What the Tortoise will say to Achilles – or “taking the traditional interpretation of the sea battle argument seriously”

Ramiro Peres


This dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise – in the spirit of those of Carroll and Hofstadter – argues against the idea, identified with the “traditional” interpretation of Aristotle’s “sea battle argument”, that future contingents are an exception to the Principle of Bivalence. It presents examples of correct everyday predictions, without which one would not be able to decide and to act; however, doing this is incompatible with the belief that the content of these predictions lacks a truth-value. The cost of using a non-classical logic to cope with that may be too high for Stagirite’s defenders, and they would still need to explain why our ordinary predictions seem to have a binary truth-value. In the end, the paper suggests that the problem of future contingents – and of free will – is not a logical problem at all, but rather a limit on what an agent can believe before taking a decision.

Keywords: future contingents, bivalence, beliefs.

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