About a year ago, Jon blogged here about Allan Gibbard’s Sly Pete example, inspiring quite a discussion in the comments. I’ve finally finished a draft of the paper that, when I gave it as a talk, got Jon thinking about the example. It’s “The Conditionals of Deliberation,” and it’s available here [pdf document]. Sly Pete doesn’t make his first appearance until about half-way through the paper, but once he’s on the scene, he stays in the spotlight pretty much for the rest of the paper. There are lots of variations of the example. It turns out that, on the matter of whether Pete will win if he plays, much depends not only on who is talking to whom (and also on who is thinking about the matter to themselves), but also, in interesting ways, on just what purpose the conditional is being asserted/thought about for. There’s also a bit of Newcomb’s problem in the paper. So, even if you don’t like what I do with this material, at least you know that a couple of the coolest examples of recent philosophy are discussed.
So, why did it take a whole year to get a draft out after having all the ideas together for a talk? It took longer than that! I first gave that paper as a talk more than 4 years ago (at Michigan, with Gibbard present!), and I think I’ve had all the main ideas in my head for more than 5 years. I don’t know why, but for some of my papers, I find it extremely difficult to get myself to write them up. Very frustrating. I think that giving them as talks will spur me on to get these papers written up, but that usually doesn’t seem to work. But who knows? Maybe it would have taken even longer if it weren’t for the talks.