Erkenntnis:1-18 (forthcoming)

Victor Gijsbers
Leiden University
Scriven’s paradox of predictability arises from the combination of two ideas: first, that everything in a deterministic universe is, in principle, predictable; second, that it is possible to create a system that falsifies any prediction that is made of it. Recently, the paradox has been used by Rummens and Cuypers to argue that there is a fundamental difference between embedded and external predictors; and by Ismael to argue against a governing conception of laws. The present paper defends a new diagnosis of the roots of the paradox. First, it is argued that the unpredictability has to be understood in the light of Turing’s famous results about computability, in particular his proof that there is no solution to the ‘halting problem.’ This allows us to see that previous analyses of the paradox were either mistaken or not fully adequate. Second, the sense of paradox that nevertheless remains is traced to the idea that rational behaviour is not dependent on contingent environmental circumstances: that it is always up to us to engage in activities such as rational prediction or rational belief. The paradox of predictability teaches us that this idea, natural though it may be, is mistaken.
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-020-00369-3
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