Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interesting Problem: Protagoras' problem

I came across a book called 101 Philosophical Problems: 2nd Edition written by Martin Cohen. Questia Preview of 101 Philosophical Problems with that includes the problem.

The problem (words change due to copyright issues):

Euathlos has learned how to be a lawyer from Protogoras, under the condition that Euathlos doesn't have to pay until and unless he wins his first court case. Euathlos becomes a musician after Protagoras spent much time teaching him and doesn't take any court cases. Euathlos refuses to him.

Protagoras takes him to court. He reasons.
  • If I loses the court case, Euathlos wins (thereby meeting the requirements of the condition) and thus Euathlos has to pay.
  • If I wins, Euathlos still has to pay.
Euathlos reasons differently:
  • If I lose, the conditions of the original agreement is not met and thus I do not have to pay up.
  • If I win, Protagoras has lost the right to enforce pay me. 
So Protagoras and Euathlos both believe that they will get what they want. They both can't be right. Who is making the mistake?

The solution
Here is solution which I think fits.

If Euathlos wins, the original requirements from the agreement are fulfilled, yet Protagoras has lost the right to enforce the payment.

If Protagoras wins, the original requirements from the agreement are not fulfilled, yet Protagoras this time has the right to enforce payment even if it means scrapping the original agreement.

The problem mostly lies here. Both the court decision and the original agreement cannot be worshipped at the same time.This means that unless it is made clear that the court or the original agreement has more power in terms or enforcing the payment, both parties cannot be accused of faulty reasoning.

By the way, there is an interesting theory on wikipedia. Direct quote from wikipedia. It suggests the Euathlos would win, then Protogoras would have a reason to open a new trial.

"Euathlus would win his case because Protagoras sued him BEFORE Euathlus won his first case. Protagoras would lose that particular case because Euathlus has not yet won a case, and therefore Protagoras's cause of action had not yet manifested itself.
The new victory of Euathlus would qualify as new evidence for Protagoras, thus constituting grounds for a new trial."

If you want to read what the book says about it, please support the author and buy the book. I do recommend it.  (Link for buying book from amazon underneath).

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