Does plurality exist?

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PIT2 said:
I cannot prove if those statements are right of wrong.

But what is your point?
What I am trying to say is that the best place to start searching for plurality is to ask yourself the following questions and leave your brain to do the rest:

1) Is my leg different from my face .... and do they do the same thing?

2) Am I posting this question to respond to it myself (asking and answering my own question)?

3) In logical space or in the external world, are there things that cannot occupy the same space location?

4) When I am walking, can I make the third step without having made the first and second steps?

5) Am I part of the human race (6 billion people that you mentioned) or am I a solipsist? Or even an indivisible 'it'?


And endlessly more. If you can honestly answer at least one of these questions, then you may have cracked it. Hooorrraaay!
 
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Philocrat, those questions demonstrate that different parts of the universe act in different ways. Establishing fundamental separation between parts of the universe is a different matter entirely.

To answer your questions:

1) Is my leg different from my face .... and do they do the same thing?
Precisely where does your leg and face end? Does your leg end at the hip or at the waist? Exactly where at the hip or the waist? At the bone socket? Zoom in. Which atoms to include? Which quarks? Which superstrings? Which parts of superstrings? Your face and leg are parts of a continuum.

2) Am I posting this question to respond to it myself (asking and answering my own question)?
Exactly where is the boundary between you and non-you?

3) In logical space or in the external world, are there things that cannot occupy the same space location?
Most likely there are. But I can conceive of an idealized, single sheet of paper with no constituent parts which you can't fold so that it passes through itself. Only one object exists, yet the exclusion property also exists, so the property of exclusion is not sufficient to establish the existence of multiple objects.

4) When I am walking, can I make the third step without having made the first and second steps?
At exactly what time does each step begin and end? If you can't find a beginning or an ending, then why call them separate entities?

5) Am I part of the human race (6 billion people that you mentioned) or am I a solipsist? Or even an indivisible 'it'?
Imagine God morphing a rabbit slowly and smoothly into a human. Go one atom at a time. In which of those vast trillions of steps does the rabbit stop being a rabbit and start being a human? If you cannot name the point, perhaps you are not a human being at all; perhaps you are a rabbit.
 

Alkatran

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selfAdjoint said:
I am pretty sure a sandpile exists as a thing, not just as a collection of grains. Tha angle of slope of the pile is an emergent quality, that cannot be attributed to any particular combination of grains, but only to the whole. Even one grain extra can cause it to slump.
A collection is a thing! A sandpile is a thing: it is a collection of sand.
 
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Zantra said:
Ok maybe I'm a little slow, so forgive me, but essentially what we're talking about is how we view something. Do we view it as a whole, or as an infinitessimal series of objects that make up the whole?

It's like one of those visual acuity questions where you have to pick the jigsaw puzzle piece out of a huge puzzle that is broken down. Your brain wants to see it as a whole, but you have to break it down into the individual pieces in order to pick out the one you want.

I think they are both right. Organizationally life is a whole, and life is quarks and leptons. So are we trying to make the scientific distinction? I think it's a persective situation. you can view the earth as a whole, or you can view a grain of sand. The grain of sand is part of the long series of things that make the earth.

I Know I'm missing the point, clarify someone...??
I don't think you missed the point at all. This is an old philosophical problem that turns out to be nothing but a semantic puzzle...happens all the time :smile:.
 
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Alkatran said:
A collection is a thing! A sandpile is a thing: it is a collection of sand.
But is a "collection" a "thing" or "many things"...that's part of the point of the original question.
 
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Mentat said:
But is a "collection" a "thing" or "many things"...that's part of the point of the original question.
The simple answer is that it is both simultaneously. Think of it this way. A woman can be a wife, mother,daughter, friend, etc all at the same time. It just depends on how you look at it. The same applies.
 
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Zantra said:
The simple answer is that it is both simultaneously. Think of it this way. A woman can be a wife, mother,daughter, friend, etc all at the same time. It just depends on how you look at it. The same applies.
I agree with you entirely, I was merely countering a dogmatic statement (advocatus diaboli, remember?).
 
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Mentat said:
Why? If we get a good explanation of what it means for something to "come into existence" and then explain how it's accomplished...well, we could (in principle) apply that explanation across the board to an infinite number of objects...right?
I'm not so sure. If they are all the same thing then maybe you could argue that. But suppose, for instance, that mind and matter are two different substances. In this case each can come into existence independently, and in fact must come into existence independently. We would then need two theories of creation rather than one. If there is a third thing then we would need three theories. It seems to me that we would also need three 'first causes'. At this time even one makes no sense, that there were three would be astonishing.

I think I'm with Bartholomew on this one. Plurality is the appearance of plurality, the 'ten thousand things' that arise from what is fundamental, or perhaps, that are the appearance of what is fundamental as seen from one perspective.
 
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Just to through this in here...

Are any of you familiar with Putnam's analogy about the square peg into a circular hole...is it a property of any of it's constituents that doesn't allow them to go into the hole? Clearly not. But, as a whole, it is an obvious problem.

Just thought I'd mention that.
 
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Canute said:
I'm not so sure. If they are all the same thing then maybe you could argue that. But suppose, for instance, that mind and matter are two different substances. In this case each can come into existence independently, and in fact must come into existence independently.
Why? Is there a logical necessity, or is it just improbable?

At this time even one makes no sense, that there were three would be astonishing.
I wouldn't say that one "makes no sense" (sorry, Wuliheron), it's just hard to conceive when you don't consider it an a prori necessity that something exist. Indeed, if nothing existed, then there would be no time or space, so there would be "something" in no time :wink:.
 
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Mentat said:
Why? Is there a logical necessity, or is it just improbable?
I suppose it's just improbable (from our pov anyway). If x is a fundamental substance or entity then it's hard to explain (in scientific terms) why it should exist, rather than nothing at all. But that problem is magnified many times if y is also fundamental. By definition (both x and y are fundamental) they would have to come into existence independently, by pure coincidence with no connection between them. It seems less improbable to say that there is one 'thing' that is fundamental, and all else arises from that.

The trouble is that logically a thing that is one thing cannot have parts, and a thing with no parts cannot have physical extension (it must all be in the same 'place' cf Leibnitz)). This is one of the problems of monism as a doctrine. If it weren't for this problem (and other related problems) then monism would be an accepted philosophical doctrine. As it is many philosophers raise objections to it. Another problem is the one we're discussing, namely how can something that is one thing also be many things, a problem for Parmeneides and philosophers ever since.

I wouldn't say that one "makes no sense" (sorry, Wuliheron), it's just hard to conceive when you don't consider it an a prori necessity that something exist. Indeed, if nothing existed, then there would be no time or space, so there would be "something" in no time :wink:.
What I meant was that as yet philosophers and scientists have not made sense of it. Whether it really doesn't make sense or it's just that we are not thinking straight is still a matter of philosophical debate. Physicist Paul Davies speculates that we're not thinking straight (or we're thinking too straight) and Colin McGinn suggests that we are not capable of working it out. On the other hand Alan Guth speculates that science may be able to develop a coherent theory of ex nihilo creation. For myself ex nihilo creation is a daft idea, betraying desperation, but it seems difficult to show that it's impossible. Mathematician Robert Kaplan suggests that this fundamental 'something' is so singular that we cannot think about it, but he takes a rather 'Eastern' view of things.

I don't know if it's what you were referring to but yes, Taoists and the like say that plurality arises from 'something' which contains or gives rise to spacetime, the inverted commas signifying that it is not a 'thing' in the usual sense of the word, since it is both one and many at the same time.
 
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a+b+c+d+e+f does not equal a+b+c

problem solved
 
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the_truth said:
a+b+c+d+e+f does not equal a+b+c

problem solved
But if a, b, c, d, e, and f are all of the same substance (different ways of referring to the same thing), then plurality -- in the typical sense of the term -- wouldn't really apply to this case, would it?
 

selfAdjoint

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Mentat said:
But if a, b, c, d, e, and f are all of the same substance (different ways of referring to the same thing), then plurality -- in the typical sense of the term -- wouldn't really apply to this case, would it?
Sure it does. Do you think all the grains of sand are the same one? They are the same KIND of thing - sand grains - but each one is unique.
 
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4 perfect spheres of platinum sitting side by side on a table. Exactly the same mass. 2 are taken and melted together and the finished product which is exactly double the mass of one of the untouched spheres is placed on the table with the 2 spheres. A person walks into the room, takes the 2 untouched spheres and states 'I am holding the same object which is on the table.'. Is he right?
 
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selfAdjoint said:
Sure it does. Do you think all the grains of sand are the same one? They are the same KIND of thing - sand grains - but each one is unique.
I was trying to keep the anti-plurality argument alive...I seem to be alone in this now...but I'll keep kickin' this dead horse 'till it neighs!

How do we define "unique"? What makes a single grain of sand different from others? If we consider consciousness as a continuity of awareness, then would the experience of seeing one grain be of the same continuous experience as that of seeing any other grain? Could they be considered the same in that sense?
 
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the_truth said:
4 perfect spheres of platinum sitting side by side on a table. Exactly the same mass. 2 are taken and melted together and the finished product which is exactly double the mass of one of the untouched spheres is placed on the table with the 2 spheres. A person walks into the room, takes the 2 untouched spheres and states 'I am holding the same object which is on the table.'. Is he right?
Is he right to say that he's holding the object that "is on the table"? Or do you mean to ask if he's holding the same object as those that used to be on the table?
 
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You know what? I'm gonna quit now. I was going to play Advocatus Diaboli for a while longer, but this is even more pointless than usual. Plurality is an obvious necessity, even if just for reference purposes (what other purposes there could be, I don't know).
 
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selfAdjoint said:
Sure it does. Do you think all the grains of sand are the same one? They are the same KIND of thing - sand grains - but each one is unique.
You could view them as a whole, which contains all the properties of the smaller 'parts'.

The whole sandpile would be even more unique than one unique sandgrain.
 
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It is not right to say that one area of the universe cannot be differentiated from another area of the universe. But because it is impossible to pin down any boundaries on any real object, the idea of counting objects "1, 2, 3..." is only a convenience, with no greater significance than that it helps us think.
 
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ok I'll be a total geek and use the star trek reference (no I'm not a trekkie, but it's pop culture). So anyhow, the Borg are incapable of individuality- I think this in a sense is what mentat is getting at. If we thought like the Borg, there would be no singularity. I think this goes to the core of humanity- uniqueness is what seperates us, and thus requires definition.

If we were like the Borg, and we were all alike with the same thoughts, wishes, bodies, etc then we could say that plurality was unecessary, but as human individuals who are each unique, plurality doesn't fit into context. This naturally extends to the world around us. Our need for infinitessimal definition leads us to break things down. This can be applied universally. you can't just sum up the universe as a bunch of galaxies, because those galaxies have solar systems, which have planets, and so on and so forth.

This leads into unified theory and knowing everything from the smallest particles to the all encompassing universal existence in all it's forms (planes, etc). But I digress..

Plurality necessitates individuality, which is a core part of humanity, and thus for us plurality must exist or we lose ourselves to conformity in a sense.
 
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Plurality is a method of understanding occurances.

"2 armies marching towards each other" is easier to understand than "Bill Colins of hubberswick armed with a spear walking next to Darren harbsworth armed with a sword walking next to ....... Jaques Larien armed with a potatoe peeler"

If we were omnipotent we would probably list all the details.

2 objects are not the same if they do not occupy the same space

2 identical objects with identical properties do not share the same property of being in the same sarea of space at the same time, otherwise I would not use the plural term objects


Are there still any pluralists out there?
 
Plurality is an obvious necessity, even if just for reference purposes (what other purposes there could be, I don't know).
Plurality necessitates individuality, which is a core part of humanity, and thus for us plurality must exist or we lose ourselves to conformity in a sense
I just want to say that I agree with both of these statements. But just because humans find it necessary that plurality exists, and although we find comfort in the fact that it seems to exist, this does not mean that plurality does exist.

Our need to be individuals (or to be existing as distinct 'things') may cloud our reasoning abilities. It reminds of the free will argument, in which I think many are persuaded to believe that there is free will largely because it would be depressing if there wasn't. If there aren't seperate parts, then essentially we do not exist (I can admit that is a little depressing). But even if this were the case, I personally do not find it troubling that our reality may be less than we once thought, even if just some illusion.

I still think that I think, even though Parmenides tells me that there is no such thing as thinking in a differentiated sense. Whatever it is we are experiencing at least feels real, and that is worth something.

I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the question "If you take one atom away from a human, is that human still a human? What about two? What about taken away enough atoms that the human is now only barely visible? At what point did the switch from human to nonhuman occur?" It seems more plausible that it just seems like there is a plurality of atoms that consititute things, when in reality there is just one thing. I find Parmenides theory to be inescapable, I don't see how it could ever be disproven.
 
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All pluralities can be reduced to a series of dualities.
 
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Good point. It's one that's been made by many people over the millenia, that dualism is a conceptual error. On the individuality and plurality of human beings the Upanishads assert it is an illusion. Usually this view is associated with Buddhism, Taoism etc, but Erwin Schroedinger argued the same.
 

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