If you don't know that you know, you could be surprised

Eli Pitcovski, Levi Spectre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Before the semester begins, a teacher tells his students: “There will be exactly one exam this semester. It will not take place on a day that is an immediate-successor of a day that you are currently in a position to know is not the exam-day”. Both the students and the teacher know – it is common knowledge – that no exam can be given on the first day of the semester. Since the teacher is truthful and reliable, it seems that the students can know that what he says is true. However, in that case, assuming the students can know that they know whatever it is they know (KK) and assuming their knowledge is closed under entailment (closure), the students can reason from what they know to the conclusion that no exam will take place during the semester. This conclusion contradicts what they supposedly know: that there will be an exam. This puzzle, we argue, gives rise to a new consideration for the rejection of KK. We discuss unique features of the argument, especially in comparison to Timothy Williamson's rejection of KK in light of other versions of the surprise exam paradox.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-934
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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