Samuel and Paul make a wager. They want to know if a certain professor held class the day prior when they were absent. The professor is unreachable, though, so they have to ask students from class. If the professor did have class, then Samuel Wins. If not, then Paul wins.

Samuel asks one student, who happens to be the star student who never misses class, and she responds, "Yes, he did have class." Naturally, Samuel believes he's won, but Paul wants Samuel to check again. Samuel responds saying he doesn't want to check again because he fears the first answer might've been wrong. So Paul goads him with this argument:

You won't check again because you think you might be wrong.

If you won't check again because you think you might be wrong, then you're hiding the truth from yourself.

So you're hiding the truth from yourself.

It doesn't seem right, in that case, not to check. Samuel can't turn a blind eye to what might actually be the case just because he doesn't want to lose. That's not fair to Paul.

My question is: Does the reasoning here, which motivates Samuel to check again, seem to be on the up-and-up to you guys?

  • Does the reasoning ... seem to be on the up-and-up doesn't give us a sufficiently clear question about philosophy that can be answered in an SE format... Can you make clearer what your SE answerable question about philosophy is? – virmaior May 29 '16 at 4:07

It is the logic of the "easy answer". The star student who never misses a class would have reasons for saying they attended when they failed to attend a lecture even if it did not occur, so it follows that Samuel has reasons to doubt the validity of the answer. If wager was decided on one isolated piece of suspect research, then their own definition of "truth" seems flawed. Perhaps if they had attended the lecture and it was about logic, they would never have decided their wager on such terms. Paul could ask the star student what the lecture was about to gain insight into the quality of truth. Samuel could simply ask another student, thus improving the probability that the research had value. But as it stands, the wager is not decided. Samuel may be hiding the truth from himself, but so is Paul. Samuel is also hiding a lie from himself by the same logic, so it does not lead to truth.

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  • I understand that in real life this is not the case, but please humor me. I'm interested to see how you respond. What if Samuel has no reasons to doubt the start-student's answer? Say, it’s infallible. Samuel’s fear that he’s wrong then is just that: fear. In what direction does the argument go under these circumstances? (I want to point out I’ve already noted your comments about their definition of truth. I thought those were very helpful, thank you.) – London Jennings May 28 '16 at 11:22
  • There is an inherent reason to doubt the "star student" reply, but assuming the "star student" has a badge "I always tell the truth" signed by a respectable deity or something, then Samuel is acting like a gambler. It was true the first time I asked, so why repair something not broken. What if the star-student had misheard him? Although we accept that the star-student is correct, we can not know what they are correct about, the professor may have sent in a video, and therefore the meanings of the answer may fail closer inspection. But to win the bet, Samuel should not care. Right is right. – Nicholas Alexander May 28 '16 at 11:34

Samuel could argue back that Paul doubts the answer, or feels the need to point out this possibility, only because he is unhappy with the current answer, and asking the star student again gives Paul another chance to win. This would refute Paul's argument that Samuel doesn't want to ask out of fear, in the sense that both have a bias against losing. Given that, Paul, if he wants, should go and check for himself, it's in HIS best interests to do so, and trying to persuade Samuel with cheap arguments is not honest game.

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