This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at



Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

In this class we will study a cluster of puzzles, paradoxes and intellectual wonders - from Zeno's Paradox to Godel's Theorem - and discuss their philosophical implications. (See the calendar for a list of topics.)


The following are required texts:

Amazon logo Sainsbury, R. M. Paradoxes. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN: 0521483476.

Amazon logo Rucker, R. Infinity and the Mind. New Haven, CT: Princeton University Press, 2004 or 2005. ISBN: 0691121273.
(If you have the 1995 printing, that's okay too; all you'll be missing is a new preface by the author.)

(See readings for recommended readings.)

Course Requirements


Grades will be calculated as follows:

Problem Sets 45%
Take-home Final 50%
Class Participation 5%


Problem Sets

There are 11 problem-sets in all, but I shall only take into account your 10 best scores. Problem-sets are due most Wednesdays (see schedule for details), and must be handed in by 9:40 AM. Assignments may be handed in before class or submitted via email to the professor. Hand-written assignments are not acceptable. Email submissions must be in either plain-text or pdf format. (If you are unable to produce such formats, print out your assignment and hand in a hard-copy before class.) With the exception of extraordinary circumstances - typically involving a medical problem - late assignments will not be accepted. It is okay to discuss problem-sets with other students taking the class, and to consult published materials. But each student must complete the assignment on his or her own.

Take-home Final

Assignment will be handed out in class during Ses #25 and due at the beginning of Ses #27. Although individual consultation of published materials is okay, discussing the final before the due-date with anyone - whether or not they are taking the class - is strictly prohibited. All work on the final must be the student's own. Any suspicion of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be aggressively pursued.

Important Notes

Class announcements may be sent to students' MIT email accounts. It is your responsibility to check your MIT account for any email about the class.

If accommodations are needed for a disability, please notify the professor as soon as possible.

If any course requirement conflicts with a religious requirement or university-related obligation, please notify the professor as soon as possible.


1 Introduction  
2-3 Zeno Problem set 1 due in Ses #3
4-6 Infinity Problem set 2 due in Ses #5
7-9 The Higher Infinite Problem set 3 due in Ses #8
10-11 Set Theory Problem set 4 due in Ses #11
12-13 Vagueness Problem set 5 due in Ses #13
14-15 Newcomb's Puzzle Problem set 6 due in Ses #15
16-17 The Liar Paradox Problem set 7 due in Ses #17
18-19 Computability Problem set 8 due in Ses #19
20-21 Backward Induction and Common Knowledge Problem set 9 due in Ses #21
22-27 Godel's Theorem

Problem set 10 due one day after Ses #24

Take-home final handed out in Ses #25

Take-home final due in Ses #27