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InvisibleShmoppy McGillicuddy
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Letter to Herodotus
    #4720987 - 09/27/05 06:24 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Alright, I've been wondering about a certain part of the letter to Herodotus, by Epicurus, namely the claim that given infinite time, all possible events will have transpired. This is a very interesting claim, but I am unable to derive the truth behind it. At first glance, it seems true, but I cannot decisively say whether or not it is a sound claim. The section of the letter which makes this claim follows:

When this is clearly understood, it is time to consider generally things which are obscure. To begin with, nothing comes into being out of what is non-existent For in that case anything would have arisen out of anything, standing as it would in no need of its proper germs. And if that which disappears had been destroyed and become non-existent, everything would have perished, that into which the things were dissolved being non-existent. Moreover, the sum total of things was always such as it is now, and such it will ever remain. For there is nothing into which it can change. For outside the sum of things there is nothing which could enter into it and bring about the change.

Granted, you have to infer the assumption from the argument, but it is a vital assumption in his argument against generation.

What do all of the armchair philosophers here think of this assumption? True or no? Can you prove it either way?



For whoever's interested, here's a link to the entire text of Epicurus's letter to Herodotus: http://www.epicurus.net/en/herodotus.html

edited to change to link


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Edited by Shmoppy McGillicuddy (09/27/05 07:23 PM)


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Offlinedaimyo
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4721301 - 09/27/05 07:20 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

I think it would be better to link to the letter than to quote the whole thing.  Too big.

I will get back with my thought after I eat :smile:


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Offlinepsilocyb0rg
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4721364 - 09/27/05 07:41 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Well...We can't PROVE any of it...that's why it's philosophy. i believe that given infinate time, all events will transpire is true. All that can happen, will eventually happen. I mean, every flex is a combonation of tendon pulls, every movement is a combonations of flexes, every action is a combonation of moves, every event is a comonation of action...And all of these things take time.Eventually, the possible combonations of tendon pulls, flexes, movements, actions, and events will be depleted. I mean, if you want to get technical, variables in evolution and/or technology change these combonations, but given INFINITE TIME implies that time is of no concern. So the time it takes to act is not a concern. So, if you have infinite time, and not so infinite events, all events will eventually transpire...Given, of course, that time is not a variable. :thumbup:


Edited by psilocyb0rg (09/27/05 07:45 PM)


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Offlinedaimyo
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4721756 - 09/27/05 08:48 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Shmoppy McGillicuddy said:
To begin with, nothing comes into being out of what is non-existent
And if that which disappears had been destroyed and become non-existent, everything would have perished
Moreover, the sum total of things was always such as it is now, and such it will ever remain.






The laws of conservation1,2 are sufficient explanation for me to accept those claims.

As for infinite things repeating in infinite time, that's a real teaser. If event "a"(the first event) were to happen at a certain point on a line of infinite time, then before event "a" there is infinite time. If infinite time precedes event "a", does the event ever happen?

However, once you have a first event, even on a line of infinite time, there is a finite measure of time between two events. So I(currently) believe that if there is an infinite amount of time for the events to take place, then they could happen an inifinite number of times.


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InvisibleRavus
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4721779 - 09/27/05 08:52 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Not necessarily.

Say the universe started at the Big Bang, and afterwards time will continue for infinity. Say also that the universe continues to expand at accelerating rates, which scientific observations have currently shown. Molecules, suns, galaxies, all of these are temporary, and with enough amount of finite time will degrade until we have a black hole universe. Then the black holes will degrade until we have a massive blank universe with the occassional lone photon flitting by.

Infinite time would not bring back molecules, would it? It would not form new stars, but rather the space would just increase, the photons would diffuse farther and farther apart and so on into infinity. There would have to be something else for the philosophers to be right.

The flaw with the argument is they assume matter is infinite in some form, but atoms are not going to be here forever. Atoms will disappear in a relatively short time compared to the universe according to current scientific knowledge.

But while we're on the subject of the universe, I think I'll include a relevant quote from one of the first Nihilists, Gorgias, on the existence of the universe:
"...it must have had a beginning. Its being must have arisen either from being, or from not-being. If it arose from being, there is no beginning. If it arose from not-being, this is impossible, since something cannot arise out of nothing."


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Offlinedr0mni
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Ravus]
    #4722585 - 09/27/05 11:28 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

wow shmoppy, you must be in my Intro to Philosophy class... because we JUST talked about this today...

I think the argument for infinite repitition of events in infinite time can be likened to the "infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters..." hypothesis.

Given an infinite amount on time, all possiblities will occur at least once. But since time is infinite, the only thing left to occur after this, is for every single possibility to occur AGAIN.

It's a reasonable hypothesis IF we assume that time is indeed infinite. They didn't know a lot about the nature of time back then, but as was discussed in the "Time and Numbers" thread, modern scientific thought puts the assumed infiniteness of time into doubt. I don't know a lot about the subject, but I'm sure some other know it all will chime in at this point.

The whole argument rests on the idea of infinite probability. So know all we have to debate about is infinity...


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Offlinedaimyo
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: dr0mni]
    #4722605 - 09/27/05 11:32 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

I thought more people would get in on this discussion. Where is everyone. Infinity is usually a fun debate.


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InvisibleRavus
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: dr0mni]
    #4722612 - 09/27/05 11:33 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

It's not so much infinity as to the stability of matter required to make up these possibilities. Even if time is infinite from here on out, if matter and the known universe are not stable then we'd have a major problem with this hypothesis.

And of course, according to current scientific theories, matter isn't stable enough to compete with time.


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So long as you are praised think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another.


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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Ravus]
    #4722647 - 09/27/05 11:40 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

If matter breaks down(what will become of it?), do you deny that over the course of an infinite amount of time it could reconstitute? Would this not be one of the infinite probabilities?


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4722655 - 09/27/05 11:42 PM (11 years, 2 months ago)

it's absolutely untrue to say everything will happen in an infinite amount of a time. a system can settle into a minimum and that's the end of change, yet time continues infinitely.

another way of thinking about it: consider the number 1/9th in decimal form. that's 0.11111111.... an infinite series of ones. could you argue that an infinite series of ones must contain a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and so on, just because it's infinite? of course not. all you'll see in an infinite series of ones is ones, by definition.


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Offlinedaimyo
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4723211 - 09/28/05 01:13 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

The number is set. There is no chance of anything ever interupting it and changing it. The world/universe/etc are not. There is constant change.

Comparing the two would be more accurately described by saying an infinite number of things have happened(1) and will continue to happen forever(1111111).


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: daimyo]
    #4723247 - 09/28/05 01:19 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

There is constant change.




not if entropy takes over.

also, consider the series
1
1.5
1.25
1.375
1.3125
etc

(each # averages the previous two)

you end up with a different number each time, but you never end up with 23 or 42 or -8. you've got an infinite series that undergoes constant change, but doesn't exhaust all possibilities, or even recur.


--------------------
"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


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InvisibleShmoppy McGillicuddy
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4723289 - 09/28/05 01:33 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Note: the assumption I am questioning is not the non-existence of generation, but the assumption that, given the all possible events, and infinite time, that all of those possible events will occur.

crunchytoast:
I fail to see your examples as representative of the case at hand, in the first one, after a system settles into a minimum, it is not possible for it to change further. Therefore it is an impossible event.

For the second one, it is an infinity of ones. It is impossible for another number to be in the sequence by the restrictions of the sequence.

Yes, I agree that not everything will happen, but will all possible things happen?

Ravus:
Sure, atoms will eventually cease to be, simply because of entropy, but then, wouldn't the possible things include that conflict? If the universe is slowing down to such a degree that matter starts disscociating into energy, then events that require matter would no longer be possible, and therefore be impossible events.

Hmm.. the amount and kind of possible events is apparently time-dependent, what is possible depends on the current condition of the universe. I can't quite come to a conclusion on this one, the topic seems to dance around the definition of possiblity. I'll try to reword it:

If something is possible, and given an infinite amount of time, is it possible for this event to not happen?
If it is possible for a ball to roll off of a table, and infinite time passes, will the ball roll off the table?

...Wait, if it is possible for something to happen, that means it is not necessary for that thing to happen, and therefore it is also possible that the event will then not happen, making the non-event also a possibility, and by the assumption that given infinite time all possibilities will transpire, the event will both take place and not take place, and there we have a contradiction. :grin:

Can someone double-check that argument and make sure it's valid? It's past my bedtime and I just came up with it while typing a response.


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Offlinedaimyo
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4723295 - 09/28/05 01:35 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

I think of it like cells. They should divide and reproduce two replicas, then four, and so on. But if one of those cells mutates, something new comes about. This new cell turns into a new creature and over the course of time a new mutation creates a new cell and a new creature. The number of possible mutations is endless.


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: Shmoppy McGillicuddy]
    #4724371 - 09/28/05 10:24 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Yes, I agree that not everything will happen, but will all possible things happen?




Quote:

...Wait, if it is possible for something to happen, that means it is not necessary for that thing to happen, and therefore it is also possible that the event will then not happen, making the non-event also a possibility, and by the assumption that given infinite time all possibilities will transpire, the event will both take place and not take place, and there we have a contradiction.

Can someone double-check that argument and make sure it's valid? It's past my bedtime and I just came up with it while typing a response.




your argument is strong and valid; personally i take issue with this concept of possibility. here's my case: you state it's not necessary for what's possible to happen. then what determines if what's possible happens?

it's like, i can say, it's possible for me to jump up and down right now one minute after i type this sentance. :waits: yet i don't jump- why not? the laws of physics that govern my neural network forbade it. if i didn't jump, was it really possible that i jump? matter's following a single deterministic path. if something necessarily happens, it's possible that it happens, and impossible that it doesn't. and what doesn't happen necessarily, is impossible.


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Offlinekotik
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4724562 - 09/28/05 11:29 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

but isn't the possibility of something happening also same possibility of it not happening? It is one possibility in itself, not two so the contradiction is also a fallacy in that regard.

anyone familiar with Kircher's Problem of Diversity from Ars Magna Sciendi?



may be recognized as a phalanx


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: kotik]
    #4724573 - 09/28/05 11:31 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

"but isn't the possibility of something happening also same possibility of it not happening? "

no- if something happens necessarily, it couldn't happen any other way.

edit: it may be that what you say is implied by our language- but then possibility in the dual sense is an illusion created by the language, and not something real.

"anyone familiar with Kircher's Problem of Diversity from Ars Magna Sciendi?"

not i


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"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


Edited by crunchytoast (09/28/05 11:37 AM)


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Offlinedr0mni
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4724594 - 09/28/05 11:40 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

...Wait, if it is possible for something to happen, that means it is not necessary for that thing to happen, and therefore it is also possible that the event will then not happen, making the non-event also a possibility, and by the assumption that given infinite time all possibilities will transpire, the event will both take place and not take place, and there we have a contradiction.

Can someone double-check that argument and make sure it's valid? It's past my bedtime and I just came up with it while typing a response.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Ah, touche`... but I think that both possibilities can take place without contradiction. Example: If a ball sits on the table with both the possibilities of 1)staying on the table AND 2)falling off, then as long as it sits on the table, even if for a single second, then possibility 1 is satisfied. And whenever it falls off possibility 2 is satisfied.

If you are talking about the ball NEVER falling off of the table.. well that is an impossibility. Due to the law of entropy it would be impossible for the ball to be able to stable for an infinite amount of time. That is not a possibility and would never happen.

I maintain my view that the theory is completely valid in a hypothetical, contained universe with a finite amount of matter and energy and an infinite amount of time. But the universe probably isn't contained, finite, or with an infinite amount of time.... probably...


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Offlinekotik
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4724602 - 09/28/05 11:42 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

not i




sorry, that ended without much explanation.. im stoned.

unfort. it has no exact answer.. but then again the question is simply "how many?"

Quote:

Kircher arranges 18 objects in two vertical columns and then determines the number of arrangements in which they can be combined. By the same method Kircher further estimates that fifty objects may be arranged in 1,273, 726,838,815,420,339, 851,343,083, 767,005,515,293, 749,454,795,473,408,000,000, 000,000 combinations. From this it will be evident that infinite diversity is possible, for the countless parts of the universe may be related to each other in an in-calculable number of ways.




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Offlinekotik
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Re: Letter to Herodotus [Re: kotik]
    #4724614 - 09/28/05 11:47 AM (11 years, 2 months ago)

"Ah, touche`... but I think that both possibilities can take place without contradiction. "

I believe the same.. however I also look at both possibilities not being seperate, using your ball analogy.. as the ball has a bigger chance of falling, at the same time it will have a less a chance of not falling.. so rather than 2 seperate possibilities forming from a single theory and changing in accordance to each other, it is a single possiblity with equal chances of happening, and not happening.

then again i still drink milk right from the container.


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No statements made in any post or message by myself should be construed to mean that I am now, or have ever been, participating in or considering participation in any activities in violation of any local, state, or federal laws. All posts are works of fiction.


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