# The Paradox of the Question

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6 Moreover, the order in which the angel lists the true propositions might be crucial to our survival, hence to the survival of our descendants. For instance, there might be a proposition such that, if we don t learn of its truth within the next year, we accidentally blow up the planet but there is no guarantee that it is one of the propositions that we will learn from the angel s answer in the next year. (p.253) To avoid these kinds of worries, Varzi suggests moving to something like the following, where R is the more-beneficial-than ordering defined over the set of relevant propositions, so that p precedes q under R just in case being told p before q would benefit us more than being told q before p: (Q6) What is the sequence, under the ordering R, of all the true propositions? 8 Q6 is a fantastic question. Like Q5, it asks for all of the truths, but it also asks for all of the most beneficial truths right from the start. Q6 thereby avoids the dangers identified by Varzi. Unfortunately, not even Q6 avoids all risks. In fact, all of the foregoing questions are undone by the following question: What if the angel is feeling uncooperative? Markosian s angel promises us a truthful response, but he does not promise to be helpful. Given this, the angel could answer Q6, for example, with (A6) It is the sequence I m thinking of right now. (if the angel is then thinking about the sequence, under the ordering R, of all the true propositions) or (A7) Bill. (if the angel has introduced Bill as a proper name for the sequence in question) or even 8 Here we simplify Varzi s suggestion in various ways. Moreover, Q6 is not Varzi s final answer to the question of which question to ask. Fortunately, we can ignore these complications since the objection that we raise below applies to all of the questions that Varzi considers. 6

14 dramatically diminishing) the problem of being not careful enough about what the angel is prepared to offer. We conclude that Q10 is a fine question to ask the angel. If he were here today, Q10 is what we would ask him. 11 REFERENCES Markosian, Ned The Paradox of the Question. Analysis 57: Scott, Alexander D. and Scott, Michael The Paradox of the Question. Analysis 59: Sider, Theodore On the Paradox of the Question. Analysis 57: Varzi, Achille The Best Question. Journal of Philosophical Logic 30: Thanks to Aaron George, Adam Elga, Dan Howard-Snyder, Frances Howard-Snyder, Hud Hudson, David Manley, Joshua Schechter, Ned Markosian, Shieva Kleinschmidt, Steve Steward, Ted Sider, Achille Varzi, and an audience at Western Washington University. 14

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