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Possible Worlds?

Light

Night Zero
Possible World

What are their Ontological Status? Basically, is there a world for everything that could logically happen, every bit as real as ours, or do things that didn't come true in our own universe exist only within the mind?

This is another philosophical musing that I have wondered about before I found out it's an actual subject in philosophy, and naturally I find it and it's implications fascinating. At the very least, any argument for the existence of possible worlds is as good as an argument against them.
 

Teh Ebil Snorlax

izombie, uzombie, weallzombie
Since they'd exist beyond the boundaries of our universe, wouldn't interact with or influence our world in any way and the concept doesn't serve any significant purpose beyond being a useful literary device (as far as I can see, anyway), if they do exist, they may as well not, since they're clearly unknowable.
 

Nanabshuckle8

Bringer of Peace
Ah, so the multiverse theory? Or just any place outside of the space-time continuum? Either way, I agree, the multiverse theory is extremely interesting since, well, basically anything would be possible. I've come up with so many ridiculous suggestions that my friends labeled it torture to listen to it ^^;
 

Tarvos

helt plötsligt blev det tyst
I've got enough going on in this life that I need to deal with before I start dealing with what I could do in an alternative timeline. Maybe this life really is like LOST and we have a way of course-correcting, but fuck do I care what time does? I'm still here being awesome, and if some grey-haired philosopher beardo says there are 320 me's floating around a universe each, I'll just tell him that I can't see them and that the person who is me is in this universe right now trying to have fun and make a lot of money and get chicks and be intelligent and save the planet.

Philosophical exercise? Yes. Practical relevance zero, and that's kind of what I think about philosophy nowadays anyway. I've entertained it, studied it for a bit, then I realised philosophers are too busy trying to frame arguments theoretically in case xyz and the problem is case xyz is never exactly case xyz anyway. It's a nice trick to learn how the rules of logic work, but beyond that, I couldn't give a fuck what a philosopher tells me.

Like I've said before (and kind of echoing MD here): what is real? How do you know anything is real? Why do you even give a shit?
 

Light

Night Zero
Well, I think we should assume for this discussion that there is one objectively operating world from which we draw subjective experience, and that the objects and events of that objective world are real for that particular possible world. It's real if and only if it's true, regardless of whether you believe it or not.

So. . . They're basically alternative dimensions/timelines?
Basically, plus any logically possible sequence of actions and consequences.

Since they'd exist beyond the boundaries of our universe, wouldn't interact with or influence our world in any way and the concept doesn't serve any significant purpose beyond being a useful literary device (as far as I can see, anyway), if they do exist, they may as well not, since they're clearly unknowable.
Philosophical exercise? Yes. Practical relevance zero, and that's kind of what I think about philosophy nowadays anyway.
First let me say, then why did you bother entering the discussion? Argumentative exercise? Yes. Practical relevance zero

I've entertained it, studied it for a bit, then I realised philosophers are too busy trying to frame arguments theoretically in case xyz and the problem is case xyz is never exactly case xyz anyway. It's a nice trick to learn how the rules of logic work, but beyond that, I couldn't give a fuck what a philosopher tells me.
If you're not interested, there's really not a point in making a post to explain why.

Philosophy is interesting because I am drawn to attempt to answer the Big Questions, regardless of whether I can ever find all the answers. Big Questions being such as 'Why does something exist, rather than nothing at all?' According to the Possible Worlds theory, it exists because it can. which is a wonderfully novel and illuminating idea.

Like I've said before (and kind of echoing MD here): what is real? How do you know anything is real? Why do you even give a shit?
The beast occupies itself with whether it will have a place to live in the future, what it will eat next, who will mate with it. The ability to step back on that, to catch ourselves in the act of thinking, to catch the universe in the act of being, and to pursue those Higher phenomena, is so much of what makes us Human. tl;dr I give a shit because I'm curious.
 

Jason-Kun

New member
Basically, plus any logically possible sequence of actions and consequences.
I do not believe in alternate universes like that, no. But I do believe that there are universes out there with versions of ourselves that led different lives either due to being born in different places/ born a few years earlier or later than we were in this universe.
 

Teh Ebil Snorlax

izombie, uzombie, weallzombie
First let me say, then why did you bother entering the discussion? Argumentative exercise? Yes. Practical relevance zero
Because you asked for other people's opinions, not for people to parrot your interest in the topic. My opinion on their ontological status is that if they exist they might as well not because there is no way for them to interact with us and vice versa, they are unknowable. If you can't ask for other people's opinions without taking personal offense to the opinions people give, you shouldn't be asking for opinions in the first place.
 

Music Dragon

Doosic Maggon
Pronoun
she
I've got enough going on in this life that I need to deal with before I start dealing with what I could do in an alternative timeline. Maybe this life really is like LOST and we have a way of course-correcting, but fuck do I care what time does? I'm still here being awesome, and if some grey-haired philosopher beardo says there are 320 me's floating around a universe each, I'll just tell him that I can't see them and that the person who is me is in this universe right now trying to have fun and make a lot of money and get chicks and be intelligent and save the planet.

Philosophical exercise? Yes. Practical relevance zero, and that's kind of what I think about philosophy nowadays anyway. I've entertained it, studied it for a bit, then I realised philosophers are too busy trying to frame arguments theoretically in case xyz and the problem is case xyz is never exactly case xyz anyway. It's a nice trick to learn how the rules of logic work, but beyond that, I couldn't give a fuck what a philosopher tells me.

Like I've said before (and kind of echoing MD here): what is real? How do you know anything is real? Why do you even give a shit?
Wasn't expecting this from you of all people, to be entirely honest. There's more to life than practical relevance; you think highly of art, as I recall, and surely that's not because of its utility.

Philosophy is what gives everything else context. Without philosophy, you can't even discuss the notion of "practical relevance". Philosophy is a central part of our lives - most of us actually stop every once in a while to ponder right and wrong, good and bad, meaningful and meaningless, possible and impossible, knowable and unknowable...

And I might add that case xyz is seldom exactly case xyz in science. ("As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality"...) That fact doesn't make science useless, though; why should it invalidate philosophy?

Now, back to the topic at hand: I fail to see how any possible world besides our own could ever be "real", unless you're using a very shady definition of "real". Enlighten me.
 

Light

Night Zero
Because you asked for other people's opinions, not for people to parrot your interest in the topic. My opinion on their ontological status is that if they exist they might as well not because there is no way for them to interact with us and vice versa, they are unknowable. If you can't ask for other people's opinions without taking personal offense to the opinions people give, you shouldn't be asking for opinions in the first place.
See, I took "they might as well not be real" to mean, this is a useless and uninteresting topic. That is what you insinuated, and that's why I asked. In and of itself, that original opinion is fine, if somewhat unphilisophical.

It's funny you mention the fact that they are unknowable leads you to think they might as well not be existent. That same logical mirror works to say that since they are unknowable, they might as well be.

Now, back to the topic at hand: I fail to see how any possible world besides our own could ever be "real", unless you're using a very shady definition of "real". Enlighten me.
Well, realness can be known, albeit uncertainly, by an intelligent observer. I know my world exists because I experience it. So if there were an observer in another world, their conscious experience of it would make it real.

I honestly don't see what's so hard about imagining two things that are both real but are not connected to each other in any way.

Imagine bubbles in a Sprite. Each bubble is a universe, and some universes have little people. As people travel outward to an edge of their bubble, the space they measure within one micrometer of the bubble increases exponentially such that as the distance traveled by the person approaches infinity the distance to the edge of the bubble is zero. All the bubbles are isolated from interaction with all the others, and all are equally real. The only real problem with this analogy is the appeal to spatial location; all worlds are equally detached from one another, so we must realize that these are conceptual bubbles.
 
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Spoon

New member
Pronoun
she
Now, back to the topic at hand: I fail to see how any possible world besides our own could ever be "real", unless you're using a very shady definition of "real". Enlighten me.
Butting in here, but by "our own" do you mean an individual sense of reality, a collective sense, or some cool third option? And could you explain what "our world" encompasses? Sorry if this sounds nitpicky, but I think further defining these terms would be helpful seeing how broad the definitions can be.
 
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Music Dragon

Doosic Maggon
Pronoun
she
It's funny you mention the fact that they are unknowable leads you to think they might as well not be existent. That same logical mirror works to say that since they are unknowable, they might as well be.
In the absence of any evidence either way, the reasonable stance is to assume that there is only one world. Since we can't actually verify the existence of more than one world and there's nothing to suggest it, we should assume that only one world exists.

Well, realness can be known, albeit uncertainly, by an intelligent observer. I know my world exists because I experience it. So if there were an observer in another world, their conscious experience of it would make it real.
Only if their conscious experience were real in the first place. Harry Potter experiences Hogwarts, but does that make Hogwarts real? No, because Harry Potter isn't real and his conscious experience of Hogwarts isn't real. Therefore, his experience is irrelevant to what is real. Likewise, any imaginary intelligent observer has an imaginary experience of their imaginary world. None of it is real.

I honestly don't see what's so hard about imagining two things that are both real but are not connected to each other in any way.
Imagining two real but distinct things is not difficult. Imagining a thing that's not real in the real world yet somehow real... is difficult. (See below for more on "real world".)

Imagine bubbles in a Sprite. Each bubble is a universe, and some universes have little people. As people travel outward to an edge of their bubble, the space they measure within one micrometer of the bubble increases exponentially such that as the distance traveled by the person approaches infinity the distance to the edge of the bubble is zero. All the bubbles are isolated from interaction with all the others, and all are equally real. The only real problem with this analogy is the appeal to spatial location; all worlds are equally detached from one another, so we must realize that these are conceptual bubbles.
The very word "real" must necessarily refer to only one of these bubbles, or else it loses all meaning. If we define "real" to be something that can encompass all imaginable worlds, then we can literally say that anything imaginable is real. That leads to a more or less useless definition of "real". When we talk about "real" things, we're referring to things that exist in our world, the one we all live in right now. See below.

Butting in here, but by "our own" do you mean an individual sense of reality, a collective sense, or some cool third option? And could you explain "our world" encompasses? Sorry if this sounds nitpicky, but I think further defining these terms would be helpful seeing how broad the definitions can be.
Well, we've got a bunch of distinct possible worlds, none of which can interact with each other, and yet you and I are communicating right now; hence, we live in the same possible world (since we interact). The same reasoning can be used to show that everyone in this thread lives in the same world. When I say "our world", "actual world", or "real world", that's the world I'm referring to.

What's bothering me here is that the very word "real" must necessarily refer to our world and our world only. That's pretty much the only reasonable way to define "real". Otherwise, everything is "real" and "real" loses its meaning.
 

Light

Night Zero
In the absence of any evidence either way, the reasonable stance is to assume that there is only one world. Since we can't actually verify the existence of more than one world and there's nothing to suggest it, we should assume that only one world exists.
Why? Saying [possible worlds existing on the basis that they can] violates Occam's razor is like saying [replacing the hundred or so known subatomic particles with a single vibrating string whose oscillations give rise to an infinite number of subatomic particles] is unintuitive. (Brackets added for semantic clarity.) Just as String Theory has added explaining power of why the subatomic particles exist, Possible Worlds Theory has the added explaining power of why things exist (which is pretty incredible).

Imagining two real but distinct things is not difficult. Imagining a thing that's not real in the real world yet somehow real... is difficult. (See below for more on "real world".)

The very word "real" must necessarily refer to only one of these bubbles, or else it loses all meaning. If we define "real" to be something that can encompass all imaginable worlds, then we can literally say that anything imaginable is real. That leads to a more or less useless definition of "real". When we talk about "real" things, we're referring to things that exist in our world, the one we all live in right now. See below.


Well, we've got a bunch of distinct possible worlds, none of which can interact with each other, and yet you and I are communicating right now; hence, we live in the same possible world (since we interact). The same reasoning can be used to show that everyone in this thread lives in the same world. When I say "our world", "actual world", or "real world", that's the world I'm referring to.

What's bothering me here is that the very word "real" must necessarily refer to our world and our world only. That's pretty much the only reasonable way to define "real". Otherwise, everything is "real" and "real" loses its meaning.
I think ultimately though, you understand what I'm getting at. You just don't like using the word "real" for any world but ours, regardless of whether it exists. I have been using "real" and "existant" interchangeably, calling upon the word "real" for its more concrete connotations. Shall I say, "possible worlds are just as concrete as ours"?
 

Tarvos

helt plötsligt blev det tyst
Wasn't expecting this from you of all people, to be entirely honest. There's more to life than practical relevance; you think highly of art, as I recall, and surely that's not because of its utility.
Because of its beauty, indeed, you are correct. But do I think about why something is beautiful? Well, I used to. But eventually I came to a simple conclusion. There are things I like looking at or hearing and things that I don't. I can go on for hours and express what exactly makes me like the art and the books and the music, but eventually the only thing I can say about it that actually makes sense is that I am naturally drawn to it. I like it subconsciously. The actual talk can be fun when I'm deconstructing how to play a song I love and recreate the sound, but otherwise, it feels like killing the mood.

I just don't want to think about why it's great. It's great. Probably that is because if I think about things too much I just become very anxious, so letting go of those thoughts is the natural response :) My inclination is "Fuck it, this sounds good". Then the rest is irrelevant in context of me just liking it.

Philosophy is what gives everything else context. Without philosophy, you can't even discuss the notion of "practical relevance". Philosophy is a central part of our lives - most of us actually stop every once in a while to ponder right and wrong, good and bad, meaningful and meaningless, possible and impossible, knowable and unknowable...

I did think about them. But then I came to the conclusion I liked having money and sex and looking at books and playing guitar and talking to people. As much as ethics and philosophy give us a context for our morality, eventually my morality is just "do what I like, as long as I harm none and don't feel utterly shit about making certain choices". The rest is unnecessary ballast, which I could consider, but it would make thinking a drawn out and tedious process and I would much rather eat and apple and enjoy its taste rather than think about "there could be an apple in another world possibly!" because as much as that is fun to entertain I rather just eat the fucking apple, you know what I mean? And even if it is true, it's not like I have any control over it being that way, so why care?

Sometimes, the best thing to do is not to be Lunkwill and Fook. Sometimes you need to take the Ford Prefect or the Zaphod Beeblebrox approach. Set your brain to zero. Don't think, do, fuck the rest. Because if you don't, you blow your brain up thinking.

And I might add that case xyz is seldom exactly case xyz in science. ("As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality"...) That fact doesn't make science useless, though; why should it invalidate philosophy?
True, but at least, scientists can do experiments and validate them in reality. Philosophers just think, and that doesn't really actually amount to much more than conjecture, whereas gravity is easy to go out and prove. Or well, prove, you know, as far as science proves things.
 

Light

Night Zero
Because of its beauty, indeed, you are correct. But do I think about why something is beautiful? Well, I used to. But eventually I came to a simple conclusion. There are things I like looking at or hearing and things that I don't. I can go on for hours and express what exactly makes me like the art and the books and the music, but eventually the only thing I can say about it that actually makes sense is that I am naturally drawn to it. I like it subconsciously. The actual talk can be fun when I'm deconstructing how to play a song I love and recreate the sound, but otherwise, it feels like killing the mood.

I just don't want to think about why it's great. It's great. Probably that is because if I think about things too much I just become very anxious, so letting go of those thoughts is the natural response :) My inclination is "Fuck it, this sounds good". Then the rest is irrelevant in context of me just liking it.
Yeah, I can see how actually studying philosophy would sap all the interest out of it. I guess though I'm just the kind of person who can think about things a lot without getting anxious. If I get wrapped up in a project or something I'll be into it for hours on end, like everything else in the world just fades away, ya know? But yeah, philosophic introspection should never be forced.

Also, I think deconstructing why I am attracted to an artwork of some form is interesting because it's useful for creating awesome artwork in the future.

It seems like your attitude toward philosophy is similar to my attitude toward politics. A long time ago, I used to get stressed out over what was right or wrong, and why other people didn't see it that way. It's really just an awful rat-race, and no one goes home happy. Really, it's the mire of the world.
 

Teh Ebil Snorlax

izombie, uzombie, weallzombie
See, I took "they might as well not be real" to mean, this is a useless and uninteresting topic. That is what you insinuated, and that's why I asked. In and of itself, that original opinion is fine, if somewhat unphilisophical.

It's funny you mention the fact that they are unknowable leads you to think they might as well not be existent. That same logical mirror works to say that since they are unknowable, they might as well be.
Uh, actually, I'm sure you'll find I said they might as well not exist because they can't interact with us and vice versa. The point I was making is that even if they do exist, it doesn't make a difference, because they can influence or affect us or our world in anyway. Your "logical mirror" isn't a mirror at all - they can't do anything to us or our world that implies they might exist, so it doesn't really matter if they do, it's the same as if they didn't exist. What I'm saying is that since they can't interact with us on any level, if they exist, it's the same as if they don't and if they don't, it's the same as if they did i.e. what you're saying is the exact same statement in a different word order. It implies nothing my statement didn't, it's logically identical.

EDIT:
Why? Saying [possible worlds existing on the basis that they can] violates Occam's razor is like saying [replacing the hundred or so known subatomic particles with a single vibrating string whose oscillations give rise to an infinite number of subatomic particles] is unintuitive. (Brackets added for semantic clarity.) Just as String Theory has added explaining power of why the subatomic particles exist, Possible Worlds Theory has the added explaining power of why things exist (which is pretty incredible).
Assuming only one world exist isn't even an assumption, since we know at least one world exists (i.e. the one you're in right now and even if you go solipsist on me, at least the world in which your consciousness exists exists, so there is definitely at least one world, otherwise this conversation wouldn't be happening, even if you're the only person that actually exists), it's a lack of assumption that other world's exist, which is an assumption with absolutely no evidence, i.e. a baseless assumption. Occam's Razor says "go for the theory with the least assumptions". Possible Worlds Theory, therefore, clearly violates Occam's Razor, but even without Occam's Razor, why would you assume something exists with no evidence that they do? I mean, I can't even wrap my head around that.
 
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Light

Night Zero
Uh, actually, I'm sure you'll find I said they might as well not exist because they can't interact with us and vice versa. The point I was making is that even if they do exist, it doesn't make a difference, because they can influence or affect us or our world in anyway. Your "logical mirror" isn't a mirror at all - they can't do anything to us or our world that implies they might exist, so it doesn't really matter if they do, it's the same as if they didn't exist. What I'm saying is that since they can't interact with us on any level, if they exist, it's the same as if they don't and if they don't, it's the same as if they did i.e. what you're saying is the exact same statement in a different word order. It implies nothing my statement didn't, it's logically identical.
Yes, but it's only logically identical from our subjective viewpoint, not from an objective viewpoint. All I have is a body of text in front of me you put together. Maybe Sentence 1 was put together because thought K lead to thought J lead to thought Q in your head, or maybe thought M lead to N lead to Q. It doesn't make a difference to me, and it won't create any difference in the future. To me, they are logically identical. But not objectively.

Assuming only one world exist isn't even an assumption, since we know at least one world exists, it's a lack of assumption that other world's exist
No, that's not how it works. A lack of assumption that other worlds exist would mean being open to the idea, but not assuming it is true. Since "only one world exists" is not necessarily true, it's an assumption.

[other worlds existing] is an assumption with absolutely no evidence, i.e. a baseless assumption. Occam's Razor says "go for the theory with the least assumptions". Possible Worlds Theory, therefore, clearly violates Occam's Razor
My theory is still better than your theory if it can explain something yours doesn't. Occam's razor can only be used when two theories are equal in all other respects, so it doesn't apply here.

but even without Occam's Razor, why would you assume something exists with no evidence that they do? I mean, I can't even wrap my head around that.
To be clear, Possible Worlds Theory assumes that other worlds exists, but I do not assume Possible Worlds Theory is true. Now then, as I said before, possible worlds theory makes a new assumption (other worlds exist) in order to explain something that wasn't explained before (why worlds exist in the first place). That is an okay thing to do.
 

Tarvos

helt plötsligt blev det tyst
Yeah, I can see how actually studying philosophy would sap all the interest out of it. I guess though I'm just the kind of person who can think about things a lot without getting anxious. If I get wrapped up in a project or something I'll be into it for hours on end, like everything else in the world just fades away, ya know? But yeah, philosophic introspection should never be forced.
So can I, but the wrap-up for me isn't deconstructing what's happening - it's just doing it and enjoying it.

I'll give you an example. I've been learning English since I was a young young boy, mostly because a) I had some childhood exposure and b) I was a natural at any academic discipline at the time. (You could say I'm still pretty good, which would probably be true. But it was more marked then). But I've never really cared for the rules of English grammar. It's not that I don't understand how they work, I was taught that later in life. But it's not the rules that taught me to speak English. It's the fact I've been naturally doing it for 20 years that ensures I speak the language at (roughly) the same level as native speakers do.

In other words, I always enjoyed SPEAKING it. I didn't consciously think "well I should be speaking English because it's important for business and global commerce and really aids in finding you a job!"

No, I was just raised to more or less be able to be fully functional in the language and I've been reading and doing things in the language and kept up my ability to do it. I don't think about when I'm speaking English. I know I am not speaking Dutch for reasons xyz but I've been in so many situations where English is a necessity that it's fairly normal for anyone talking to me to have a response elicited in English.

Also, I think deconstructing why I am attracted to an artwork of some form is interesting because it's useful for creating awesome artwork in the future.
I disagree. I write the best things in a subconscious flow and state-of-mind where the music and lyrics naturally come and I will know whether they sound genuine and meant. If I think too much, a song feels constructed and not created. For example, I've had a chord progression I've been playing around with for ages that sounds good. But every lyric I've tried to write over it was horrible. Then I decided to just improv the riff with the band and I finally started singing something I could get behind inspired by a working title I came up with. It still sounds like a Taking Back Sunday lyric but we'll work on that (and it's a natural reference material for me)

It seems like your attitude toward philosophy is similar to my attitude toward politics. A long time ago, I used to get stressed out over what was right or wrong, and why other people didn't see it that way. It's really just an awful rat-race, and no one goes home happy. Really, it's the mire of the world.
Politics is a necessary evil in my view. Anyone who wants to be in politics should, in my view, automatically be persona non grata. This is because anyone who wants power is ipso facto unsuitable to carry it, because the ones that enjoy power are usually the ones that will use it for the wrong things. Leaders are those people who have the mantle thrust onto them and find to their surprise they wear it well.

This is why I am not a good leader. I don't have the attribute to be a leader - it is a forced thing.

The real issue is that some government is a necessity? Why? Because if there are no rules, there are weak people to be taken advantage. In a society where we want to embrace each other's lives, protecting these weak people is key, and having rules is a requirement for a level playing field. Politicians should be people who intrinsically have the ability to keep this playing field level. A politician should never need media training to feign outrage during incidents. It should be natural for the politician to feel this. Most politicians say these things because they have to, but they aren't actually emotionally affected by these incidents.

A politician is someone who innately thinks that a million deaths is a tragedy, not a statistic.
 
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