impossibility of impossible

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by underwhelmed, Jan 5, 2005.

  1. underwhelmed

    underwhelmed Member

    So I was looking at my english paper assignment and it said I had to relate this one quote to the book we were reading. Well I took a look at the quote and it said...
    "The impossible is rarely untried"
    And at first glance, that quote really made sense to me. Then when I decided to use the dictionary definition for the word 'impossible' it read:
    "Incapable of having existence or of occurring." and
    "Not capable of being accomplished"

    Wow, to my surprise the words own definition contradicts itself!! If "impossible" really were "impossible" than it would be absolutly "impossible" to define it. So by defining the word itself, makes it incapable of occuring.

    So now I can't finish my english homework because if I just BS'ed the whole paper using the word to describe things as "impossible" than it would bug the hell out of me knowing that its all not true in all reality.

    I know "impossibility" has alot to do with infinite and time and space...but my english teacher doesn't want to hear that.
    Unless I'm all wrong here, and ive missed a major point somewhere ???
  2. Kandahar

    Kandahar Banned

  3. tikoo

    tikoo Senior Member

    consider the inverse : the possible is often tried .

    well , that's tedious .
    so then you

    consider the universal : to try the impossible is to always try .

  4. NaykidApe

    NaykidApe Bomb the Ban

    Supposedly we live in a universe of infinite possibilitys.

    If that's true than impossibility is truly impossible except when you consider; if EVERYTHING is possible it must be possible for something to be IMpossible, in that this is just one more possibility..

    You could call your paper "The Paradox of Impossibility".
  5. fat_tony

    fat_tony Member

    some things are impossible, knowing both position and momentum to arbitary accuracy or knowing two values of angular momentum along orthogonal co-ordinates. Though I don;t know if thats what they're looking for in an English essay.
  6. ~Sam~

    ~Sam~ Cosmic Traveler

    Try replacing "impossible" with "improbable". Since this is a science & tech forum, "Probability" is a much better term than "Possible"... im- or otherwise.
  7. fat_tony

    fat_tony Member

    what i said is definately impossible i.e. has a probability of 0.
  8. ~Sam~

    ~Sam~ Cosmic Traveler

    Did you do the math on that, Man?


    Lacking clarity of definition until further experimentation makes probable the more precise formulation of operations - we can, however, be constantly on guard or at least take time out now and then to review and criticize. Otherwise, we run ourselves into further “nonsense” or illogical formulations where self-contradictory assertions are contained in, or are implied by, a single proposition. The illustration - 0 does-can and does-cannot X, as developed earlier - was an instance of this.

    Aside from questions of fact, the great difficulty in putting heredity and environment back together once these aspects had been analyzed out is due to the above typo of semantic difficulty. First, both series of facts tended to be handled in the same dimension. But secondly, once a list of traits had been made on the basis of what an individual could do presumably as the result of heredity, it was hard to explain how another list of traits from the environment was to be added to the individual. As these are mutually contradictory assertions, one was forced to either choose between them, taking one or the other and feeling very uncomfortable with either one alone, or worse yet, one was obliged to use that workhorse of utter confusion - interactionism. However, once we see that heredity and environment determine both the range of the possible and the degree of the probable, the dilemma is resolved and we are not put in the position of having to have our organisms “acquire” anything from either. Heredity sets certain limits or makes certain traits possible. Environment sets certain limits or makes certain traits possible. “All knowledge (with the exception of the kind they get at Duke University) is through the senses.” “There is nothing in mind that was not previously in sense . . . ” On the other hand, one must have organisms capable of sense, capable of the knowledge, capable of “taking” what they seem to take from the environment. The latter is determined by heredity. Heredity is not coercive upon development; it only creates the possibilities. The environment makes it possible, too. The possibilities or forms of behavior are a function of the extent to which both heredity and environment supply those possibilities. Heredity may give possibilities for traits A, B, C; environment may give possibilities for traits B, C, D. We only know about traits B and C here (to be conceived as a product of the relationship of heredity and environment, not as an entelechy in the teleological sense attributed to Aristotle) unless we find an environment with A possibilities or an organism with D possibilities.

    We used to be and still are amazed when we suddenly did or do discover new possibilities we hadn’t contemplated before. Now with the rapid progress in scientific fields and the evolution of our own culture, it would almost seem as if the reverse were true. Within the limits set by heredity and environment almost anything seems possible. And just because a thing is possible - e.g., Utopia, a million dollars, fame, peace - we are beginning to find that it is by no means necessarily probable. The question for us then changes to one of probabilities. It becomes that of determination of conditions which enhance or curtail the appearance of the results (behavior) in which the investigator is interested or which we desire. If we now return to our original conditioning situation, we find that 0 is capable – i.e., it is possible to him, of X-Y, S-R, X-R (or R’), and perhaps S-Y (or Y’). The environment is likewise capable of stimulating these, for we have already tested them, and of receiving the responses. The experimenter associates or places in contiguity two of these known possible stimuli (X and S) and if conditions are favorable (e.g., repetition, temporal position, attention, etc.) the 0 may give the response of R or R’ when stimulus X is given alone. Thus, the conditions of the organism and of the learning situation are seen to determine the probability of occurrence of the events while the question of possibilities remains that only.

    At this stage it might be interesting to point up another problem similar to that of acquisition and which likewise is both procedural and semantic in origin. As in the case of the “addition” of traits which is a function of the investigator and not of the investigated, we are confusing what we ourselves do with what we attribute to our experimental organisms. In the preceding paragraph it was said that “The experimenter associates” the stimuli X and S. For this is in fact what actually happens. If the organism can already connect X and S - that is, has the possibility or form of X and S, it is obvious that the experiment didn’t create it. The latter only sets the conditions whereby the organism’s connection of X and S become apparent to the investigator. (It may also become apparent to the organism should it happen to be self-conscious). Thus, any “associations” of stimuli which have been formed are those which the investigator has associated or placed together. Is not that what is meant by association formation? Basically, to associate is to indulge in a kind of activity which one performs by placing things, symbols, people, ideas, objects in contiguity or together. If the investigator does the associating, what then does the experimental animal do? So far as can be determined at present, the experimental conditions in the conditioning situation enable the individual to reorganize its experiences and/or responses so that a different experience occurs leading to the response or to a similar response. The reorganized experience is probably in the nature of a new (new in the sense of not previously experienced and not that of something new having been added) gestalt. Do we in our experience “associate” red with meat, or do we perceive something which our language enables us to call red meat; does the dog associate buzzer with shock or does he experience a buzzing shock?

    During the thirties, a stimulating controversy was going on in the literature between the “Hullians” and the “Krechevskyans” as to whether or not learning was a continuous process. Krechevsky claimed learning tended to occur by insightful shifts of systems, gestalts or hypotheses, Hull by continuous increments or reinforcement. Neither took sufficient account of the origin of what shifted or what was reinforced. Both groups seemed to be working from implicit assumptions that the learning process created the possibilities of the gestalt or system of “association” rather than just the probabilities of its appearance. Once recognition of the latter interpretation occurs, however, both of their approaches are revealed as just different aspects of the same process. What the size and complexity of the shifting gestalts happen to be will depend on the state of the particular forms or organizations involved. When and if they will shift will depend upon the degree of reinforcement of one particular system relative to the other systems. Thus, once we recognize that we are dealing with probabilities and not possibilities, we are in a position to go ahead and put some system and order into the chaos that is current psychology
  9. Zanman

    Zanman Member

    Well to paraphrase Bill Clinton ... "It depends on what your definition of 'it" is"

    It is a similar language problem with "nothing". I mean, "nothing" must be something and if it is something it can't be nothing.
    Inherently the arguments are tautological and therefore fallacies, but fun nevertheless. ...

    Reminds me of one of the Star Trek movies where Kirk and Mr. Spock board a bus in San Francisco and Spock nearly collapses when the driver asks him for "exact change". LOL
  10. ~Sam~

    ~Sam~ Cosmic Traveler

    Impossible, is the limit of possibilities of occurance.

    Improbable, includes a range from < 50% probabilitiy down to and including impossible.

    Thinking about things like this is the way a scientist thinks about things.

    Thinking about it from its usage in the English language... 'Improbable' and 'Impossible' are not the same thing.


    PS: Please forgive the timely fore-talk display of bull shit. I had to fill in the gap before I could consult with my friends to form the reply that lingers above you.
  11. MikeE

    MikeE Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    Words are not automaicialy self-referential. "Imposible" and "nothing" are quite good words.

    If you like these kinds of word games, try reading "Godel, Escher, Bach" it is an excelent exploration of the logic and art of self reference.

    "This sentence is six words long."
  12. underwhelmed

    underwhelmed Member

    Do YOU have a definition for "it"...I'm still devolping mine!...dont know if it will ever be done though.

    Thanks for the book reference Mike!...I'll check it out!!!

    Tikoo, that actually helped me alot thinking of the two poles. But still leaves one big unknown. And if you are always trying the impossible, do you ever achieve?
  13. tikoo

    tikoo Senior Member

  14. tikoo

    tikoo Senior Member

    trying the impossible , you sure do get something ... of serendipity . forgetting the frustration , the adventurer finds what was always hoped for but ne'r could ask for .
  15. underwhelmed

    underwhelmed Member

    thats wonderful!!!! you get so much from the impossible :)
  16. MikeE

    MikeE Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    "The difficult we do immediatly. The impossible takes a little longer."
  17. Spinor

    Spinor Member

    A nice book...yes.

    But all is is only a question as to the weighting of the specific linear combination of dimensions used in any given subspace.

    Since all subspaces can be appropriately collapsed in polarized isoptropic vectors which are 'perpindicular to themselves', self-reference is the 'end'....and the beginning.
  18. azimuth

    azimuth Member

    You seem to be confusing a word with the thing the word "points" to. "Impossible" is just a word we use to indicate a property; the property of not being possible. The things that are impossible cannot be, but we can still imagine them, and think about them. No contradiction at all. What you missed is that a word for something is not the something itself (normally).

    A map is usually not the place that is mapped.

    - azimuth
  19. azimuth

    azimuth Member

    "Nothing" (the word) exists; it is a word. The thing it points to is a concept, a mental construct; that exists too.

    - azimuth.
  20. azimuth

    azimuth Member

    "It" is a pronoun, a word subsitituted as a short-hand for nouns or noun phrases. "It" denotes a single object or collection of objects with no specific gender or no known gender implied.

    - azimuth

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