Ancient Philosophy and Contemporary Problems

Friday, May 05, 2006

If someone's shoulder is just a shoulder one moment, then next a pillow, and the next a place for another person to stand on, then does the definition of the person's shoulder change? If its definition changes, does it change? I would say that the definition of the use of person's shoulder may change, or take on more information, but the shoulder won't itself change. We use words to describe our world, but that doesn't mean that when we percieve something differently that the actual object etc has physically or essentially changed.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If we were to say that a definition only applies to a specific time, does that mean that the trash can we had on monday is not the same as the one we have now? Most people would agree that it is in fact the same trash can, so it seems this is not the case in practice.

Also, for what quantum of time does the definition hold? If the properties given to a trash can only apply at the current moment, is the trash can the same for this second? This hour? This day? If time is continuous, we could divide infinitely and show that this definition can never be applied to a precise moment because there was always a smaller moment in which it could have been assigned to, so it in a way expired. If time is discrete, we would have to determine how long a definition is good for - and why would that be the case? It doesn't seem like a natural way to think about an object

what if we defined people individually, so that i might have a definition of Eric thats different than Rebecca's, or Chad's definition. This definition could come from how WE interpret the person as we interact with them over a period of time. This would suggest that the definitions are based on a personality, or feeling you got when you saw or talked to, or interacted in any way with the said person. So i might define Eric Bluestein in my head, so that no where in the world existed an Eric Bluestein as I, personally defined him.

This would also, suggest that our definitions change with time, because as you learn more about a person, your definition of them might change.

Ok so that still doesnt get us out of this rigid vs. fluid definition thing, but it is an interesting thought none the less

The Presence of Time

Response to Derek and Lisa.

I do agree that an object can hold a rigid definition. However, this definition takes place only once at certain time. For example on Monday we understand the Prof was discussion the trash can. Except that trash can on that day does not exist anymore. It only existed on that one day containing those particular molecules. Therefore, at one point in time the trash can does posses a rigid definition. Furthermore, there is no possible way to go back in time (to Monday) and claim that the trash can might posses some different definition than the one given on that day. This even includes if the trash can has exactly the same particles. This is due to the fact that the particles on Monday are not the same any time since or before because they existed in a different time.

Chad F

Maybe we are on the wrong track assuming that definitions should have anything to do with physical characteristics.

Can we not define things that do not have physical manifestations? We can define a thought, or a concept, I could give a definition of an "argument" which certainly has definite properties (reaches a conclusion, presents a point of view, should be valid...) but has no molecules or anything like that

At first glance this would be a very good way to go, however i just thought about the fact that cancer actually mutates genes. So by your logic, someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer is no longer the same person?? There are some forms of cancer that are written into DNA, however that is not always the case. I too, Rebecca, know very little about bio, yet(evil laugh), so if anybody else has any thoughts how we can define people, or if im completely wrong, POST!! woo this is funnnnn

So people must have very complex definitions. They could encompass many, many properties. Either that, or we could define each individual based on their DNA. Doesn't each creature originate as a fertilized egg, and then their DNA chains determine which characteristics they have? So the type of person that each of us is comes down to our DNA. And no matter how many changes they go through during their lifetime, they're still the same individuals because they all have specific genes and DNA and therefore particular characteristics.
Is this a good way to classify humans or other creatures? I really don't know much Bio.

To continue erics thought and bring my own question back up, how do we define ourselves?? If we had one, rigid definition, then we could never really have a clue of who we are, since we are constantly loosing and gaining molecules. last week i was Derek. This week im sick, which means that im Derek with some weird bacteria/virus thing in me, but im still Derek. You could say that the virus/bacteria was always in me but now its acting, but i would say that i eat different things every day and that also would change a rigid definition of me. To be formal and offically disagree with you, i think that the moment you an arbitrary term A, definition D, as soon as it changes, i.e. gets a bacteria, eats, etc., you need to immediately redefine it. I dont know about you, but i remember having that inifinite tasks in a finite time argument and im pretty sure u cant constantly give every object a new, rigid definition.

The problem with enforcing strictly ridgid definitions is that it would be difficult to explain why the trashcan remains the same trashcan as time progresses.

If I cut a chunk out of the can, everyone will agree its the same trashcan. But the definition has changed, it has different molecules (there are less) and it now can be described as having a hole, whereas it couldn't before.

I hold it to be rediculous to have fluid definitions. The entire point of defining a given term is to be able to talk about it unambiguously. The moment you allow for "fluid definitions" you also allow for ambiguity. A given definition must alway be rigid; otherwise, it's not really a definition.

To put it another way, such that we define some arbitrary term A using definition D. Then, in order to have at the very least any useful definition of A, D must be such that it is never unclear as to what it is that D refers. If it is the case that it is never unclear as to what D refers, then it must also never be unclear as to what it is that A refers. Therefore, it must also never be unclear as to what it is that A refers. But if that is the case, then D must be rigid. Therefore, D is rigid. Since that argument holds for any arbitrary term A and for its definition D, it must hold for all A and all D - that is, it holds for all terms and all definitions. defines the word "definition" like this: "The act or process of stating a precise meaning or significance; formulation of a meaning." I believe that this definition of "definition" makes it clear that what I say above is true; that is, definitions are precise formulations of the meaning of a given term, and do not allow for "fluidity" (i.e. ambiguity.)

Is it true that the trashcan's definition isn't fluid?

Since it is not living it doesn't seem as dynamic as a person, certainly. But, at a microscopic level I think the trashcan is changing constantly too. Over time, factors such as air, water, friction, etc will remove molecules from the trashcan and wear parts down. At the same time, sedements, dirt, chemicals, etc settle on the trashcan and become part of it.

So really, its composition is not constant either...

so when do we draw the line between an object like the trashcan, with a rigid definition, and an object like Person A, whos definition is fluid??

In the case of a person whose molecules are constantly changing, I would say that the person's original molecules aren't the only ones that can make up the same person. At any given time, the set of molecules that constitute that person change.

What if we have a person A made up of set of molecules M such that A is defined as A = the object made up of the set of molecules M. Person A scratches his skin and loses molecule x so that M = (M - x). He then grows new skin and adds molecule y, making the assignment M = (M + y)

Neither of these changes to M disrupts the definition A = M

I think in this way changing the memberships of set M doesn't really need to disrupt the definition of A as long as the majority of the members of set M stay the same over a short period of time.

Basically, when we add y to M, y becomes a member of M. So if we later removed other molecules from M but leave y, we could say y has earned membership in M and therefore can represent the same M even though it wasn't an original member of M

Regarding the trashcan, i think the threshhold you suggested depends on how strictly you define the properties of being a trashcan. If you define trashcan A as the molecules that make it up AND having the property of holding garbage, like we suggested yesterday, then the threshhold is immediate. As soon as you cut even the tiniest part off the trashcan, it no longer holds to the strict definition that we gave it earlier. It still has the property of being able to hold trash, but it no longer is made up of every molecule you defined it to have. Of course for all intensive purposes it is still the same trashcan, however if your going to be technical you must stick to the strict definition you assigned it in the first place. I think this goes along the lines of the argument saying that we are never the same person, ever. Since we are always changing, skin molecules constantly coming and going, we are never the same person - wait (i just thought of this now) - if this is true, how can you define yourself? how can we set that original definition if we are constantly changing?? wierd i never thought about that - anybody else wondering???

The entropy argument seems to suggest that if we waited some insanely long amount of time the atoms in the coke bottle would eventually end up back in there.

I'd argue that the universe is based on cause and effect- nothing happens unless something makes it happen. The atoms in the coke bottle leave it because preassure differences cause them to move. Unless some force gathered these atoms and forced them back into the bottle, there is no reason they would ever re-enter the bottle, regardless of how long we wait for it to happen.

Whether the probability of getting that same collection together again randomly is huge or small is insignificant, they simply will not be put together again unless some force causes it to happen

Still on the note of the trashcan, what is the threshold of properties an object must share with an object to be the same object?

For example, A = A because A has every property A has.

With our trashcan, if I cut a small hole out of the side, most people would agree it is still the same trashcan, it is still in fact a trashcan, though now it has a hole in it.

Now what if I cut a bigger hole? Or cut an entire side off of it? I think now most people would say it's a destroyed or mutilated trash can, but would still recognize it as a trash can.

But, when I shred it into tiny tiny pieces of plastic, you could no longer recognize it as a trash can at all.

So it seems that somewhere between these transformations there should be a threshold we will cross where on one side it is still the same trashcan, and on the other it is no longer a trash can.

How do we classify that?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hey guys - its me again - sry for flooding the bolg, but i have a quick question - im trying to provide an example of the difference between something that is "false" and something that is "not true". I have a good idea, but i dont feel like i grasp the concept good enough to go into depth in my paper. Any help would be appreciated.


If entropy was the answer to everything, how do we explain heat flow?
It is an accepted fact that heat flows from the object with a higher temperature to the object with lower temperature. It is also an accepted fact that objects with a lower temperature have a lower entropy. (entropy can be thought of as a measure of randomness - a gas is more random than a solid because the molecules have less order - gases are higher temperature than their solid counterparts)
Accepting all of this, heat flow would suggest that an object with a high temperature (and therefore higher entropy) would give up its heat (an indication to the ammount of entropy of the system) to an object with a lower temperature, and lower entropy. So if objects have a tendency to become more random, as you suggest, so should they have a tendency to spontaneously increase in temperature, which we know is not the can we explain this??

Entropy is the Answer:
A Response to Lisa

The way nature works kind of goes like this. Take a coke bottle and open it. Once opened all the trapped air, let’s call this set A, is released into the outside air. Let’s call this outside air set B. After a few moments most of the set A in now mixed into set B. Nature follows entropy which means it flows from high order to high disorder. This is crucial to understanding that you just might be Moses. Now if we watch the coke bottle for let’s say a billion years there is a finite chance that all of set A original in the coke bottle will exist there once again. But this chance may be so small that it would take longer than a billon years. It may take longer then the time universe has been into existence. So from this you can see there is a finite chance that every exact atom that made up Moses some 3400 years ago can exist in you. But this is a very small probability. But the most important part, it is possible. Furthermore, you may have every exact atom that made up Moses but arranged in a slightly different order that makes up Lisa.

Chad F

Eric - I agree with you that the trashcan is not merely what it is made up and its "being a trashcan" must fit into certain criteria that go above and beyond just the molecules that make it up. I think your argument at the end of your post also supports the original river example. The river, is, as we said, more than just the water that makes it up. It is also the basin of land that flows through and so on. So, if we sat and watched the river being diverted to make a dam, we would know that it WAS a river, however if the next day we were walking down the street and one of those little cartoon clouds came and drenched only us with water that had evaporated from the river that morning, we would have never known it was the river water. Since you moved the water from the original location, it lacks the properties of being a river. therefore, a river is more than just the water that makes it up, it is also the physical location and properties the water holds.

I would argue that the trashcan is more than just the plastic that makes it up because the trashcan must meet the definition criteria for trashcan. For example, it must be a container, it must hold refuse, it is inanimate, it does not move unless something puts it somewhere else, it may have a discoloration or oder...

If we took the same plastic and ground it up, it would contain the same molecules but it would certainly not be a trash can anymore - we'd be unable to put trash in it.

Granted, if you watched me grind it up, you would know it WAS a trashcan, but if you were presented with this pile of plastic and had never seen it before, you'd never know it was a trashcan.

Today in class, we continued our discussion about whether or not you have the same trashcan on two different days. One response to the argument presented in class was the no coincidence response. This says that the matter is different from the form in which it takes. In this case, in order for the trashcan and the plastic that makes up the trashcan to exist in the same place at the same moment, the plastic and trashcan must have different space-time coordinates. This means, that on a microscopic level, the plastic molecules are actually different and distinct from the trashcan molecules. There are members of one set that are plastic, and members of another that are trashcan. We could think of the molecules as making up some type of grid system, where both types are sort of intertwined with each other, making up the object we see.

If this were the case, then two objects would exist in the same place (percieved by us on a macroscopic level) and time. However, consider the following issue:

Let the set of molecules that are plastic be "Plastic." Let the set of molecules that make up the trashcan be "Trashcan."
Assume that both Plastic and Trashcan weigh one pound, respectively. Logically, when two distinctive objects are weighed together, the number on the scale is equal to the sum of their weights. In this case, it is expected that the weight of Plastic plus the weight of Trashcan is equal to two pounds. However, when Plastic and Trashcan (the plastic trashcan) is placed on a scale, the number actually reads one pound. This proves that the sum of the weights of Plastic and Trashcan is not actually two pounds. Therefore, it can be deduced from this example that it is possible for two objects, such as Plastic and Trashcan, to material coincide. This means that it is possible for two objects to exist in the same space-time coordinates, which initially is hard to accept. This shows that there can be object-matter coincidence.