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Thursday, April 26, 2012


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>> And it is nomologically possible that I run a 4-minute mile, but not possible period. (I.e., the (BL-contingent) laws of anatomy and physiology do not bar me from running a 4-minute mile; it is peculiarities not referred to by these laws that bar me. Alas, alack, there is no law of nature that names BV.) <<

Could you expand on what you mean by nomological im/possibility (NMI/P) here, Bill? For surely

a) the laws of anatomy and physiology would have something to say about the rate, say, at which one's muscle cells would have to convert chemical energy into mechanical work on one's skeleton in order to run a 4-minute mile, and this, in conjunction with data on one's cells, would rule out such a feat.

b) if one were to perform such a feat the anatomists and physiologists would be eager to figure out how to modify their theories in the light of an apparent falsification.

>> it does not follow that there are several species or kinds of possibility. <<

I agree, but since NLI --> BLI --> NMI --> I, it seems that NLI etc are species of impossibility, so perhaps impossibility is the natural concept to work with here. We could say that p is X-impossible for some body of propositions X if p adjoined to X yields a contradiction, and is X-possible, if no such contradiction arises. The latter would not rule out Y-impossibility for some larger body of propositions Y containing X as a subset.

Very good comments, David.

That which is permitted by the laws of nature is nomologically possible. That which is ruled out by the laws of nature is nomologically impossible. That a human being run a 4-minute mile is not ruled out by the laws of nature. Now of course I can't run a 4-minute mile; but this impossibility does not derive from the laws of human anatomy and physiology in general but derives from certain suboptimal features of my body concerning such things as O2 uptake, a paucity of fast twitch fibers in my leg muscles, etc.

But if you are thinking not of laws of human anatomy/physiology in general, but of some proper subset of these laws that apply to some group such as females over 60, say, then perhaps it is nomologically impossible for a member of this group to run a 4-minute mile.

Your last point seems correct.

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