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Thread: Possibility (two perspectives)

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    Possibility (two perspectives)

    There are two different perspectives that I can see but do not have the words to differentiate them. I’m looking for the terms.

    I’ll use dice to explain what I’m talking about. There are six possibilities. If it lands on a two, I understand that there is no real physical possibility that it’s on a different number, yet that doesn’t alter the truth of what I just said: “there are six possibilities.”

    I prefer the view that distinguishes POSSIBILITY from ACTUALITY. Each number is possible. Only that which is possible can be actual, and if something is actual, it’s obviously possible. But, none of this should allow knowledge of what’s actual to undermine the possibilities.

    If I throw a quarter over a house (such that it will land on either heads or tails—no other options for the scenario), then there are two possibilities for what it can land on. Once it’s landed, it will actually be on one of the two possibilities, yet for some people, they want to deny all other possibilities once what’s actually came to be the case.

    Let’s use the die again. Let’s throw it up and let it land. Bob sees what’s showing and immediately covers it up. I ask you (who does not know what it landed on), you will not be able to tell me what it actually landed on, but you’ll acknowledge there are six possibilities. Bob, on the other hand, can tell me what it’s on, and because of that, he’ll want to deny the possibilities. You too, may for some reason also want to deny as does bob once you learn the truth.

    However, it’s my view that the possibilities we all embrace shouldn’t be cast aside post knowledge of what actually happened.

    If the cat is either in the house or out the house, we are aware there are two possibilities. But that self acknowledged truth seems to vanish for a lot of people when they learn where the cat is. After all, one might say, “how can the cat possibly be inside when the cat is right here by our feet.” That’s one sense I need a term for.

    When I say “the cat is possibly inside, possibly outside, and actually inside,” it’s not my intention to convey something weird. I just want to maintain the understanding that what’s actually the case is among all the possibilities.

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    I agree with this take on probability (I prefer that term to possibility as it's more granular). To say that something is improbable is to say that the potential paths to it happening--even if determinism is true and only one of those paths will eventually be taken--are such that the number of paths in which it happens is dwarfed by the number of paths in which it doesn't. There are many more ways to pick a spade from a fair deck of cards than there are ways to pick the Jack of Clubs from a fair deck of cards. This is an objective fact about the world, not a reflection of our epistemological ignorance before picking the card; there are more spades than there are Jacks of Clubs.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    The possibility is not altered by knowledge. The chance of landing on a two is equal to that of the chance of landing on a three. That possibility remains intact and unchanged even after we learn what the die landed on.

    So, after the role, and being fully aware of the end result, I want to speak of possibility such as we would had the role not been made.

    If it lands on a four:

    P1 rolling on a one is possible

    Not was possible

    But is possible

    Why? Because it’s a possibility

    Knowledge has no effect

    How can it BE on a 4 and STILL BE that P1 is true?

    I want to better explain how that is

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post
    I agree with this take on probability (I prefer that term to possibility as it's more granular). To say that something is improbable is to say that the potential paths to it happening--even if determinism is true and only one of those paths will eventually be taken--are such that the number of paths in which it happens is dwarfed by the number of paths in which it doesn't. There are many more ways to pick a spade from a fair deck of cards than there are ways to pick the Jack of Clubs from a fair deck of cards. This is an objective fact about the world, not a reflection of our epistemological ignorance before picking the card; there are more spades than there are Jacks of Clubs.
    I'd agree with that. Probability expresses what we know about something. It's the thing that remains constant before, during, and after an event. Possibility expresses an ignorance. An event wouldn't be referred to as highly possible, but rather highly probable. If a die is rolled but the result isn't yet known there are six equally possible results. It would be incorrect to ask what the probability is of finding any particular result. When the result is revealed all the other possibilities vanish. But the probability remains the same.

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    There’s a sense of probable where there’s a likelihood greater than unlikely (for example, greater than 50%), but there’s also a sense of probable that follows the entire continuum (for example, a 5% probability of success). So, although there is a degree of probability (probable in one sense), one would not say success is probable (in the sense a likelyhood of success is greater than failure).

    When looking at possibilities (for instance, in possible outcomes —irregardless of the associated probabilities of different outcomes, one could simply count the entirety of possible outcomes. A die that’s loaded to more often land on an odd number may not share the same probability for landing on an even number than an odd number, but as far as possibilites go, each is a possibility in its own right.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    The possibility is not altered by knowledge. The chance of landing on a two is equal to that of the chance of landing on a three. That possibility remains intact and unchanged even after we learn what the die landed on.

    So, after the role, and being fully aware of the end result, I want to speak of possibility such as we would had the role not been made.

    If it lands on a four:

    P1 rolling on a one is possible

    Not was possible

    But is possible

    Why? Because it’s a possibility

    Knowledge has no effect

    How can it BE on a 4 and STILL BE that P1 is true?

    I want to better explain how that is
    To work the world the way you want one needs to continue building arguments. One never comes to a resolution since what you want is tautology. There is that which is possible and that possibility which is realized. Possibility may be an of potential outcomes (potential and possible are the same thing). That which occurs after time t=0 is reality that is. That possibility that didn't occur after time t=0 remains a future possibile reality.

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    If the cat is either in the house or out the house, we are aware there are two possibilities. But that self acknowledged truth seems to vanish for a lot of people when they learn where the cat is. After all, one might say, “how can the cat possibly be inside when the cat is right here by our feet.” That’s one sense I need a term for.

    When I say “the cat is possibly inside, possibly outside, and actually inside,” it’s not my intention to convey something weird. I just want to maintain the understanding that what’s actually the case is among all the possibilities.
    No.

    Your suggestion, as I see it, seems a reluctance to let go of our ignorance and accept the appearance of clear cut knowledge. Once I know the cat is napping on the armchair because I'm looking at it right now, it is indeed not possible that he is also climbing up the trunk of the one tree in the garden as if suddenly possessed by the Devil Himself.

    What would be the causal power of possibilities once falsified by the actuality of only one of them? I could have become a bus driver but didn't and now, it seems pretty certain I won't ever be. At some point in time it was possible that I become a bus driver but, actually, I never was a bus driver. It was possible. It's not longer possible. It is not possible. There was a possibility. There is no possibility. Were would be the problem, exactly?

    So, no, what is actually the case is the only possibility left. We think in terms of several possibilities before learning of the outcome, because we are still ignorant of what will turn out to be the case. Once we know, there's just one possibility left, i.e. what is the actual case.

    Where would be the problem in the distinction between past possibilities that no longer exist and the one current possibility which is the actual case, given our knowledge of the current situation.

    Worse. What we though was possible never was. There was no real possibility that I became a bus driver. Possibilities are only conceivable outcome given our current ignorance. X is possible because I don't know that X is false. As soon as I know X is false, X is no longer a possibility and from the vantage point of knowing the present, I now know that X never was a possibility, It was an epistemological possibility, one based on ignorance, not an ontological possibility like the actual case is and always was.

    Of course, all this is merely our default understanding of things. However, I really don't think that it would be possible to prove me wrong.
    EB

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    Quote Originally Posted by fast View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    The possibility is not altered by knowledge. The chance of landing on a two is equal to that of the chance of landing on a three. That possibility remains intact and unchanged even after we learn what the die landed on.
    First of all, that's not true. An ordinary-looking die with six faces will be deemed to have six possible outcomes, so landing a 6 would be just one possibility. Then we cast the die and learn the actual outcome of that. It's a 3. A 6 is no longer possible. Alea jacta est. The die is cast. 6 is no longer a possibility.

    Of course, you will consider future possibilities...

    6 again?


    Er, no. It's a 4. Try again? 5. Again? 2.



    OK, I give you the last 20 outcomes:

    3, 4, 5, 3, 2, 3, 1, 5, 4, 1, 1, 1, 5, 2, 3, 1, 4, 4, 5, 4.



    See? As you get to learn how the die behaves for real, you gradually realise no 6 will ever come out and that, yes, landing a 6 never was a possibility to begin with. Same for anything else. It's called empirical evidence. Your initial belief in the possibility of landing a 6 was based on past experience... with other dice. Now you learn how this die really behaves and that contrary to your initial belief, 6 isn't a possibility at all. All the empirical evidence available to us is always evidence of past events. No empirical evidence about the future. Hence our concept of possibilities.

    Were are the possibilities you are talking about?
    EB

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    I don’t want to deny the possibilities because of the actuality.

    Another approach to this has a trace to language. It’s been called tenseless. A way of speaking that doesn’t have a past or present tense. Having a fifth birthday party in Hawaii is possible. Of course, being of an age greater than five and having never been to Hawaii, one might say it’s “now” impossible, but there is still a communicative sense where of all the possibilities, that is one of them. The truth value might change given a past tense, and in the present tense, it might be different, but I’m not up to date in speaking in a tenseless manner.

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