Yesterday’s program with Matt and Tracie (me), featured a brief reading of a thread where people posted nutty beliefs they used to hold about paranormal abilities or experiences. Other items mentioned included the importance of supporting groups like “Black Nonbelievers” (blacknonbelievers.org), who face unique issues based on their demographics, which may not be addressed by mainstream atheist groups.
I do want to point out one big logic boo-boo I made during one of the calls. I believe I made a statement to the effect that a Solipsistic worldview would make “everything” immaterial (or possibly immaterial), not just “mind”–as the caller was aiming at. I was wrong to say this. A Solipsistic worldview would mean that nothing could be known about the nature of reality, except that mind exists. Although I recognized my error shortly after the show, someone else pointed out to me that the better statement would have been: that to the Solipsist, “mind is mind.”
The term “possible” gets conflated sometimes, and I conflated it. The term is used in one of two ways, generally. One is useful, the other (the one I used) not so much. The best example of people who abuse the term comes with people who argue for “infinite universes” necessitating things like “gods.” The argument goes that “gods are possible,” therefore in a situation where infinite possibilities will be expressed, in infinite universes, at least one of those universes would contain a god. I often reply to this by saying “how do you know gods are possible?” And the person generally really is suggesting that gods cannot be ruled out. But they fail to differentiate between (1) cannot be ruled out, because we know that is a realistic result that could occur, but might not, or (2) fail to be ruled out because we have insufficient information about whether it’s impossible. In the second case, it is “possible,” that the result could actually be impossible, but we just don’t know it yet.
1. I have two standard six-sided dice, and I ask if it’s possible I could roll a 12 with them.
2. I have an undetermined number of standard six-sided dice in an opaque bag, and ask YOU if it’s possible I could roll a 12 with them.
In the first example, the answer would be “yes.” We know that each die has a side “six,” and that they can both come up, which would result in a 12. It is something that *could possibly* happen, we are sure, because it has happened in the past and the factors are still present to make it a result that could occur again. Whether it will happen in the future or not, we don’t know. But we know it’s not “impossible” to roll a 12.
In the second example, however, I will now share a secret: I have only one die in my bag–but you don’t know it. So, when you answer to say “It’s possible you could roll a 12,” I know you’re absolutely, without doubt, wrong in that assessment. There is no way, even with infinite rolls, I will ever come up with a 12, with just the one die. The number of opportunities would not impact that result. And what you have assessed as possible, is actually impossible.
With solipsism then, acknowledging I have no way to know what is in the bag, an accurate response would have been that I don’t have anyway to assess what is possible in such a situation. Any statement of what is “possible” in that situation would include results that may actually be impossible–I have no way to know. And so the word “possible” becomes irrelevant and meaningless–meaning those results that are both possible and impossible. And when “possible” can be defined as that which is impossible, what information does “possible” give us, beyond “I don’t have any real clue about this?” If the statement, “it’s possible mind could be immaterial,” includes scenarios in which it also could be impossible, but I’m simply ignorant of that fact at the time I make the statement, what good is that declaration in informing is? It just means “I’m too ignorant to know if it’s possible or impossible.” But I feel the caller was interpreting such a statement as being more aligned with Example 1, where it is actually a realistic possibility. That, however, is a reach we could not logically make, if we adopted a solipsistic position. We could not make any meaningful declarations of what is possible or impossible for the nature of mind (regarding whether it is material or immaterial), only that, “mind is mind”–whatever it is.
And since, without going back and listening again, I’m pretty sure I got that wrong, I wanted to correct it here, publicly.