We first discovered the work of Peter Suber, formerly a legal philosopher at Earlham College and now a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, sometime in 2011 or 2012, while we researching and writing up our paper “Gödel’s Loophole.” (In that paper, we revisit the legend of Kurt Gödel’s alleged discovery of a logical contradiction in the U.S. Constitution; at the time, after carefully reading Suber’s excellent book on “The paradox of self-amendment” and after considering the 1933 Enabling Act that legalized Hitler’s dictatorship, we offered the following Gödelian conjecture regarding one possible constitutional contradiction: specifically, we reasoned that the logical flaw in the Constitution is that the amendment procedures set forth in Article V of the Constitution self-apply to the amendment rules in Article V themselves.) Then, a few months ago, one of our loyal readers (shout out to Craig Collins; check out page one of his thoughtful blog “100 billionth person” here) brought to our attention Douglas Hofstadter’s engaging review of a strange game called Nomic, a complex self-amendment game created by none other than Peter Suber himself. (The rules for Nomic also appear in an appendix to Suber’s paradox book.) Among other things, Nomic provides further evidence in support of our Gödelian conjecture, for this strange game contains a set of both mutable and immutable rules, and the players can eventually transform all the rules of the game over time, even the immutable ones!
But wait, there’s more … A couple of weeks ago, we serendipitously stumbled upon a used copy of another of Suber’s beautiful books, “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Nine New Opinions” (pictured below), and finished reading it earlier this week. In brief, Suber takes a famous hypothetical example from law, a hypothetical developed by the late great Lon Fuller–the so-called “Case of the Speluncean Explorers”–and Suber presents new ways of looking at that old hypothetical case. Suber’s book, along with Fuller’s original statement of the problem, provides a deep and engaging introduction to legal theory and the philosophy of law, so we will be blogging in greater detail about Fuller and Suber’s “Speluncean Explorers” in the days ahead. (We will then return to Kenny Easwaran’s important 2015 paper on Bayesian reasoning.)