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What Will Be
Posted: 13 August 2007 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everybody,

The question I will ask is an old one I’m sure but still seems to be an important one.

It seems to me if somebody says, what will be will be, that is obviously true, because it is a tautology. This seems right to me regardless of whether determinism is true, or whether there is indeterminism, or whether we have free will, or whatever.

I think the only way it could not be true, is if there is no such thing as what will be.

Have I got this right? and is there such a thing as what will be?

Stephen

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Posted: 13 August 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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If one takes the statement at its face (literal) value, I agree that it’s a tautology and, therefore, meaningless.  However, I believe it has a more metaphorical meaning.  Putting aside, for the moment, whether or not everything is determined, we are frequently faced with choices and make a decision: “Should we go to the Chinese restaurant or the Italian one?”  However, there are many outcomes which our behavior will not affect.  If a relative has terminal cancer and a friend says, “What will be, will be” I believe he means “We must accept the inevitable.”

Occam

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Posted: 16 August 2007 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Occam - 13 August 2007 04:20 PM

If one takes the statement at its face (literal) value, I agree that it’s a tautology and, therefore, meaningless.  However, I believe it has a more metaphorical meaning.  Putting aside, for the moment, whether or not everything is determined, we are frequently faced with choices and make a decision: “Should we go to the Chinese restaurant or the Italian one?”  However, there are many outcomes which our behavior will not affect.  If a relative has terminal cancer and a friend says, “What will be, will be” I believe he means “We must accept the inevitable.”

Occam

Hi Occam,

What I think is nothing is inevitable.

What I mean is, there is nothing you could name that is inevitable.

So if someone has terminal cancer we can’t, stricly speaking, say it is inevitable that they will die from it because they may get a letter in the post tomorrow, saying there is a new treatment, in the experimental stage and they can take part in a trial if they wish.

What I’m really saying is, that if there is something that is inevitable we cannot know what it is.

But what I wonder is: Is there such a thing as something that is inevitable but unknowable to us, or is there simply no such thing?

Many people connect this question to determinism but In my mind it’s more a question of the nature of time.

I guess the question is, do the past, present and future all exist?

This is why I don’t make an automatic connection with determinism, as how ever the universe works, we would still need an answer to this question, to know if there is something which is inevitable or not.

Stephen

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Posted: 16 August 2007 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes, Stephan, I think Occam has it right. You’re delving into the metaphysical underbelly of a phrase primarily designed to remind us that soemtimes acceptance of somethins as inevitable is a sounder psychological approach than struggling to change or control everything.

I think the bigger questions are a bit abstruse for me, but I would argue (as I did about free will) that the perception we have of time is more useful to us in everyday life than a more esoteric and abstract concept of it. As far as I’m concerned, death is inevitable. The evidence for that is pretty sound, and if I’m wrong I’ll be quite pleased (unless I go to Hell, I guess). Past, present, and future are ways of organizing our experience that have utiity and value. Science may be able to demonstrate they are illusory, as is the self and perhaps free will, but they are still useful ways to organize our experiences and actions. Guess I’m too prgmatic to make much of a philosopher, which I suppose is part of why I’m a scientist instead.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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StephenLawrence - 16 August 2007 06:52 AM

What I’m really saying is, that if there is something that is inevitable we cannot know what it is.

Well, first of all, let’s be careful to say that this claim is different from either prior claim you made, e.g., that “nothing is inevitable”, or that “there is nothing you could name that is inevitable”.

It is much more plausible to claim that there may be inevitable things of which we are unaware than that literally nothing (or nothing “nameable”?) is inevitable.

However, the question is really how rigorous you want to be with the word “inevitable”? Remember the scene from The Matrix where Agent Smith says of an oncoming subway train, “That is the sound of inevitability”.

If you jump out a window, it is inevitable that you will hit the ground. It is inevitable that we will die. Increase in entropy in a closed system is inevitable.

There is also the question of the distinction between physical inevitability (that something, like an increase in entropy, is guaranteed by the laws of nature), and logical inevitability (that if you have one loaf of bread and one loaf of bread then you have two loaves of bread. That if A then B is true and A is true, then B is true).

All of these are different versions of inevitability that we can know just as much as we can know anything.

StephenLawrence - 16 August 2007 06:52 AM

I guess the question is, do the past, present and future all exist?

Well, if the past doesn’t exist then there is no fact of the matter about what happened in the past. So that seems a non-starter. And following Einstein there is no real difference between time and space anyhow; all there is is spacetime. There is no singular “now” that holds across all reference frames, and gravity can effect time just as much as it effects space. So following Einstein, time is just as real as space. “Future” and “past” are just as real as “left” and “right”.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m afraid, Doug, that S.L. will argue that if the atoms in your body, which are moving in random directions, happened to all move in the direction of up just before you hit the ground, you probably wouldn’t die.  Now, the probability of that, as I recall from our calculations in an undergraduate chem course worked out to be 1 in ten to the minus 43.  I’m sure S.L. will say, “Aha, see, it’s not inevitable.”  And it would be just plain silly if he said that.

Occam

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Posted: 16 August 2007 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Occam - 16 August 2007 06:13 PM

I’m afraid, Doug, that S.L. will argue that if the atoms in your body, which are moving in random directions, happened to all move in the direction of up just before you hit the ground, you probably wouldn’t die.  Now, the probability of that, as I recall from our calculations in an undergraduate chem course worked out to be 1 in ten to the minus 43.  I’m sure S.L. will say, “Aha, see, it’s not inevitable.”  And it would be just plain silly if he said that.

Excellent, Occam, precisely.

That’s why I asked how rigorous he wanted to be with the word “inevitable”. I prefer to use words as we use them in normal speech, so far as is possible. In that sense, hitting the ground is clearly inevitable.

If you want to use “inevitable” in a different, extremely rigorous way, then first of all we have to understand explicitly that we are changing the ground rules. We aren’t any longer saying “nothing is inevitable” in the standard, everyday sense. We are saying “nothing is inevitable” in a rarified technical sense that is really only going to be of interest to physicists of a certain stripe. And then, yes, assuming quantum mechanics, nothing is strictly speaking ABSOLUTELY 100% inevitable. There is always some absurdly small chance that you will survive being tossed out a ten story building, or that you will live forever in some quantum-mechanically improbable paradise.

But so what? As they say in NY, that and two dollars will get you a ride on the subway ...

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Posted: 18 August 2007 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Not trying to change the subject matter, but Xian friends of mine have told me everything has a time and everything that happens, happens for a reason as if our entire lives were planned out from beginning to end. Now my thoughts have always been that everything falls into a random order and once that random order begins you stay in some sort of groove if you will and what ever happens to you good or bad is your fate by a random order. Just as in the lottery whereas a set of numbers over time will then repeat the order that they were once in and history its self repeats its self because there are only so many random orders.

But according to most Xians if everything is already planned out and we have time to die or have an accident or have something terrible to happen to us, why have police, doctors and the like if everything that happens is going to happen anyway?
And if you bring up the question to them you never get an answer but an argument as if you wanted an argument over an answer.

But the point is if indeed everything that happens happens for a reason, what is the reason? And if everything that happens to you has no reason, then what is the reasoning or is there a reason which brings us to a paradox.

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Posted: 19 August 2007 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I think the idea may be that if there is a God who created the universe, he must have had some reason for what’s going on. It’s not that theists see what the reason is, it’s rather that they see the universe as basically suffused with intelligence, and therefore that someone (God) must have a reason for everything.

The problem, of course, is that when you fail to see any sort of reasonableness to the universe, it begins to seem quite like that the opening premise is false. There isn’t any intelligence at work.

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Posted: 19 August 2007 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I thought “What will be will be” was a Doris Day song.  You mean to tell me it’s a saying?  LOL 

Sorry, I just had to put a little silly humour in this thread.

The problem, of course, is that when you fail to see any sort of reasonableness to the universe, it begins to seem quite like that the opening premise is false. There isn’t any intelligence at work.

And without using reason and knowledge, myth develops or is purpetuated.

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Posted: 20 August 2007 03:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Occam - 16 August 2007 06:13 PM

I’m afraid, Doug, that S.L. will argue that if the atoms in your body, which are moving in random directions, happened to all move in the direction of up just before you hit the ground, you probably wouldn’t die.  Now, the probability of that, as I recall from our calculations in an undergraduate chem course worked out to be 1 in ten to the minus 43.  I’m sure S.L. will say, “Aha, see, it’s not inevitable.”  And it would be just plain silly if he said that.

Occam

Well I wouldn’t quite say that, he says trying desperately hard not to be plain silly.

It is not a question of anyone being right or wrong, because if we know what each persons definition of inevitable is, we can all agree.

I’ll explain my philoophy and at the same time answer Doug’s questions about what I mean.

When I say nothing is inevitable, It only refers to the future and inevitable is meant in the absolute sense.

I do it because it helps me keep my mind open to possibilities. I want a philosophy that has practical benefits and I can know is true, this one fits the bill for me. 


Stephen

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Posted: 20 August 2007 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith” date=“1187317850]

Well, if the past doesn’t exist then there is no fact of the matter about what happened in the past. So that seems a non-starter. And following Einstein there is no real difference between time and space anyhow; all there is is spacetime. There is no singular “now” that holds across all reference frames, and gravity can effect time just as much as it effects space. So following Einstein, time is just as real as space. “Future” and “past” are just as real as “left” and “right”.

Ok, so the past exists and future and past are just as real as left and right, so the future exists and therefore there is a fact of the matter about what will happen in the future, in the same way that there is a fact of the matter about what happened in the past.

Is that right?

I don’t actually feel this conclusion is right but can’t see what is wrong with it.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 August 2007 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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StephenLawrence - 20 August 2007 03:41 AM

Ok, so the past exists and future and past are just as real as left and right, so the future exists and therefore there is a fact of the matter about what will happen in the future, in the same way that there is a fact of the matter about what happened in the past.

Is that right?

Yes.

Of course, except for certain very limited circumstances, we can’t know what the future will bring. The epistemology of the future is very different from the metaphysics of the future.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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dougsmith - 20 August 2007 07:45 AM
StephenLawrence - 20 August 2007 03:41 AM

Ok, so the past exists and future and past are just as real as left and right, so the future exists and therefore there is a fact of the matter about what will happen in the future, in the same way that there is a fact of the matter about what happened in the past.

Is that right?

Yes.

Of course, except for certain very limited circumstances, we can’t know what the future will bring. The epistemology of the future is very different from the metaphysics of the future.

OK so there is a fact of the matter about what I’m going to do tomorrow.

Let’s say it is a matter of fact that I am going to have scrambled egg and toast for breakfast and nothing else.

I think what I can say is as follows:

1. In terms of epistemology: It is possible that the fact of the matter is I will eat bran flakes for breakfast tomorrow because as far as I’m concerned, I don’t know what I am going to eat.

2. In terms of metaphysics: It is not possible that the fact of the matter is that I will eat bran flakes because the fact of the matter is that I will eat scrambled eggs and nothing else.

3. Again in terms of metaphysics: It is possible that the fact of the matter could be that I eat bran flakes tomorrow because there are many possible worlds and in at least one of them, it is a fact of the matter that I will eat branflakes tomorrow.

I know we tend to end up in a similar place (don’t worry I wont bring free will into it) but it is this that I’m trying to get to grips with.

Have I made mistakes above?

Stephen

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Posted: 22 August 2007 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Two and three are mutually contradictory. We’ve been through this before.

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Posted: 22 August 2007 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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dougsmith - 22 August 2007 07:36 AM

Two and three are mutually contradictory. We’ve been through this before.

Yes we have been through it before but I’m trying to achieve something that I don’t think we did achieve.

I think what I mean by 2. is true but I’m not writing it correctly yet, so it looks contradictory.

On my thread about possibility and lack of knowledge of the facts, I was trying something similar.

The scenario was something like, there is £10 in box A and nothing in box B, therefore if I pick box B there is no possibility of my winning the £10.

Posters seemed to agree with this and that the only reason it appeared that there was a possibility of my winning the £10, was my lack of knowledge of where the money was. They thought it wasn’t a real possibility.

But of course in another possible world, the £10 is in box B.

So why were they right to think it wasn’t a real possibility? In a sense they definately were right and it is in the same sense I think i must be right about the bran flakes.

Surely they were right because if the fact of the matter is that the £10 is not in box B, it can’t be in box B. If it could be, then I have a real chance of winning when I pick box B but the fact is, I have no chance whatsoever because there is no chance whatsoever that £10 is in box B because the fact of the matter is that it isn’t.

The same must be true of my chance of eating bran flakes, there is no chance whatsoever because the fact of the matter is I’m going to eat scrambled eggs and nothing else. There must be some way I can write that without contradicting 3. assuming 3. is true.

Stephen

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