Re: Determinism

From: Norman Samish <>
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 09:45:58 -0800

Doug Porpora,
    You have some interesting ideas. For example, "a probability so close
to zero it takes infinite chances for the event to be expected even once."
My understanding of the properties of infinity is that this cannot be true -
in an infinite set, anything that can occur, even at the smallest
probability, must occur an infinite number of times. Am I mistaken?
    Also, I'm unable to find a meaningful (to me) argument against
reductionism. Why is it in trouble? It seems to me that even a complex
human being can be defined in concept by discrete quantum states and
particles, atoms and electrical charges. "Thoughts" are therefore NOT
infinite because they can be conceptually defined in terms of particles and
quantum states, and there are not an infinite number of these permutations.
    I agree that the existence of another universe identical to ours is
extremely improbable, but in infinite spacetime Tegmark's hypothesis must be
valid and infinite copies of our universe must exist - as well as all

----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug Porpora" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 4:58 AM
Subject: Determinism

> Thanks Hal (also Norman and others who answered),
> I will just comment on one passage you wrote as it may be of general
> At 5:12 PM -0800 1/11/04, Hal Finney wrote:
> >That would require that it is infinitely improbable that you could exist.
> >But I don't think that is the case, because there are only a finite
> >number of possible arrangements of matter of the size of a human being.
> >(Equivalently, humans embody only a finite amount of information.)
> >So it would seem that the probability of a human appearing in some
> >universe must be finite and greater than zero, hence there would be an
> >infinite number of instances across an infinity of universes.
> First, no what I suggested was not infinite improbability but a
> probability so close to zero it takes infinite chances for the event
> to be expected even once.
> What I think may be of general interest is that the discussion in the
> physical sciences has assumed reductionism -- that human persons are
> reducible to their physical bodies. However, Dennett
> notwithstanding, reductionism has not only not been vindicated, it
> remains in trouble.
> There is an important implication for this issue if mental states
> (i.e., thoughts, beliefs, emotions) cannot be reduced to physical
> states. The reason is that ideas (thoughts) are not only infinite
> but unlike universes, which are presumably discrete), ideas are
> uncountably infinite. Consider, for example, how you would count
> ideas. Unlike the real numbers, ideas cannot even be ordered into
> intervals.
> As a result, ideas may well represent a vastly greater infinity than
> universes. If so, even with infinite universes, you or I may never
> show up again.
> Anyway, this is what I have been thinking. And, re free will,
> Dennett's compatibilism ultimately remains, I think, a sleight of
> hand. But if reductionism fails, then so does determinism (but that
> is a larger, social scientific argument).
> Thanks again.
> doug
> --
> doug porpora
> dept of culture and communication
> drexel university
> phila pa 19104
Received on Thu Jan 15 2004 - 12:53:04 PST

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