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Thursday, January 29, 2009

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This a topic which I find interesting. The first time a logician told me that 'such-and-such' was an element of a possible world, (even though it seemed to be fairly absurd from my perspective), I told him I thought that, "there is only one possible world- and this is it." My ontological intuitions are such that idea of merely possible worlds 'feels' pretty fanciful to me.

Causality (at least at the macro-level) is central to my view of the world, so that a merely possible STOA is one which for me is carrying an albatross of contradictions around its neck. A LaPlacean demon might tell you that the only way that such a STOA could have been true would be if you had rewritten all of the preceding global (or as you put it 'world-sized') STOAs going back as far as time will reach.

Once while he was on a book tour promoting "Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life", I heard physicist Paul Davies discussing how it would have been possible for the universe to have developed with different laws of physics that would have made the development of life (of any kind whatsoever) physically impossible. From that starting point, he arrived at the conclusion that the existence of life and consciousness actually are responsible for the universe having the laws which were necessary for them to come into being.

Given that he was presenting this as science rather than philosophy, I got irritated and actually argued with him a bit. (oops) The reason I mention this is that if you can generate possibilities (like his premise) which contradict so much of the way that the world is, then it makes me wonder just where you have to leave off on calling something a possible world.

I think that I more or less get what people mean when they speak of possible worlds. I may be wrong. It seems to me that a possible world is a global STOA the description of which contains no logical contradictions.

Is there more to it than that?

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