A potion worth 1 million dollars, 100 seconds before midnight

But only if you can demonstrate your intent to drink it.

The challenge (Kavka)

What will you do at midnight?

This problem was originally defined in 1983 by Gregory S. Kavka, as a thought experiment (called the toxin puzzle). Kavka had a great impact on contemporary moral and political philosophy (see a summary here).

The proposed answer and its interpretation

The interpretation of the paradox is as follows: can you intend to drink the toxin if you also intend to change your mind at a later time?

In the seminal paper, Kavka details:

The impact of the paradox: the irrationality of nuclear deterrence

The puzzle has been used to evaluate the prudential and moral paradoxes of nuclear deterrence, since it lies entirely on the fact that your enemies believe you have the intention to respond.

Which can be rephrased as such:

(as proposed by David Gauthier, another specialist of Hobbes).

The conclusion is that logic is fun, but politicians are not following logic. They’re serious guys after all.

Even younger Trump said so, in the very influential Playboy magazine:


Older Trump (now acting President…) decided that the US should further develop tactical nuclear weapons. Which makes the paradox much more likely to occur. Apocalypse now set to start in 100 seconds.

The doomsday clock, available at https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/

Our survival is mostly threatened by nuclear arsenals and climate change. The rest, however painful, will actually look like a bucolic balade in respect.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store