Newcomb’s paradox update

Paradoxes have always fascinated me, and one of the philosophical puzzles that has captured my imagination the most is a probabilistic problem called Newcomb’s paradox (see image below). With this background in mind, I recently stumbled across a 2020 paper by Adam Elga (Princeton) titled “Newcomb University: A Play in One Act.” Professor Elga’s excellent paper explores in depth two variants of this paradox and identifies some salient weaknesses with some of the leading approaches to this philsophical/probabilistic problem. For my part, I would like to pose a seemingly childish question, Can we all agree that this paradox cannot be solved, that there is no “right answer”? In other words, isn’t that the main point or lesson of this particular paradox: that some problems are simply unsolvable? That, at least, is the position I take in my work-in-progress titled “Judge Hercules or Judge Bayes?

Image credit: Selmer Bringsjord

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to Newcomb’s paradox update

  1. Craig says:

    I think the analysis at https://brilliant.org/wiki/newcombs-paradox/ suggests that there is a solution and that is to take only the closed box. The paring down of the decision matrix based on The Being’s assumed omnipotence is key.

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