental results on strategies agree with
the superrational version, not the game-theoretic rational
tion means oering nothing. The payo matrix is thus
Note that 2R>T+S (i.e. 2(b-c)>b-c) which qualies the
donation game to be an iterated game (see next section). For cooperation to emerge between game theoretic rational players, the total number of rounds N must be ranThe donation game may be applied to markets. Suppose dom, or at least unknown to the players. In this case 'alX grows oranges, Y grows apples. The marginal utility ways defect' may no longer be a strictly dominant stratof an apple to the orange-grower X is b, which is higher egy, only a Nash equilibrium. Amongst results shown by
than the marginal utility (c) of an orange, since X has a Robert Aumann in a 1959 paper, rational players repeatsurplus of oranges and no apples. Similarly, for apple- edly interacting for indenitely long games can sustain
grower Y, the marginal utility of an orange is b while the the cooperative outcome.
marginal utility of an apple is c. If X and Y contract to
exchange an apple and an orange, and each fullls their
end of the deal, then each receive a payo of b-c. If one Strategy for the iterated prisoners' dilemma
defectsand does not deliver as promised, the defector
will receive a payo of b, while the cooperator will lose Interest in the iterated prisoners' dilemma (IPD) was kinc. If both defect, then neither one gains or loses anything. dled by Robert Axelrod in his book The Evolution of Cooperation (1984). In it he reports on a tournament he organized of the N step prisoners' dilemma (with N xed)
1.5.3 The iterated prisoners' dilemma
in which participants have to choose their mutual strategy again and again, and have memory of their previous
If two players play prisoners' dilemma more than once in encounters. Axelrod invited academic colleagues all over
succession and they remember previous actions of their the world to devise computer strategies to compete in an
opponent and change their strategy accordingly, the game IPD tournament. The programs that were entered varied
is called iterated prisoners' dilemma.
widely in algorithmic complexity, initial hostility, capacIn addition to the general form above, the iterative ver- ity for forgiveness, and so forth.
sion also requires that 2R > T + S, to prevent alternating
Axelrod discovered that when these encounters were recooperation and defection giving a greater reward than peated over a long period of time with many players, each
mutual cooperation.
with dierent strategies, greedy strategies tended to do
The iterated prisoners' dilemma game is fundamental to very poorly in the long run while more altruistic strategies
certain theories of human cooperation and trust. On the did better, as judged purely by self-interest. He used this
assumption that the game can model transactions between to show a possible mechanism for the evolution of altrutwo people requiring trust, cooperative behaviour in pop- istic behaviour from mechanisms that are initially purely
ulations may be modeled by a multi-player, iterated, ver- selsh, by natural selection.
sion of the game. It has, consequently, fascinated many The winning deterministic strategy was tit for tat, which
scholars over the years. In 1975, Grofman and Pool esti- Anatol Rapoport developed and entered into the tournamated the count of scholarly articles devoted to it at over ment. It was the simplest of any program entered, con2,000. The iterated prisoners' dilemma has also been re- taining only four lines of BASIC, and won the contest.
ferred to as the "Peace-War game".* [8]
The strategy is simply to cooperate on the rst iteration

By analysing the top-scoring strategies, Axelrod stated
several conditions necessary for a strategy to be successful.
Nice The most important condition is that the strategy
must be nice, that is, it will not defect before
its opponent does (this is sometimes referred to as
an optimisticalgorithm). Almost all of the topscoring strategies were nice; therefore, a purely selfish strategy will not cheaton its opponent, for
purely self-interested reasons rst.
Retaliating However, Axelrod contended, the successful strategy must not be a blind optimist. It
must sometimes retaliate. An example of a nonretaliating strategy is Always Cooperate. This is a
very bad choice, asnastystrategies will ruthlessly
exploit such players.
Forgiving Successful strategies must also be forgiving.
Though players will retaliate, they will once again
fall back to cooperating if the opponent does not
continue to defect. This stops long runs of revenge
and counter-revenge, maximizing points.
Non-envious The last quality is being non-envious, that
is not striving to score more than the opponent.
The optimal (points-maximizing) strategy for the onetime PD game is simply defection; as explained above,
this is true whatever the composition of opponents may
be. However, in the iterated-PD game the optimal strategy depends upon the strategies of likely opponents, and
how they will react to defections and cooperations. For
example, consider a population where everyone defects
every time, except for a single individual following the tit
for tat strategy. That individual is at a slight disadvantage
because of the loss on the rst turn. In such a population,
the optimal strategy for that individual is to defect every
time. In a population with a certain percentage of alwaysdefectors and the rest being tit for tat players, the optimal
strategy for an individual depends on the percentage, and
on the length of the game.
In the strategy called Pavlov, win-stay, lose-switch, If
the last round outcome was P,P, a Pavlov player switches
strategy the next turn, which means P,P would be considered as a failure to cooperate. For a certain range of parameters, Pavlov beats all other strategies by giving preferential treatment to co-players which resemble Pavlov.
Deriving the optimal strategy is generally done in two
1. Bayesian Nash Equilibrium: If the statistical distribution of opposing strategies can be determined
(e.g. 50% tit for tat, 50% always cooperate) an optimal counter-strategy can be derived analytically.* [9]

2. Monte Carlo simulations of populations have been
made, where individuals with low scores die o, and
those with high scores reproduce (a genetic algorithm for nding an optimal strategy). The mix of
algorithms in the nal population generally depends
on the mix in the initial population. The introduction of mutation (random variation during reproduction) lessens the dependency on the initial population; empirical experiments with such systems tend
to produce tit for tat players (see for instance Chess
1988), but there is no analytic proof that this will
always occur.
Although tit for tat is considered to be the most robust
basic strategy, a team from Southampton University in
England (led by Professor Nicholas Jennings and consisting of Rajdeep Dash, Sarvapali Ramchurn, Alex Rogers,
Perukrishnen Vytelingum) introduced a new strategy at
the 20th-anniversary iterated prisoners' dilemma competition, which proved to be more successful than tit for tat.
This strategy relied on cooperation between programs to
achieve the highest number of points for a single program.
The university submitted 60 programs to the competition,
which were designed to recognize each other through a series of ve to ten moves at the start.* [10] Once this recognition was made, one program would always cooperate
and the other would always defect, assuring the maximum number of points for the defector. If the program
realized that it was playing a non-Southampton player, it
would continuously defect in an attempt to minimize the
score of the competing program. As a result,* [11] this
strategy ended up taking the top three positions in the
competition, as well as a number of positions towards the
This strategy takes advantage of the fact that multiple
entries were allowed in this particular competition and
that the performance of a team was measured by that of
the highest-scoring player (meaning that the use of selfsacricing players was a form of minmaxing). In a competition where one has control of only a single player,
tit for tat is certainly a better strategy. Because of this
new rule, this competition also has little theoretical signicance when analysing single agent strategies as compared to Axelrod's seminal tournament. However, it provided the framework for analysing how to achieve cooperative strategies in multi-agent frameworks, especially in
the presence of noise. In fact, long before this new-rules
tournament was played, Richard Dawkins in his book The
Selsh Gene pointed out the possibility of such strategies
winning if multiple entries were allowed, but he remarked
that most probably Axelrod would not have allowed them
if they had been submitted. It also relies on circumventing rules about the prisoners' dilemma in that there is no
communication allowed between the two players, which
the Southampton programs arguably did with their opening ten move danceto recognize one another; this
only reinforces just how valuable communication can be
in shifting the balance of the game.


Stochastic iterated prisoner's dilemma
In a stochastic iterated prisoner's dilemma game, strategies are specied by in terms of cooperation probabilities.* [12] In an encounter between player X and player
Y, X 's strategy is specied by a set of probabilities P of
cooperating with Y. P is a function of the outcomes of
their previous encounters or some subset thereof. If P
is a function of only their most recent n encounters, it
is called a memory-nstrategy. A memory-1 strategy is then specied by four cooperation probabilities:
P = {Pcc , Pcd , Pdc , Pdd } , where Pab is the probability
that X will cooperate in the present encounter given that
the previous encounter was characterized by (ab). For
example, if the previous encounter was one in which X
cooperated and Y defected, then Pcd is the probability
that X will cooperate in the present encounter. If each of
the probabilities are either 1 or 0, the strategy is called deterministic. An example of a deterministic strategy is the
"tit for tat" strategy written as P={1,0,1,0}, in which X responds as Y did in the previous encounter. Another is the
winstay, loseswitch strategy written as P={1,0,0,1}, in
which X responds as in the previous encounter, if it was
a win(i.e. cc or dc) but changes strategy if it was
a loss (i.e. cd or dd). It has been shown that for any
memory-n strategy there is a corresponding memory-1
strategy which gives the same statistical results, so that
only memory-1 strategies need be considered.* [12]
If we dene P as the above 4-element strategy vector of
X and Q = {Qcc , Qcd , Qdc , Qdd } as the 4-element strategy vector of Y, a transition matrix M may be dened for
X whose ij th entry is the probability that the outcome of
a particular encounter between X and Y will be j given
that the previous encounter was i, where i and j are one
of the four outcome indices: cc, cd, dc, or dd. For example, from X 's point of view, the probability that the outcome of the present encounter is cd given that the previous encounter was cd is equal to Mcd,cd = Pcd (1 Qdc )
. (Note that the indices for Q are from Y 's point of
view: a cd outcome for X is a dc outcome for Y.) Under
these denitions, the iterated prisoner's dilemma qualies as a stochastic process and M is a stochastic matrix,
allowing all of the theory of stochastic processes to be
applied.* [12]
One result of stochastic theory is that there exists a stationary vector v for the matrix M such that v M = v
. Without loss of generality, it may be specied that v
is normalized so that the sum of its four components is
unity. The ij th entry in M n will give the probability that
the outcome of an encounter between X and Y will be
j given that the encounter n steps previous is i. In the
limit as n approaches innity, M will converge to a matrix with xed values, giving the long-term probabilities
of an encounter producing j which will be independent
of i. In other words the rows of M will be identical,
giving the long-term equilibrium result probabilities of
the iterated prisoners dilemma without the need to ex-

plicitly evaluate a large number of interactions. It can
be seen that v is a stationary vector for M n and particularly M , so that each row of M will be equal to v.
Thus the stationary vector species the equilibrium outcome probabilities for X. Dening Sx = {R, S, T, P }
and Sy = {R, T, S, P } as the short-term payo vectors
for the {cc,cd,dc,dd} outcomes (From X 's point of view),
the equilibrium payos for X and Y can now be specied
as sx = vSx and sy = vSy , allowing the two strategies
P and Q to be compared for their long term payos.

Iterated Prisoners Dilemma strategies with memory-1

ZD Generous

Zero determinant

ZD Extortion





Robust under
strong selection

Robust under
strong selection

The relationship between zero-determinant (ZD), cooperating

and defecting strategies in the Iterated Prisoners Dilemma
(IPD). Cooperating strategies always cooperate with other cooperating strategies, and defecting strategies always defect against
other defecting strategies. Both contain subsets of strategies that
are robust under strong selection, meaning no other memory-1
strategy is selected to invade such strategies when they are resident in a population. Only cooperating strategies contain a subset
that are always robust, meaning that no other memory-1 strategy
is selected to invade and replace such strategies, under both strong
and weak selection. The intersection between ZD and good cooperating strategies is the set of generous ZD strategies. Extortion
strategies are the intersection between ZD and non-robust defecting strategies. Tit-for-tat lies at the intersection of cooperating,
defecting and ZD strategies.

Zero-determinant strategies In 2012, William H.

Press and Freeman Dyson published a new class of strategies for the stochastic iterated prisoner's dilemma called
zero-determinant(ZD) strategies.* [12] The long term
payos for encounters between X and Y can be expressed
as the determinant of a matrix which is a function of the
two strategies and the short term payo vectors: sx =
D(P, Q, Sx ) and sy = D(P, Q, Sy ) , which do not
involve the stationary vector v. Since the determinant
function sy = D(P, Q, f ) is linear in f, it follows that
sx + sy + = D(P, Q, Sx + Sy + U ) (where
U={1,1,1,1}). Any strategies for which D(P, Q, Sx +
Sy + U ) = 0 is by denition a ZD strategy, and the
long term payos obey the relation sx + sy + = 0 .
Tit-for-tat is a ZD strategy which is fairin the sense
of not gaining advantage over the other player. However,
the ZD space also contains strategies that, in the case of
two players, can allow one player to unilaterally set the

other player's score or alternatively, force an evolutionary
player to achieve a payo some percentage lower than his
own. The extorted player could defect but would thereby
hurt himself by getting lower payo. Thus, extortion solutions turn the iterated prisoner's dilemma into a sort of
ultimatum game. Specically, X is able to choose a strategy for which D(P, Q, Sy + U ) = 0 , unilaterally
setting sy to a specic value within a particular range of
values, independent of Y 's strategy, oering an opportunity for X to extortplayer Y (and vice versa). (It
turns out that if X tries to set sx to a particular value, the
range of possibilities is much smaller, only consisting of
complete cooperation or complete defection.* [12])
An extension of the IPD is an evolutionary stochastic
IPD, in which the relative abundance of particular strategies is allowed to change, with more successful strategies
relatively increasing. This process may be accomplished
by having less successful players imitate the more successful strategies, or by eliminating less successful players from the game, while multiplying the more successful
ones. It has been shown that unfair ZD strategies are not
evolutionarily stable. The key intuition is that an evolutionarily stable strategy must not only be able to invade
another population (which extortionary ZD strategies can
do) but must also perform well against other players of
the same type (which extortionary ZD players do poorly,
because they reduce each other's surplus).* [13]
Theory and simulations conrm that beyond a critical
population size, ZD extortion loses out in evolutionary
competition against more cooperative strategies, and as
a result, the average payo in the population increases
when the population is bigger. In addition, there are some
cases in which extortioners may even catalyze cooperation by helping to break out of a face-o between uniform
defectors and winstay, loseswitch agents.* [14]
While extortionary ZD strategies are not stable in large
populations, another ZD class called generousstrategies is both stable and robust. In fact, when the population is not too small, these strategies can supplant any
other ZD strategy and even perform well against a broad
array of generic strategies for iterated prisoner's dilemma,
including winstay, loseswitch. This was proven specifically for the donation game by Alexander Stewart and
Joshua Plotkin in 2013.* [15] Generous strategies will cooperate with other cooperative players, and in the face
of defection, the generous player loses more utility than
its rival. Generous strategies are the intersection of ZD
strategies and so-called goodstrategies, which were
dened by Akin (2013)* [16] to be those for which the
player responds to past mutual cooperation with future
cooperation and splits expected payos equally if she receives at least the cooperative expected payo. Among
good strategies, the generous (ZD) subset performs well
when the population is not too small. If the population is
very small, defection strategies tend to dominate.* [15]

Continuous iterated prisoners' dilemma
Most work on the iterated prisoners' dilemma has focused on the discrete case, in which players either cooperate or defect, because this model is relatively simple
to analyze. However, some researchers have looked at
models of the continuous iterated prisoners' dilemma, in
which players are able to make a variable contribution to
the other player. Le and Boyd* [17] found that in such
situations, cooperation is much harder to evolve than in
the discrete iterated prisoners' dilemma. The basic intuition for this result is straightforward: in a continuous
prisoners' dilemma, if a population starts o in a noncooperative equilibrium, players who are only marginally
more cooperative than non-cooperators get little benet from assorting with one another. By contrast, in a
discrete prisoners' dilemma, tit for tat cooperators get
a big payo boost from assorting with one another in a
non-cooperative equilibrium, relative to non-cooperators.
Since nature arguably oers more opportunities for variable cooperation rather than a strict dichotomy of cooperation or defection, the continuous prisoners' dilemma
may help explain why real-life examples of tit for tat-like
cooperation are extremely rare in nature (ex. Hammerstein* [18]) even though tit for tat seems robust in theoretical models.

Emergence of Stable Strategies

Players cannot seem to coordinate mutual cooperation,
thus often get locked into the inferior yet stable strategy of defection. In this way, iterated rounds facilitate
the evolution of stable strategies.* [19] Iterated rounds often produce novel strategies, which have implications to
complex social interaction. One such strategy is win-stay
lose-shift. This strategy outperforms a simple Tit-For-Tat
strategy - that is, if you can get away with cheating, repeat
that behavior, however if you get caught, switch.* [20]

1.5.4 Real-life examples

The prisoner setting may seem contrived, but there are in
fact many examples in human interaction as well as interactions in nature that have the same payo matrix. The
prisoner's dilemma is therefore of interest to the social
sciences such as economics, politics, and sociology, as
well as to the biological sciences such as ethology and
evolutionary biology. Many natural processes have been
abstracted into models in which living beings are engaged
in endless games of prisoner's dilemma. This wide applicability of the PD gives the game its substantial importance.


In environmental studies
In environmental studies, the PD is evident in crises such
as global climate change. It is argued all countries will
benet from a stable climate, but any single country is often hesitant to curb CO2 emissions. The immediate benet to an individual country to maintain current behavior is perceived to be greater than the purported eventual
benet to all countries if behavior was changed, therefore explaining the current impasse concerning climate
change.* [21]
An important dierence between climate change politics
and the prisoner's dilemma is uncertainty; the extent and
pace at which pollution can change climate is not known.
The dilemma faced by government is therefore dierent
from the prisoner's dilemma in that the payos of cooperation are unknown. This dierence suggests that states
will cooperate much less than in a real iterated prisoner's
dilemma, so that the probability of avoiding a possible climate catastrophe is much smaller than that suggested by
a game-theoretical analysis of the situation using a real
iterated prisoner's dilemma.* [22]

In psychology
In addiction research / behavioral economics, George
Ainslie points out* [25] that addiction can be cast as an
intertemporal PD problem between the present and future selves of the addict. In this case, defecting means
relapsing, and it is easy to see that not defecting both today and in the future is by far the best outcome, and that
defecting both today and in the future is the worst outcome. The case where one abstains today but relapses in
the future is clearly a bad outcomein some sense the
discipline and self-sacrice involved in abstaining today
have been wastedbecause the future relapse means
that the addict is right back where he started and will
have to start over (which is quite demoralizing, and makes
starting over more dicult). The nal case, where one
engages in the addictive behavior today while abstaining
tomorrowwill be familiar to anyone who has struggled
with an addiction. The problem here is that (as in other
PDs) there is an obvious benet to defecting today,
but tomorrow one will face the same PD, and the same
obvious benet will be present then, ultimately leading to
an endless string of defections.

Osang and Nandy provide a theoretical explanation with

proofs for a regulation-driven win-win situation along the John Gottman in his research described in the science
lines of Michael Porter's hypothesis, in which government of trustdenes good relationships as those where partners know not to enter the (D,D) cell or at least not to get
regulation of competing rms is substantial.* [23]
dynamically stuck there in a loop.
In animals
In economics
Cooperative behavior of many animals can be understood as an example of the prisoner's dilemma. Often
animals engage in long term partnerships, which can be
more specically modeled as iterated prisoner's dilemma.
For example, guppies inspect predators cooperatively in
groups, and they are thought to punish non-cooperative
inspectors by tit for tat strategy.
Vampire bats are social animals that engage in reciprocal
food exchange. Applying the payos from the prisoner's
dilemma can help explain this behavior:* [24]
C/C: Reward: I get blood on my unlucky nights,
which saves me from starving. I have to give blood
on my lucky nights, which doesn't cost me too
D/C: Temptation: You save my life on my poor
night. But then I get the added benet of not having to pay the slight cost of feeding you on my good
C/D:Sucker's Payo: I pay the cost of saving your
life on my good night. But on my bad night you don't
feed me and I run a real risk of starving to death.
D/D: Punishment: I don't have to pay the slight
costs of feeding you on my good nights. But I run a
real risk of starving on my poor nights.

Advertising is sometimes cited as a real life example of

the prisoners dilemma. When cigarette advertising was
legal in the United States, competing cigarette manufacturers had to decide how much money to spend on advertising. The eectiveness of Firm As advertising
was partially determined by the advertising conducted by
Firm B. Likewise, the prot derived from advertising for
Firm B is aected by the advertising conducted by Firm
A. If both Firm A and Firm B chose to advertise during a given period, then the advertising cancels out, receipts remain constant, and expenses increase due to the
cost of advertising. Both rms would benet from a reduction in advertising. However, should Firm B choose
not to advertise, Firm A could benet greatly by advertising. Nevertheless, the optimal amount of advertising
by one rm depends on how much advertising the other
undertakes. As the best strategy is dependent on what the
other rm chooses there is no dominant strategy, which
makes it slightly dierent from a prisoner's dilemma. The
outcome is similar, though, in that both rms would be
better o were they to advertise less than in the equilibrium. Sometimes cooperative behaviors do emerge in
business situations. For instance, cigarette manufacturers endorsed the creation of laws banning cigarette advertising, understanding that this would reduce costs and
increase prots across the industry.* [26] This analysis is
likely to be pertinent in many other business situations



involving advertising.

Arms races

Without enforceable agreements, members of a cartel are

also involved in a (multi-player) prisoners' dilemma.* [27]
'Cooperating' typically means keeping prices at a preagreed minimum level. 'Defecting' means selling under
this minimum level, instantly taking business (and profits) from other cartel members. Anti-trust authorities
want potential cartel members to mutually defect, ensuring the lowest possible prices for consumers.

In sport

The Cold War and similar arms races can be modeled as a

Prisoner's Dilemma situation.* [31] During the Cold War
the opposing alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact
both had the choice to arm or disarm. From each side's
point of view, disarming whilst their opponent continued
to arm would have led to military inferiority and possible
annihilation. Conversely, arming whilst their opponent
disarmed would have led to superiority. If both sides
chose to arm, neither could aord to attack the other,
but at the high cost of developing and maintaining a nuclear arsenal. If both sides chose to disarm, war would be
avoided and there would be no costs.

Doping in sport has been cited as an example of a prisAlthough the 'best' overall outcome is for both sides to
oner's dilemma.* [28]
disarm, the rational course for both sides is to arm, and
Two competing athletes have the option to use an illegal this is indeed what happened. Both sides poured enorand dangerous drug to boost their performance. If neither mous resources into military research and armament in a
athlete takes the drug, then neither gains an advantage. If war of attrition for the next thirty years until Soviet Presonly one does, then that athlete gains a signicant advan- ident Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reatage over their competitor (reduced only by the legal or gan negotiated arms reductions and reform in the Soviet
medical dangers of having taken the drug). If both ath- Union caused ideological dierences to abate.
letes take the drug, however, the benets cancel out and
only the drawbacks remain, putting them both in a worse
position than if neither had used doping.* [28]
1.5.5 Related games
Closed-bag exchange
Multiplayer dilemmas

Many real-life dilemmas involve multiple players. [29]

Although metaphorical, Hardin's tragedy of the commons
may be viewed as an example of a multi-player generalization of the PD: Each villager makes a choice for personal gain or restraint. The collective reward for unanimous (or even frequent) defection is very low payos
(representing the destruction of the commons). A
commons dilemma most people can relate to is washing
the dishes in a shared house. By not washing dishes an
individual can gain by saving his time, but if that behavior is adopted by every resident the collective cost is no
clean plates for anyone.
The commons are not always exploited: William Poundstone, in a book about the prisoner's dilemma (see References below), describes a situation in New Zealand where
newspaper boxes are left unlocked. It is possible for people to take a paper without paying (defecting) but very
few do, feeling that if they do not pay then neither will
others, destroying the system. Subsequent research by
Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Sveriges Riksbank
Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,
hypothesized that the tragedy of the commons is oversimplied, with the negative outcome inuenced by outside
inuences. Without complicating pressures, groups communicate and manage the commons among themselves
for their mutual benet, enforcing social norms to preserve the resource and achieve the maximum good for
the group, an example of eecting the best case outcome
for PD.* [30]

Hofstadter* [32] once suggested that people often nd

problems such as the PD problem easier to understand
when it is illustrated in the form of a simple game, or
trade-o. One of several examples he used was closed
bag exchange":
Two people meet and exchange closed bags,
with the understanding that one of them contains money, and the other contains a purchase.
Either player can choose to honor the deal by
putting into his or her bag what he or she
agreed, or he or she can defect by handing over
an empty bag.
In this game, defection is always the best course, implying that rational agents will never play. However, in this
case both players cooperating and both players defecting
actually give the same result, assuming there are no gains
from trade, so chances of mutual cooperation, even in repeated games, are few.
Friend or Foe?
Friend or Foe? is a game show that aired from 2002 to
2005 on the Game Show Network in the USA. It is an example of the prisoner's dilemma game tested on real people, but in an articial setting. On the game show, three
pairs of people compete. When a pair is eliminated, they
play a game similar to the prisoner's dilemma to determine how the winnings are split. If they both cooperate


(Friend), they share the winnings 5050. If one cooperates and the other defects (Foe), the defector gets all the
winnings and the cooperator gets nothing. If both defect,
both leave with nothing. Notice that the payo matrix
is slightly dierent from the standard one given above,
as the payouts for the both defectand the cooperate while the opponent defectscases are identical. This
makes theboth defectcase a weak equilibrium, compared with being a strict equilibrium in the standard prisoner's dilemma. If a contestant know that their opponent
is going to vote Foe, then their own choice does not
aect their own winnings. In a certain sense, Friend or
Foe has a payo model between prisoner's dilemma and
the game of Chicken.
The payo matrix is
This payo matrix has also been used on the British
television programmes Trust Me, Shafted, The Bank Job
and Golden Balls, and on the American shows Bachelor
Pad and Take It All. Game data from the Golden
Balls series has been analyzed by a team of economists,
who found that cooperation was surprisingly highfor
amounts of money that would seem consequential in the
real world, but were comparatively low in the context of
the game.* [33]
Iterated snowdrift
Researchers from the University of Lausanne and the
University of Edinburgh have suggested that theIterated
Snowdrift Gamemay more closely reect real-world social situations. Although this model is actually a chicken
game, it will be described here. In this model, the risk
of being exploited through defection is lower, and individuals always gain from taking the cooperative choice.
The snowdrift game imagines two drivers who are stuck
on opposite sides of a snowdrift, each of whom is given
the option of shoveling snow to clear a path, or remaining
in their car. A player's highest payo comes from leaving
the opponent to clear all the snow by themselves, but the
opponent is still nominally rewarded for their work.

Innocent prisoner's dilemma
Nash equilibrium
Prisoner's dilemma and cooperation an experimental study
Public goods game
Reciprocal altruism
Swift trust theory
War of attrition (game)
Hobbesian trap

1.5.7 References
[1] Milovsky, Nicholas. The Basics of Game Theory and
Associated Games. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
[2] Fehr, Ernst; Fischbacher, Urs (Oct 23, 2003).
The Nature of human altruism.
Nature (Nature Publishing Group) 425 (6960):
PMID 14574401.
Retrieved February 27, 2013.
[3] Tversky, Amos; Shar, Eldar (2004). Preference, belief,
and similarity: selected writings. Massachusettes Institute
of Technology Press. ISBN 9780262700931. Retrieved
February 27, 2013.
[4] Toh-Kyeong, Ahn; Ostrom, Elinor; Walker, James (Sep 5,
2002). Incorporating Motivational Heterogeneity into
Game-Theoretic Models of Collective Action. Public
Choice 117 (34). Retrieved February 27, 2013. Check
date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
[5] Oosterbeek, Hessel; Sloof, Randolph; Van de Kuilen,
Gus (Dec 3, 2003). Cultural Dierences in Ultimatum Game Experiments: Evidence from a MetaAnalysis. Experimental Economics (Springer Science and Business Media B.V) 7 (2): 171188.
doi:10.1023/B:EXEC.0000026978.14316.74. Retrieved
February 27, 2013. Check date values in: |year= / |date=
mismatch (help)

This may better reect real world scenarios, the researchers giving the example of two scientists collaborat- [6] Capraro, V (2013). A Model of Human Cooperation in Social Dilemmas. PLoS ONE 8 (8): e72427.
ing on a report, both of whom would benet if the other
worked harder.But when your collaborator doesnt do
any work, its probably better for you to do all the work [7] Hilbe, Christian; Martin A. Nowak and Karl Sigmund
yourself. Youll still end up with a completed project.
(April 2013). Evolution of extortion in Iterated Pris*
oners Dilemma games. PNAS 110 (17): 6913.


See also

Centipede game
Christmas truce
Evolutionarily stable strategy
Folk theorem (game theory)

doi:10.1073/pnas.1214834110. Retrieved 25 November

[8] Shy, Oz (1995). Industrial Organization: Theory and Applications. Massachusettes Institute of Technology Press.
ISBN 0262193663. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
[9] For example see the 2003 studyBayesian Nash equilibrium; a statistical test of the hypothesis for discussion
of the concept and whether it can apply in real economic
or strategic situations (from Tel Aviv University).



[10] :: University of Southampton

[21] Markets & Data. The Economist. 2007-09-27.

[11] The 2004 Prisoners' Dilemma Tournament Results show

University of Southampton's strategies in the rst three
places, despite having fewer wins and many more losses
than the GRIM strategy. (Note that in a PD tournament,
the aim of the game is not to winmatches that can
easily be achieved by frequent defection). It should also be
pointed out that even without implicit collusion between
software strategies (exploited by the Southampton team)
tit for tat is not always the absolute winner of any given
tournament; it would be more precise to say that its long
run results over a series of tournaments outperform its rivals. (In any one event a given strategy can be slightly
better adjusted to the competition than tit for tat, but tit
for tat is more robust). The same applies for the tit for
tat with forgiveness variant, and other optimal strategies:
on any given day they might not 'win' against a specic
mix of counter-strategies. An alternative way of putting
it is using the Darwinian ESS simulation. In such a simulation, tit for tat will almost always come to dominate,
though nasty strategies will drift in and out of the population because a tit for tat population is penetrable by nonretaliating nice strategies, which in turn are easy prey for
the nasty strategies. Richard Dawkins showed that here,
no static mix of strategies form a stable equilibrium and
the system will always oscillate between bounds.

[22] Rehmeyer, Julie (2012-10-29). Game theory suggests

current climate negotiations won't avert catastrophe. Science News. Society for Science & the Public.

[12] Press, William H.; Freeman J. Dyson (2012). Iterated

Prisoners Dilemma contains strategies that dominate any
evolutionary opponent. PNAS Early Edition. Retrieved
26 November 2013.

[28] Schneier, Bruce (2012-10-26). Lance Armstrong and

the Prisoners' Dilemma of Doping in Professional Sports
| Wired Opinion. Wired.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.

[13] Adami, Christoph; Arend Hintze (2013). Evolutionary

instability of Zero Determinant strategies demonstrates
that winning isn't everything. p. 3. arXiv:1208.2666.
[14] Hilbe, Christian; Martin A. Nowak; Karl Sigmund (April
2013). Evolution of extortion in Iterated Prisoners
Dilemma games. PNAS 110 (17): 69156516. Retrieved 25 November 2013.

[23] Osang and Nandy 2003

[24] Dawkins, Richard (1976). The Selsh Gene. Oxford University Press.
[25] George Ainslie (2001). Breakdown of Will. ISBN 0-52159694-7.
[26] This argument for the development of cooperation
through trust is given in The Wisdom of Crowds , where
it is argued that long-distance capitalism was able to form
around a nucleus of Quakers, who always dealt honourably
with their business partners. (Rather than defecting and
reneging on promises a phenomenon that had discouraged earlier long-term unenforceable overseas contracts).
It is argued that dealings with reliable merchants allowed
the meme for cooperation to spread to other traders, who
spread it further until a high degree of cooperation became
a protable strategy in general commerce
[27] Nicholson, Walter (2000). Intermediate Microeconomics(8th ed.). Harcourt.

[29] Gokhale CS, Traulsen A. Evolutionary games in the multiverse. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
2010 Mar 23;107(12):55004.
[30]The Volokh Conspiracy " Elinor Ostrom and the Tragedy
of the Commons. Volokh.com. 2009-10-12. Retrieved
[31] Stephen J. Majeski (1984). Arms races as iterated prisoner's dilemma games. Mathematical and Social Sciences
7 (3): 253266. doi:10.1016/0165-4896(84)90022-2.

[15] Stewart, Alexander J.; Joshua B. Plotkin (2013). From

extortion to generosity, evolution in the Iterated Prisoner
s Dilemma. PNAS Early Edition. Retrieved 25 Novem- [32] Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1985). Metamagical Themas:
ber 2013.
questing for the essence of mind and pattern. Bantam Dell
Pub Group. ISBN 0-465-04566-9. see Ch.29 The Pris[16] Akin, Ethan (2013).
Stable Cooperative Soluoner's Dilemma Computer Tournaments and the Evolution
tions for the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. p. 9.
of Cooperation.
[17] Le, S.; Boyd, R. (2007). Evolutionary Dynam- [33] Van den Assem, Martijn J. (January 2012). Split
or Steal?
Cooperative Behavior When the Stakes
ics of the Continuous Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma
Management Science 58 (1): 220.
. Journal of Theoretical Biology 245 (2): 258267.
doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2006.09.016. PMID 17125798.
[18] Hammerstein, P. (2003). Why is reciprocity so rare in
social animals? A protestant appeal. In: P. Hammerstein,
Editor, Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation,
MIT Press. pp. 8394.

[34] Kmmerli, Rolf. "'Snowdrift' game tops 'Prisoner's

Dilemma' in explaining cooperation. Retrieved 11 April

[19] Spaniel, William (2011). Game Theory 101: The Complete Textbook.

1.5.8 Further reading

[20] Nowak, Martin; Karl Sigmund (1993). A strategy of win-stay, lose-shift that outperforms tit-fortat in the Prisoner's Dilemma game. Nature 364.

Aumann, Robert (1959). Acceptable points in

general cooperative n-person games. In Luce,
R. D.; Tucker, A. W. Contributions to the Theory
23 of Games IV. Annals of Mathematics Study 40.


Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 287
324. MR 0104521.

and that the beneciaries of such aid will become slothful
or otherwise negligent members of society.

Axelrod, R. (1984). The Evolution of Cooperation. The dilemma's name is a reference to the biblical Parable
of the Good Samaritan.
ISBN 0-465-02121-2
Bicchieri, Cristina (1993). Rationality and Coordination. Cambridge University Press.
Chess, David M. (December 1988). Simulating
the evolution of behavior: the iterated prisoners'
dilemma problem. Complex Systems 2 (6): 663

Moral hazard
Criticisms of welfare

Dresher, M. (1961). The Mathematics of Games

of Strategy: Theory and Applications Prentice-Hall, 1.6.2
Englewood Clis, NJ.
Greif, A. (2006). Institutions and the Path to the
Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Rapoport, Anatol and Albert M. Chammah (1965).
Prisoner's Dilemma. University of Michigan Press.


External links

Prisoner's Dilemma (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The Bowerbird's Dilemma The Prisoner's Dilemma
in ornithology mathematical cartoon by Larry Gonick.

See also


[1] Roger E. Meiners, Victim Compensation, Lexington

Books, 1978 p 99

1.6.3 Further reading

Buchanan, J. M. (1975): The Samaritan's dilemma.
In: Altruism, morality and economic theory. In:
E.S. Phelps (ed.), New York: Russel Sage foundation. Pp. 71-85.

Johan Lagerlf, Incomplete Information in the

Samaritans Dilemma: The Dilemma (Almost)
Vanishes, Discussion Paper FS IV 99 - 12, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, 1999.

Dixit, Avinash; Nalebu, Barry (2008).Prisoner's

Dilemma. In David R. Henderson (ed.). Concise 1.7 Trolley problem
Encyclopedia of Economics (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Library of Economics and Liberty. ISBN 978The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics.
0865976658. OCLC 237794267.
The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead,
Game Theory 101: Prisoner's Dilemma
on the tracks, there are ve people tied up and unable
Dawkins: Nice Guys Finish First
to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You
are standing some distance o in the train yard, next to
Play Prisoner's Dilemma on oTree
a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to
a dierent set of tracks. However, you notice that there
is one person on the side track. You have two options:
1.6 Samaritan's dilemma
(1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the ve people on the
main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto
The Samaritan's dilemma is a dilemma in the act of the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the
charity. It hinges on the idea that when presented with correct choice?
charity, in some location such as a soup kitchen, a person The problem was rst introduced by Philippa Foot in
will act in one of two ways: using the charity to improve 1967,* [1] but also extensively analysed by Judith Thomtheir situation, or coming to rely on charity as a means of son,* [2]* [3] Peter Unger,* [4] and Frances Kamm as resurvival. The term Samaritan's dilemma was coined by cently as 1996.* [5] Outside of the domain of traditional
economist James M. Buchanan.* [1]
philosophical discussion, the trolley problem has been a
The argument against charity frequently cites the Samari- signicant feature in the elds of cognitive science (e.g.
tan's Dilemma as reason to forgo charitable contributions. * [6]) and, more recently, of neuroethics. It has also been
It is also a common argument against Communism and a topic on various TV shows dealing with human psycholSocialism, claiming that state aid is equivalent to charity, ogy.





Foot's original formulation of the problem ran as follows:* [1]

Suppose that a judge or magistrate is faced with
rioters demanding that a culprit be found guilty
for a certain crime and threatening otherwise
to take their own bloody revenge on a particular section of the community. The real culprit
being unknown, the judge sees himself as able
to prevent the bloodshed only by framing some
innocent person and having him executed. Beside this example is placed another in which a
pilot whose aeroplane is about to crash is deciding whether to steer from a more to a less
inhabited area. To make the parallel as close
as possible it may rather be supposed that he
is the driver of a runaway tram which he can
only steer from one narrow track on to another;
ve men are working on one track and one man
on the other; anyone on the track he enters is
bound to be killed. In the case of the riots the
mob have ve hostages, so that in both examples the exchange is supposed to be one man's
life for the lives of ve.
A utilitarian view asserts that it is obligatory to steer to
the track with one man on it. According to simple utilitarianism, such a decision would be not only permissible,
but, morally speaking, the better option (the other option being no action at all).* [7] An alternate viewpoint is
that since moral wrongs are already in place in the situation, moving to another track constitutes a participation in the moral wrong, making one partially responsible for the death when otherwise no one would be responsible. An opponent of action may also point to the
incommensurability of human lives. Under some interpretations of moral obligation, simply being present in
this situation and being able to inuence its outcome constitutes an obligation to participate. If this were the case,
then deciding to do nothing would be considered an immoral act if one values ve lives more than one.


something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you your
only way to stop the trolley is to push him over
the bridge and onto the track, killing him to
save ve. Should you proceed?
Resistance to this course of action seems strong; most
people who approved of sacricing one to save ve in the
rst case do not approve in the second sort of case.* [8]
This has led to attempts to nd a relevant moral distinction between the two cases.
One clear distinction is that in the rst case, one does not
intend harm towards anyone harming the one is just
a side eect of switching the trolley away from the ve.
However, in the second case, harming the one is an integral part of the plan to save the ve. This is an argument Shelly Kagan considers, and ultimately rejects, in
The Limits of Morality.* [9]
A claim can be made that the dierence between the two
cases is that in the second, you intend someone's death to
save the ve, and this is wrong, whereas in the rst, you
have no such intention. This solution is essentially an application of the doctrine of double eect, which says that
you may take action which has bad side eects, but deliberately intending harm (even for good causes) is wrong.
Act utilitarians deny this. Peter Unger (a non-utilitarian)
rejects that it can make a substantive moral dierence
whether you bring the harm to the one or whether you
move the one into the path of the harm.* [10] Note, however, that rule utilitarians do not have to accept this, and
can say that pushing the fat man over the bridge violates
a rule to which adherence is necessary for bringing about
the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
Another distinction is that the rst case is similar to a pilot
in an airplane that has lost power and is about to crash
and currently heading towards a heavily populated area.
Even if he knows for sure that innocent people will die
if he redirects the plane to a less populated area people
who are uninvolved he will actively turn the plane
without hesitation. It may well be considered noble to
sacrice your own life to protect others, but morally or
legally allowing murder of an innocent person in order to
save ve people may be insucient justication.

Related problems

The fat villain

The initial trolley problem becomes more interesting
when it is compared to other moral dilemmas.
The further development of this example involves the
case, where the fat man is, in fact, the villain who put
these ve people in peril. In this instance, pushing the
The fat man
villain to his death, especially to save ve innocent people, seems not only morally justiable but perhaps even
One such is that oered by Judith Jarvis Thomson:
imperative. This is essentially related to another famous
thought experiment, known as ticking time bomb sceAs before, a trolley is hurtling down a track tonario, which forces one to choose between two morally
wards ve people. You are on a bridge under
questionable acts. Several papers argue that the ticking
which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting
time bomb scenario is a mere variation of the trolley prob-




The loop variant

The claim that it is wrong to use the death of one to save
ve runs into a problem with variants like this:
As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track
towards ve people. As in the rst case, you
can divert it onto a separate track. However,
this diversion loops back around to rejoin the
main track, so diverting the trolley still leaves
it on a path to run over the ve people. But, on
this track is a single fat person who, when he
is killed by the trolley, will stop it from continuing on to the ve people. Should you ip the
The only dierence between this case and the original
trolley problem is that an extra piece of track has been
added, which seems a trivial dierence (especially since
the trolley won't travel down it anyway). So, if we originally decided that it is permissible or necessary to ip the
switch, intuition may suggest that the answer should not
have changed. However, in this case, the death of the one
actually is part of the plan to save the ve.

Here is an alternative case, due to Judith Jarvis Thomson,* [3] containing similar numbers and results, but without a trolley:
A brilliant transplant surgeon has ve patients,
each in need of a dierent organ, each of
whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these ve transplant operations. A
healthy young traveler, just passing through the
city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine
checkup. In the course of doing the checkup,
the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all ve of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor.
The man in the yard
Unger argues extensively against traditional nonutilitarian responses to trolley problems. This is one of
his examples:

The rejoining variant may not be fatal to the using a

person as a meansargument. This has been suggested
by M. Costa in his 1987 article Another Trip on the
Trolley, where he points out that if we fail to act in this
scenario we will eectively be allowing the ve to become
a means to save the one. If we do nothing, then the impact
of the trolley into the ve will slow it down and prevent
it from circling around and killing the one. As in either
case, some will become a means to saving others, then
we are permitted to count the numbers. This approach
requires that we downplay the moral dierence between
doing and allowing.

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards ve people. You can divert its path by
colliding another trolley into it, but if you do,
both will be derailed and go down a hill, and
into a yard where a man is sleeping in a hammock. He would be killed. Should you proceed?

similar to the out-of-control airplane. Either 5/500 or

1/100 people are going to die as a result of the accident
already in progress, and it is important to minimize the
loss of life, despite the fact that the 1/100 are eectively
beingusedto spare the life of the 5/500. The 100 people (and their property) in the less-densely-populated area
do in fact stop the plane too. Responsibility for this goes
back to any criminal negligence that caused the accident
to occur in the rst place.

Unger also considers cases which are more complex than

the original trolley problem, involving more than just two
results. In one such case, it is possible to do something
which will (a) save the ve and kill four (passengers of
one or more trolleys and/or the hammock-sleeper), (b)
save the ve and kill three, (c) save the ve and kill two,
(d) save the ve and kill one, or (e) do nothing and let ve
die. Most nave subjects presented with this sort of case,
claims Unger, will choose (d), to save the ve by killing

Responses to this are partly dependent on whether the

reader has already encountered the standard trolley problem (since there is a desire to keep one's responses consistent), but Unger notes that people who have not encountered such problems before are quite likely to say that, in
However, this line of reasoning is no longer applicable if a
slight change is made to the track arrangements such that this case, the proposed action would be wrong.
the one person was never in danger to begin with, even if Unger therefore argues that dierent responses to these
the 5 people were absent. Or even with no track changes, sorts of problems are based more on psychology than
if the one person is high on the gradient while the ve are ethics in this new case, he says, the only important diflow, such that the trolley cannot reach the one. So the ference is that the man in the yard does not seem particquestion has not been answered.
ularly involved. Unger claims that people therefore
Even in the situation where the people aren't tied down believe the man is not fair game, but says that this
due to a criminal act, but simply happen to be there with- lack of involvement in the scenario cannot make a moral
out the ability to warn them, the out-of-control trolley is dierence.



one, even if this course of action involves doing some- activity in brain regions associated with higher cognitive
thing very similar to killing the fat man, as in Thomson's functions. The potential ethical ideas being broached,
case above.
then, revolve around the human capacity for rational jusThis scenario is similar to the fact that whenever a crime tication of moral decision making.
is in progress and someone calls the police, even though
it is known well in advance that calls to police each year
end up creating pedestrian and motorist deaths due to accidents, very few people would consider disbanding the
police to ensure that no innocents should die en route to
a crime scene. In the case where the ve aren't tied down
due to a criminal act, it still falls into the category of
diverting a crashing plane into a less-densely-populated


In cognitive science

The trolley problem was rst imported into cognitive science from philosophy in a systematic way by Hauser,
Mikhail, et al.* [11] They hypothesized that factors such
as gender, age, education level, and cultural background
would have little inuence on the judgments people make,
in part because those judgments are generated by an unconscious moral grammar* [12] that is analogous in
some respects to the unconscious linguistic grammars that
have been claimed by Noam Chomsky et al. to support ordinary language use. The data in the 2007 paper
by Hauser, Mikhail et al. only contains 33 individuals
brought up in a non-English-speaking educational system.
The main author, Marc Hauser, was subsequently sanctioned by his then employer, Harvard University, in eight
(unrelated) cases of gross research malpractice and data
falsication, which arguably makes the data in any case
unreliable. Subsequent cross-cultural research has found
many apparent counterexamples to this idea of 'Universal
Moral Grammar'.* [13]

1.7.5 Psychology
The trolley problem has been the subject of many surveys
in which approximately 90% of respondents have chosen
to kill the one and save the ve. * [16] If the situation
is modied where the one sacriced for the ve was a
relative or romantic partner, respondents are much less
likely to be willing to sacrice their life.* [17]
In 2012, participants made their choices while wearing a head mounted display device that displayed virtual
avatars of the trolley victims, and gave a real time simulation of the approaching vehicle. As the vehicle approached, the virtual avatars in the path would begin to
scream until impact. Subjects who were more emotionally aroused during the test were less likely to kill the
one.* [18]

1.7.6 Views of professional philosophers

A 2009 survey published in a 2013 paper by David Bourget and David Chalmers shows that 68% of professional
philosophers would switch (sacrice the one individual
to save ve lives) in the case of the trolley problem, 8%
would not switch, and the remaining 24% had another
view or could not answer.* [19]

1.7.7 As urban legend


In neuroethics

In taking a neuroscientic approach to the trolley problem, Joshua Greene* [14] under Jonathan Cohen decided
to examine the nature of brain response to moral and ethical conundra through the use of fMRI. In their more
well-known experiments,* [15] Greene and Cohen analyzed subjects' responses to the morality of responses in
both the trolley problem involving a switch, and a footbridge scenario analogous to the fat man variation of the
trolley problem. Their hypothesis suggested that encountering such conicts evokes both a strong emotional response and a reasoned cognitive response, and that these
two responses tend to oppose one another. From the
fMRI results, they have found that situations highly evoking a more prominent emotional response such as the fat
man variant would result in signicantly higher brain activity in brain regions associated with response conict.
Meanwhile, more conict-neutral scenarios, such as the
relatively disaected switch variant, would produce more

In an urban legend that has been making the rounds since

at least the mid-1960s, the decision must be made by a
drawbridge keeper who must choose between sacricing
a passenger train or his own four-year-old son. There is a
2003 Czech short lm Most or The Bridge (USA) which
deals with a similar plot.* [20] This version is often drawn
as a deliberate allegory to the belief among Christians that
God sacriced his son, Jesus Christ.* [21]

1.7.8 Implications for autonomous vehicles

Problems analogous to the trolley problem arise in the
design of autonomous cars, in situations where the car's
software is forced during an accident to choose between multiple courses of action, all of which may cause
harm.* [22]* [23]



See also


[19] Bourget, David; Chalmers, David J. (2013). What do

Philosophers believe?". Retrieved 11 May 2013.
[20] IMDB.com

[1] Philippa Foot, The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine

of the Double Eect in Virtues and Vices (Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1978)(originally appeared in the Oxford Review, Number 5, 1967.)

[21] Snopes: The Drawbridge Keeper

[2] Judith Jarvis Thomson, Killing, Letting Die, and the Trolley Problem, 59 The Monist 204-17 (1976)

[23] Tim Worstall (2014-06-18).When Should Your Driverless Car From Google Be Allowed To Kill You?". Forbes.

[3] Judith Jarvis Thomson, The Trolley Problem, 94 Yale Law

Journal 1395-1415 (1985)

1.7.11 External links

[22] Patrick Lin (October 8, 2013). The Ethics of Autonomous Cars. The Atlantic.

[4] Peter Unger, Living High and Letting Die (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1996)

Should You Kill the Fat Man?

[5] Francis Myrna Kamm, Harming Some to Save Others, 57

Philosophical Studies 227-60 (1989)

Forced-choice decision-making in modied trolley

dilemma situations: a virtual reality and eye tracking

[6] Alexander Skulmowski1, Andreas Bunge, Kai Kaspar and

Gordon Pipa (December 16, 2014). Forced-choice
decision-making in modied trolley dilemma situations:
a virtual reality and eye tracking study. Front. Behav.
[7] Barcalow, Emmett, Moral Philosophy: Theories and Issues. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2007. Print.

Can Bad Men Make Good Brains Do Bad Things?

The Trolley Problem as a retro video game
Trolley Problem - Killing and Letting Die

[8] Peter Singer, Ethics and Intuitions The Journal of

Ethics (2005).
[9] Shelly Kagan, The Limits of Morality (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1989)[clarify this, please]
[10] Unger, Peter. Causing and Preventing Serious Harm.
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 65(1992):227255
[11] A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justications,Hauser, Cushman, Young, Jin and Mikhail, Mind &
Language, Vol. 22 No. 1 February 2007, pp. 121
[12] John Mikhail, Universal Moral Grammar: Theory, Evidence, and the Future, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11,
143-152 (2007)
[13] Culture and the quest for universal principles in moral reasoning, Sonya Sachdeva et al., International Journal of
Psychology, Volume 46, Issue 3, 2011
[14] Homepage of Joshua Greene
[15] Joshua D. Greene, The secret joke of Kants soul,
in Moral Psychology, 2008, Vol. 3: The Neuroscience of
Morality, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, Ed., (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press)
[16] http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/05/
[17] Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology
ISSN 1933-5377 volume 4(3). 2010
[18] Navarrete, C.D., McDonald, M., Mott, M., & Asher, B.
(2012). Virtual Morality: Emotion and Action in a Simulated 3-D Trolley Problem. Emotion. 12(2): 365-370.

Chapter 2

2.1 Argumentum ad populum

My family or tribe holds this as a truth, and everyone

who disagrees is simply wrong.

Ad populumredirects here. For the Catholic liturgical

term, see Versus populum.

2.1.2 Explanation
In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum
(Latin for "appeal to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because
many or most people believe it: If many believe so,
it is so.

The argumentum ad populum is a red herring and genetic

fallacy. It appeals on probabilistic terms; given that 75%
of a population answer A to a question where the answer
is unknown, the argument states that it is reasonable to
assume that the answer is indeed A. In cases where the
This type of argument is known by several names,* [1] in- answer can be known but is not known by a questioned
cluding appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal entity, the appeal to majority provides a possible answer
to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popu- with a relatively high probability of correctness.
larity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in There is the problem of determining just how many are
Latin as argumentum ad numerum
( appeal to the num- needed to have a majority or consensus. Is merely greater
ber), and consensus gentium (agreement of the clans than 50% signicant enough and why? Should the per). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, centage be larger, such as 80 or 90 percent, and how does
including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon that make a real dierence? Is there real consensus if
eect. The Chinese proverb "three men make a tiger" there are one or even two people who have a dierent
claim that is proven to be true?
concerns the same idea.
It is logically fallacious because the mere fact that a belief is widely held is not necessarily a guarantee that the
2.1.1 Examples
belief is correct; if the belief of any individual can be
wrong, then the belief held by multiple persons can also
This fallacy is sometimes committed while trying to con- be wrong. The argument that because 75% of people
vince a person that a widely popular thought is true.
polled think the answer is A implies that the answer is A
fails, because, if opinion did determine truth, then there
Nine out of ten of my constituents oppose the bill, would be no way to deal with the discrepancy between the
75% of the sample population that believe the answer is
therefore it is a bad idea.
A and 25% who are of the opinion that the answer is not
Fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong.
A. However small a percentage of those polled give an
answer other than A, this discrepancy by denition dis Everyone's doing it.
proves any guarantee of the correctness of the majority.
In a court of law, the jury vote by majority; therefore In addition, this would be true even if the answer given by
those polled were unanimous, as the sample size may be
they will always make the correct decision.
insucient, or some fact may be unknown to those polled
Many people buy extended warranties, therefore it that, if known, would result in a dierent distribution of
is wise to buy them.
Millions of people agree with my viewpoint, there- This fallacy is similar in structure to certain other fallacies that involve a confusion between the justication of a
fore it must be true.
belief and its widespread acceptance by a given group of
The majority of this country voted for this President, people. When an argument uses the appeal to the beliefs
therefore this president can't be wrong
of a group of supposed experts, it takes on the form of



an appeal to authority; if the appeal is to the beliefs of a

is polite for men to kiss each other in greeting in
group of respected elders or the members of one's comRussia.
munity over a long period of time, then it takes on the
form of an appeal to tradition.
Social conventions can change, however, and sometimes
One who commits this fallacy may assume that individu- very quickly. Thus, the fact that everyone in Russia this
als commonly analyze and edit their beliefs and behaviors. year thinks that it is polite to kiss cannot be used as evidence that everyone always believed that, or that they
This is often not the case (see conformity).
should always believe it.
The argumentum ad populum can be a valid argument in
inductive logic; for example, a poll of a sizeable popula- The philosophical question of moral relativism asks
tion may nd that 90% prefer a certain brand of product whether such arguments apply to statements of morals.
over another. A cogent (strong) argument can then be
made that the next person to be considered will also pre- Language
fer that brand, and the poll is valid evidence of that claim.
However, it is unsuitable as an argument for deductive Linguistic descriptivists argue that correct grammar,
reasoning as proof, for instance to say that the poll proves spelling, and expressions are dened by the language's
that the preferred brand is superior to the competition in speakers, especially in languages which do not have a cenits composition or that everyone prefers that brand to the tral governing body. According to this viewpoint, if an inother.
correct expression is commonly used, it becomes correct.
In contrast, linguistic prescriptivists believe that incorrect
expressions are incorrect regardless of how many people
use them.
One could claim that smoking is a healthy pastime,
since millions of people do it. However, knowing
2.1.4 Reversals
the dangers of smoking, we instead say that smoking
is not a healthy pastime despite the fact that millions
In some circumstances, a person may argue that the fact
do it.
that most people believes X implies that X is false. This
At a time in history when most people believed the line of thought is closely related to the appeal to spite falworld was at, one could have claimed the world is lacy given that it invokes a person's contempt for the general populace or something about the general populace in
at because most believed it.
order to persuade them that most are wrong about X. The
Advocates of heliocentrism, such as Galileo Galilei
ad populum reversal commits the same logical aw as the
were strongly suppressed, despite scientic evioriginal fallacy given that the idea X is trueis inherdence, now recognized as factual, that supported heently separate from the idea that Most people believe
liocentrism at the expense of geocentrism.



Appeal to belief is valid only when the question is whether

the belief exists. Appeal to popularity is therefore
valid only when the questions are whether the belief is
widespread and to what degree. I.e., ad populum only
proves that a belief is popular, not that it is true. In
some domains, however, it is popularity rather than other
strengths that makes a choice the preferred one, for reasons related to network eects.
Social convention
Matters of social convention, such as etiquette or polite
manners, depend upon the wide acceptance of the convention. As such, argumentum ad populum is not fallacious when referring to the popular belief about what is
polite or proper:
Most people in Russia think that it is polite for
men to kiss each other in greeting. Therefore, it

For example, consider the arguments:

Are you going to be a mindless conformist drone
drinking milk and water like everyone else, or will
you wake up and drink my product?"* [2]
Everyone likes The Beatles and that probably
means that they didn't have nearly as much talent
as <Y band>, which didn't sell out.* [3]
The German people today consists of the
Auschwitz generation, with every person in power
being guilty in some way. How on earth can we buy
the generally held propaganda that the Soviet Union
is imperialistic and totalitarian? Clearly, it must not
be.* [4]
Most people still either hate gays or just barely tolerate their existence. How can you still buy their
other line that claims that pederasty is wrong?"* [5]
Everyone loves <A actor>. <A actor> must be
nowhere near as talented as the devoted and serious
method actors that aren't so popular like <B actor>.



In general, the reversal usually goes: Most people believe A [5] These ideas are paraphrased from The Pattern of
Sexual Politics: Feminism, Homosexuality and Peand B are both true. B is false. Thus, A is false. The simidophilia by Harris Mirkin. See also Pro-pedophile aclar fallacy of chronological snobbery is not to be confused
tivism#Strategies for promoting acceptance.
with the ad populum reversal. Chronological snobbery is
the claim that if belief in both X and Y was popularly
held in the past and if Y was recently proved to be untrue then X must also be untrue. That line of argument is 2.1.7 External links
based on a belief in historical progress and notlike the
FallacyFiles.org, Bandwagon Fallacy
ad populum reversal ison whether or not X and/or Y is
currently popular.

2.2 Association fallacy


See also

Guilt by associationredirects here. For other uses, see

Guilt by Association.

[1] Austin Cline. Argumentum ad Populum

An association fallacy is an inductive informal fallacy of

the type hasty generalization or red herring which asserts
[2] See: "MTN DEW is a non-conformist brand that's all
that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of anabout taking life to the next level.PowerPoint Presenother, merely by an irrelevant association. The two types
are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and
[3] These ideas are paraphrased from this presentation by au- honor by association. Association fallacies are a spethors Andrew Potter and Joseph Heath in which they state: cial case of red herring, and can be based on an appeal to
For example, everybody would love to listen to fabulous underground bands that nobody has ever head
of before, but virtually not all of us can do this.
Once too many people nd out about this great
band, then they are no longer underground. And
so we say that it's sold out or 'mainstream' or even
'co-opted by the system'. What is really happened
is simply that too many people have started buying their albums so that listening to them no longer
serves as a source of distinction. The real rebels
therefore have to go o and nd some new band to
listen to that nobody else knows about in order to
preserve this distinction and their sense of superiority over others.
[4] These ideas are paraphrased from the 'Baader Meinhof
Gang' article at the True Crime Library, which states:

2.2.1 Form


Gudrun Ensslin may have been wrong about many

or most things, she was not speaking foolishly when
she spoke of the middle-aged folk of her era as
the Auschwitz generation.Not all of them had
been Nazis, of course, but a great many had supported Hitler. Many had been in the Hitler Youth
and served in the armed forces, ghting Nazi wars An Euler diagram illustrating the association fallacy. Although
of conquest. A minority had ineectively resisted A is within B and is also within C, not all of B is within C.
Nazism but, as a whole, it was a generation coping
with an extraordinary burden of guilt and shame... In notation of rst-order logic, this type of fallacy can be
many of the people who joined what would come to expressed as (x S : (x)) (x S : (x)), meaning
be known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang were motiif there exists any x in the set S so that a property is
vated by an unconscious desire to prove to themtrue for x, then for all x in S the property must be true.
selves that they would have risked their lives to defeat Nazism... West Germans well knew. Many of
them had relatives in East Germany and were well
Premise A is a B
aware that life under communism was regimented
Premise A is also a C
and puritanical at best and often monstrously opConclusion Therefore, all Bs are Cs


The fallacy in the argument can be illustrated through the
use of an Euler diagram: Asatises the requirement
that it is part of both sets Band C, but if one
represents this as an Euler diagram, it can clearly be seen
that it is possible that a part of set Bis not part of set
C, refuting the conclusion that all Bs are Cs.


Source S makes claim C.
Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the
recipient, also makes claim C.
Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the
claim as associated to the group G and inherits how
negatively viewed it is.

Guilt by association

An example of this fallacy would beMy opponent for ofce just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters
For more details on legal and ethical aspects, see
Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to
collective guilt.
vote for?"
Further information: ad hominem

2.2.3 Honor by association


Further information: pro hominem

Some syllogistic examples of guilt by association:

The logical inverse of guilt by associationis honor
John is a con artist. John has black hair. Therefore, by association, where one claims that someone or something must be reputable because of the people or organiall people with black hair are con artists.
zations that are related to it or otherwise support it. For
Jane is good at mathematics. Jane is dyslexic. example:
Therefore, all dyslexic people are good at mathematics.
Simon, Karl, Jared, and Brett are all friends of Josh,
and they are all petty criminals. Jill is a friend of
Citizens of Country X won more Nobel Prizes, gold
Josh; therefore, Jill is a petty criminal.
medals, and literary awards than citizens of Country
Y. Therefore, a citizen of Country X is superior to a
All dogs have four legs; my cat has four legs. Therecitizen of Country Y.
fore, my cat is a dog. (This argument is made by the
wordplay-prone Sir Humphrey Appleby in the BBC
In many advertisements, businesses heavily use the
sitcom Yes, Prime Minister).
principle of honor by association. For example, an
attractive woman will say that a specic product is
good. Her attractiveness gives the product good asA real-world example of guilt by association is that, in
response to mass shooting incidents in the U.S. and public speculation that the perpetrators had Asperger's Syndrome, many people throughout society wrongfully stigmatized and stereotyped people with the disorder as be- 2.2.4 Galileo Gambit
ing potentially violent and having the potential to become
shooters. Especially after the Sandy Hook Elementary A form of the association fallacy often used by those
School shooting, the media (after the early reporting) and denying a well-established scientic or historical proposiautism-advocacy organizations proered expert opinions tion is the so-calledGalileo Gambit.The argument goes
debunking this myth and attempting to better educate the that since Galileo was ridiculed in his time but later acpublic about autism to dissuade the stigmatization. The knowledged to be right, that since their non-mainstream
scimyth of erroneously linking Asperger's Syndrome to vi- views are provoking ridicule and rejection from other
olence also counts as an example of the logical fallacy of
questionable cause and scapegoating.
This argument gained considerable public attention when
it was made by Rick Perry about global warming skepticism in September 2011. Perry suggested that scientists
Guilt by association as an ad hominem fallacy
stating here is the factdid not necessarily imply that
this was so, and that Galileo got outvoted for a spell.
Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad * [3] The argument is awed in that being ridiculed does
hominem fallacy, if the argument attacks a person be- not necessarily correlate with being right and that many
cause of the similarity between the views of someone people who have been ridiculed in history were, in fact,
making an argument and other proponents of the argu- wrong.* [4] Similarly, Daniel T. Willingham has stated
ment.* [1]
that while they laughed at Galileo, they also laughed
This form of the argument is as follows:
at the Three Stooges.* [5]




See also


2.3 Fallacy of division

Reductio ad Hitlerum

A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically

that something true for the whole must also be true of all
or some of its parts.

Social stigma

An example:

Common purpose

1. A Boeing 747 can y unaided across the ocean.


2. A Boeing 747 has jet engines.


3. Therefore, one of its jet engines can y unaided

across the ocean.




The converse of this fallacy is called fallacy of composition, which arises when one fallaciously attributes a property of some part of a thing to the thing as a whole. Both
fallacies were addressed by Aristotle in Sophistical Refutations.

In the philosophy of the ancient Greek Anaxagoras, as

claimed by the Roman atomist Lucretius,* [1] it was assumed that the atoms constituting a substance must themselves have the salient observed properties of that sub[2] Amsden, Brian.Recognizing Microstructural Fallacies stance: so atoms of water would be wet, atoms of iron
. p. 22. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
would be hard, atoms of wool would be soft, etc. This
doctrine is called homoeomeria, and it depends on the fal[3] Robbins, Martin (8 September 2011). Is Rick Perry lacy of division.
[1]Fallacy: Guilt By Association.The Nizkor Project. The
Nizkor Project, n.d. Web. 12 June 2014. <http://www.

a 21st-century Galileo?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24

March 2014.

[4] Collins, Loren (2012). Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the

Age of Misinformation. Prometheus Books.
[5] Willingham, Daniel T. (2012). When Can You Trust the
Experts: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education.

If a system as a whole has some property that none of its

constituents has (or perhaps, it has it but not as a result of
some constituent having that property), this is sometimes
called an emergent property of the system.

2.3.1 Examples

In statistics an ecological fallacy is a logical fallacy in the

interpretation of statistical data where inferences about
2.2.7 References
the nature of individuals are deduced from inference for
the group to which those individuals belong. The four
Damer, T. Edward (2009), Attacking Faulty Rea- common statistical ecological fallacies are: confusion
soning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-free Arguments between ecological correlations and individual correla(6th ed.), Wadsworth, ISBN 978-0-495-09506-4
tions, confusion between group average and total average,
Simpson's paradox, and other statistical methods.* [2]
Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings,
edited by Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto
2.3.2 See also
Bibliography on Fallacies: http://www.ditext.com/

Ecological fallacy

2.3.3 References

External links

The Fallacy Files Guilt by Association

Propagandacritic.com Transfer technique
Propagandacritic.com Testimonial

[1] Brauneis, Robert (2009). Intellectual Property Protection

of Fact-based Works: Copyright and Its Alternatives. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 110.
[2] Burnham Terrell, Dailey (1967). Logic: A Modern Introduction to Deductive Reasoning. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. pp. 160163.



Werner Ebeling; Hans-Michael Voigt. Parallel

it.* [5]
Problem Solving from Nature - PPSN IV: InterArthur Ernest Davies, Fallaciesin A
national Conference on Evolutionary Computation.
Text-Book of Logic
The 4th International Conference on Parallel Problem Solving from Nature Berlin, Germany, September
22 - 26, 1996. Proceedings, Volume 114. Springer The phrase ignoratio elenchi is from Latin, meaning an
Science & Business Media. pp. 170173.
ignoring of a refutation. Here elenchi is the genitive singular of the Latin noun elenchus, which is from Ancient
Richard M. Grinnell; Jr., Yvonne A. Unrau. SoGreek (elenchos), meaning an argument of
cial Work Research and Evaluation: Foundations of
disproof or refutation.* [6] The translation in English
Evidence-Based Practice. Oxford University Press.
of the Latin expression has varied somewhat. Hamblin
pp. 393394.
proposed misconception of refutationor ignorance
refutationas a literal translation,* [7] John Arthur
Division. The Fallacy Files.
Oesterle preferredignoring the issue,* [7] Irving Copi,
Christopher Tindale and others used irrelevant conclusion.* [7]* [8]

2.4 Ignoratio elenchi

An example might be a situation where A and B are deIgnoratio elenchi, also known as irrelevant conclu- bating whether the law permits A to do something.
sion,* [1] is the informal fallacy of presenting an arguA: I want to use the unwritten law (the right of a
ment that may or may not be logically valid, but fails
cuckolded husband to kill his unfaithful wife's
nonetheless to address the issue in question. More collover) to kill C.
loquially, it is also known as Missing the Point.
B: But the law in this state specically doesn't
Ignoratio elenchi falls into the broad class of relevance fal*
recognize the unwritten law.
lacies. [2] It is one of the fallacies identied by Aristotle
in his Organon. In a broader sense he asserted that all
A: Well, it ought to recognize it.
fallacies are a form of ignoratio elenchi.* [3]* [4]
A's attempt to support his position with an argument that
the law ought to allow him to do this, would make him
Ignoratio Elenchi, according to Aristotle,
guilty of ignoratio elenchi.* [9] (And if he did do that,
is a fallacy which arises from ignorance of
probably guilty of premeditated murder.)
the nature of refutation.In order to refute
an assertion, Aristotle says we must prove its
Dr Johnson's unique refutationof Bishop Berkeley's
contradictory; the proof, consequently, of a
immaterialism, his claim that matter did not actually exist
proposition which stood in any other relation
but only seemed to exist,* [10] has been described as Igthan that to the original, would be an ignoratio
noratio elenchi:* [11] during a conversation with Boswell,
elenchi Since Aristotle, the scope of the
Johnson powerfully kicked a nearby stone and proclaimed
fallacy has been extended to include all cases
of Berkeley's theory,I refute it thus!"* [12] (See also ad
of proving the wrong pointI am required
to prove a certain conclusion; I prove, not that,
A related concept is that of the red herring, which is a debut one which is likely to be mistaken for it; in
liberate attempt to divert a process of enquiry by changthat lies the fallacyFor instance, instead of
ing the subject.* [2] Ignoratio elenchi is sometimes conproving that this person has committed an
fused with straw man argument.* [2] For example, it has
atrocious fraud,you prove that this fraud
been incorrectly described as attacking what the other
he is accused of is atrocious;
The nature
fellow never said(which is actually a straw man fallacy)
of the fallacy, then, consists in substituting for
by Peter Jay in an article in a 1996 article in New Statesa certain issue another which is more or less
man.* [13]
closely related to it, and arguing the substituted
issue. The fallacy does not take into account
whether the arguments do or do not really
2.4.1 See also
support the substituted issue, it only calls
attention to the fact that they do not constitute
Ad hominem
a proof of the original oneIt is a particularly
prevalent and subtle fallacy and it assumes a
Begging the question
great variety of forms. But whenever it occurs
Chewbacca defense
and whatever form it takes, it is brought about
by an assumption that leads the person guilty
of it to substitute for a denite subject of
Evasion (ethics)
inquiry another which is in close relation with



List of fallacies
Non sequitur (logic)
Red herring
Straw man



2.5 List of fallacies

For specic popular misconceptions, see List of common
A fallacy is incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric resulting in a lack of validity, or more generally, a lack
of soundness. Fallacies are either formal fallacies or
informal fallacies.

[1] Bishop Whately, cited by John Stuart Mill: A System of

Logic. London Colchester 1959 (rst: 1843), pp. 542.

2.5.1 Formal fallacies

[2] Patrick J. Hurley (2011). A Concise Introduction to Logic.

Cengage Learning. pp. 131133. ISBN 978-0-84003417-5.

Main article: Formal fallacy

[3] Aristotle (1878). The Organon, or Logical treatises, of

Aristotle 2. Octavius Freire Owen (translation). Covent
Garden: George Bell and Sons. pp. 548553.
[4] Ignoratio Elenchi. Introduction to Logic. 24 September
[5] Davies, Arthur Ernest (1915). A Text-Book of Logic.
R. G. Adams and company. pp. 569576. LCCN
[6] LiddellScottJones. A Greek-English Lexicon.
[7] Charles Leonard Hamblin (1970). Fallacies. Methuen &
Co. Ltd. p. 31.
[8] Christopher W. Tindale (2007). Fallacies and Argument
Appraisal. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN
[9] H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Entry for ignoratio elenchi.
[10] Bate 1977, p. 316
[11] Bagnall, Nicholas. Books: Paperbacks, The Sunday Telegraph 3 March 1996
[12] Boswell 1986, p. 122
[13] Jay, Peter, Counterfeit coin, New Statesman, 23 August


External links

Appeal to Authority Breakdown, Examples, Denitions, & More

Nizkor Project: Red Herring
Fallacy Files: Red Herring
The Phrase Finder: Red Herring

A formal fallacy is an error in logic that can be seen in

the argument's form.* [1] All formal fallacies are specic
types of non sequiturs.
Anecdotal fallacy - using a personal experience or
an isolated example instead of sound reasoning or
compelling evidence.
Appeal to probability is a statement that takes
something for granted because it would probably be
the case (or might be the case).* [2]* [3]
Argument from fallacy assumes that if an argument for some conclusion is fallacious, then the conclusion is false.* [4]
Base rate fallacy making a probability judgment
based on conditional probabilities, without taking
into account the eect of prior probabilities.* [5]
Conjunction fallacy assumption that an outcome simultaneously satisfying multiple conditions
is more probable than an outcome satisfying a single
one of them.* [6]
Masked man fallacy (illicit substitution of identicals)
the substitution of identical designators in a true
statement can lead to a false one.* [7]
Unwarranted assumption fallacy - The fallacy of unwarranted assumption is committed when the conclusion of an argument is based on a premise (implicit or explicit) that is false or unwarranted. An
assumption is unwarranted when it is false - these
premises are usually suppressed or vaguely written.
An assumption is also unwarranted when it is true
but does not apply in the given context.
Propositional fallacies

The Art of Controversy: Diversion (bilingual with A propositional fallacy is an error in logic that concerns
compound propositions. For a compound proposition to
the original German) by Arthur Schopenhauer
be true, the truth values of its constituent parts must sat Red herring in political speech
isfy the relevant logical connectives that occur in it (most



commonly: <and>, <or>, <not>, <only if>, <if and only

Fallacy of the undistributed middle the midif>). The following fallacies involve inferences whose
dle term in a categorical syllogism is not discorrectness is not guaranteed by the behavior of those logtributed.* [11]
ical connectives, and hence, which are not logically guaranteed to yield true conclusions.
2.5.2 Informal fallacies
Types of Propositional fallacies:
Arming a disjunct concluded that one disjunct of Main article: Informal fallacy
a logical disjunction must be false because the other
disjunct is true; A or B; A; therefore not B.* [8]
Informal fallacies arguments that are fallacious for reasons other than structural (formal) aws and usually re Arming the consequent the antecedent in an in- quire examination o