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Posts Tagged ‘Necessary Condition’

Fatalism Arguments

Posted by allzermalmer on November 7, 2011

This is a blog based on an article by Steven Cahn. It is based on an article called Fatalistic Arguments. It appeared in the philosophy journal The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 61, No. 10 (May 7, 1964), pp. 295-305. It also follows from the blog Fatalism.

The article by Cahn, basically, follows what Richard Taylor presented in his article on Fatalism (which I gave you a link to that I did a blog of).

Crucial Assumpitions: One assumpition is that any proposition is either true or false, and this is the Law of Excluded Middle. Another assumpition is that an agent can’t perform an action in the absence of some conditions necessary for the action. Another assumpition is that a necessary condition is an event or state of affairs which is logically unrelated to X but which is nevertheless such that X cannot occur without it. We say that oxygen is a necessary condition for humans to live, which is that no human can live without oxgyen. But this isn’t to say that it’s logically impossible for a human to live without oxygen.

“given that it is true that a certain event E has occurred, then it is not now within the power of any agent to perform any action A which would, if performed, be sufficient for the nonoccurrence of E-for a necessary condition for the performance of A is the prior nonoccurrence of E.”

One way to sum this up is “The past is unalterable”. This seems pretty straightforeward, and something not really argued against, or something people believe. I can’t alter who my parents were, or when I was born. That’s beyond anything I can control or change.

“given that it is true that a certain event E will occur, then, [Taylor] says in effect, it is not now within the power of any agent to perform any action A which would, if performed, be sufficient for the nonoccurrence of E-for a necessary condition for the performance of A is the subsequent nonoccurrence of E.”

One way to sum this up is “The future is unalterable”. Now this doesn’t seem straightforeward to the way that we typically like to view things. But one analogy should help. We tend to think that the future is alterable, but we don’t tend to think that movies are alterable. When we go to see a movie, we pretty much expect the movie to have an unalterable ending. But from the point of view of the “characters in the movie”, the future isn’t set and is alterable.

The type of reasoning used is helped is based on necessary conditions and sufficent conditions. For any two events or states of affiars X and Y, if X is a necessary condition for Y, then Y is a sufficent condition for X, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter which one occurs first in time, X or Y.

“Being able” and “Knowing how”: But we might have trouble with the way that Taylor uses the term ‘can’. We might disagree that no agent can perform actions in the absence of some conditions necessary for the accomplishment, only certain harmless logical impossiblility. And this has nothing to do with what any agent is able to do.

Here’s what John Turk Saunders had to say on this, in regards to what Taylor brought up:

“My knocking upon a thin wooden door with my fist is a sufficient condition for the door’s shaking. Hence the door’s shaking is a necessary condition for my knocking upon the door. But the door ‘s shaking is not a necessary condition for my ability to knock upon the door.”

But this type of critique misses the point. Taylor did not argue against an agent can know how to perform some act when there’s missing the condition necessary for it’s accomplishment. And thus, in that sense, the person doesn’t have the ability to perform it.

The point, rather, was that no matter what an agent might know how to do, they still cannot even do what they know how to do (being able to do it) if they’re lacking some condition necessary for doing it.

Here is what Taylor is tyring to get at, with an example:

“[I]magine an expert pole-vaulter locked in a room with an eight-foot ceiling. Both Taylor and Saunders might agree that an expert pole-vaulter has the know-how or technical expertise to pole-vault twelve feet. In this sense of the word “can” the pole-vaulter can pole-vault twelve feet. What Taylor is asserting is that, given the conditions of the locked room, the pole-vaulter does not have it within his power to pole-vault twelve feet. His know-how is constrained by circumstances that prevent him from exercising it.”

Now Brue Aune made a criticism of the “absurd consequences” of what Taylor said. One of them is that no agent can perform any given action if lacking some condition necessary for it. Here is one of the “absurd consequences”, which Aune thinks to seem that follows.

“If a man should say that he can swim, or that he has the ability to swim, he would surely take it as a poor joke if someone replied, ‘No, you cannot swim: you lack the ability to do this because you are not now in a pool or lake.'”

Now imagine that we reply to this situation, and change it just slightly. Imagine that a man comes up to you and says that he can swim, or that he has the ability to swim. Another person says to them “well then, you can swim under any conditions. Let’s see you swim out of water.” Now this would surely be a joke or an “absurd consequence”. The first one, given by Aune, would be a joke. The second one, given by Cahn, would be a joke. But the first joke asserts an obvious truth, which is that one needs water in order to swim. And this is exactly the type of truth that Taylor uses.

But the second joke is really a joke. The second assumes that when someone says that they can swim, they mean that he can swim at a specific time even if the necessary conditions for swimming are missing. This means, no person takes the meaning of “I can swim”, to mean that they can swim when they lack the necessary condition of water.Thus, we find that the way that Taylor uses “can” fits in perfectly with the way that we use.

The Simple Rejection of Fatalism: Some people, like John Turk Saunders, have pointed out that Taylor’s argument leads to fatalism. It is dismissed as “weird” that the ability to knock upon the door will suffice to make it shake. And this is part of the fatalist position. You cannot perform a given act if there is lacking a condition necessary for doing it, no matter what you might know how to do. This does imply that if I can knock on the door then I shall.

One person, Peter Makepeace, allows Taylor’s argument, like “I cannot make something happen in the future if it is not going to happen.” And the logical equivalent of that statement is “If it is true that a certain event E is not going to happen, then I cannot make it happen.” But if he allows that, then he supports Taylors argument. That’s what Taylor’s argument leads to, and he agrees with that!

Here is what Makepeace takes disagreement over, with an example of what Makepeace doesn’t like.

“If conditions are such that a snowfall yesterday is a necessary condition for the lawn ‘s being snow-covered this morning, then, given that no snowfall occurred, we can conclude not only that the lawn is not snow-covered, but that it cannot be.”

So we shouldn’t speak of the lawn’s state of being snow covered being “within its power”. So we think it’s absurd to add that it’s “consistent with its being able to carry snow, having the ability not to melt it, and so on, and thus being able, in that sense.”

But this isn’t really absurd, but it is an odd choice of words for one to use. We don’t usually, or like to, think of inanimate objects having something “within its power”. But this isn’t a major issue, because we can change examples from animate to inanimate objects. We can change the expression of “within its power” to “within its capability”. Now this just shows that Makepeace repating an error that Saunder’s made, which is disputing what Taylor didn’t claim.

Taylor hasn’t claimed that “the lawn does not possess the capability to hold snow (i.e., to carry snow, not to melt it, and so on), any more than he claims that the pole-vaulter does not have the know-how to pole-vault twelve feet in a room with an eight-foot high ceiling.”

All Taylor is claiming is that given the absence of a necessary condition, the lawn doesn’t have it within its capability to be snow-covered, just like the pole-vaulter doesn’t have it within their power to pole-vault 12 feet in the 8 foot room.

Fatalism and Linguistic Reform: Some have taken problem with Taylor’s use of “within ones power’s”, and still using it in its coneventional contexts. And this is said to lead to the fatalistic conclusion, because doesn’t keep a distinction.  And this means that it’s claimed that Taylor treats “the only events which it is within one’s power to produce are those which occur.”  as an analytic.

But Taylor isn’t using the statement as analytitic. It’s not true by definitions, but it does follow from his argument that the only action one is able to perform are those which he does perform. And this is the conclusion of fatalism.

Is this linguistic reform, that Taylor is trying to do? Perhaps not, and maybe an example could help to figure out what Taylor is saying.

“Consider a violinist, for instance, who has forgotten to bring his violin to his recital and is unable to obtain another before the time of the recital.”

Taylor is not asserting that the violonist could not play the violin, even if, they had a violin in their hands. This is false. What is being asserted is that if at the time of the recital the violinist doesn’t have a violin in their hands, then they can’t play at the time of the present recital. They’d have to be playing imaginary violins, because that’s the only thing that they had. In that actual situation, there was no violin, and so they can’t play a violin when they don’t have what they need to play. We can imagine that one could have gotten one into their hands, and then when they had it they could play it. But the fact is that they don’t have one. No matter of imagination changes that. And Taylor takes “cannot” to mean that people can’t play imaginary violins, and we consider this to be obviously true.

But Taylor admits that there is another way that the word “can” is used, but one way that he doesn’t use it. The way that his notion of “can” is use, is used to mean the notion of “know-how”. Now this is what we mean when we say that the violinist “can” play the violin. They have the know-how, so if one were given to them then they could play it. But Taylor doesn’t use it this way.

And we don’t think that because someone in the past had the “can” or “know-how”, to do something when they lacked it in the past, means that they did it when they lack that necessary condition. But now it’s trying to be applied to the future. But Taylor is using “can” in the way we use it for the past.

Fatalism and Causation: One might try to attack Taylor on causality. For Taylor’s argument isn’t logically related, but then it must be causally related. But Taylor expresses the argument in terms of necessary conditions and sufficent conditions, which involve no temporal relations. And yet causality seems to imply a temporal relation.

“If, for instance, the presence of oxygen is a necessary condition of a certain man’s being alive over a given period of time, then that man’s continuing to live over that period is a sufficient condition for there being oxygen present. But neither of these is logically necessary or sufficient for the other, nor is either the cause of the other. The presence of oxygen may be a causal condition of that man’s continuing to live, but certainly his living is no causal condition for the presence of oxygen-even though it is a sufficient condition for the presence of oxygen.”

One person points out that Taylor doesn’t include logical necessary and susfficent conditions in his arguments. And logical necessity implies physical necessity, and this could be damaging to the argument.

But Taylor only dealt with “physically” necessary or sufficent conditions. But Taylor doesn’t deny that logical necessity implies “physical” necessity, because he doesn’t a stand on this, and isn’t relevant to his argument.

The Nonefficacy of time: Some might claim that Taylor’s assumpition that time isn’t efficacious is ambigious, because time is logically efficaious. But this misunderstands Taylor’s notion of efficacy of time.

“Taylor explains this by noting that the mere passage of time does not augment or diminish the powers or capacities of anything. Abelson, however, seems to equate the sentence “Time is logically efficacious” with the sentence “Time often has a lot to do with the truth of what we say. ” But these two sentences are entirely different. For instance, the sentence “It is now raining” may be true today and false tomorrow. Quite obviously, time has a lot to do with the truth of the sentence. But it is not time which augmented the power of the clouds to produce rain. Certain meteorological conditions did that. Time in this sense is not efficacious.”

Now another person notices that time canot pass without something chaning, and this is taken to be true.  But this has nothing to do with Taylor’s argument. Taylor pointed out that the passage of time “has no causal effect upon anything”. Something must change during a period of time, but time isn’t the cause of the change. A lake is dired up, but not by time. It is by certain meterological conditions or by people emptying the lake. This all happens in time, but time itself is no cause of it.

Taylor thought we could avoid Fatalism by alterting the Law of Excluded Middle. This way, we say that the certain statements about the future might be neither true or false. But Cahn presents Taylor’s argument, but with only slight modification and unaffected by any modification of the Law of Excluded Middle. This argument takes all of Taylor’s originaly presuppositions, all six of them, and will work with his second instance of the naval commander.

1. At time^1 Naval Commander issues order that “will ensure a naval battle the following day”, or if he does not issue order that “will ensure a naval battle the following day”, then he issues order which “will ensure that no naval battle occurs the following day”.

2. His issuing order which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1 is a sufficent condition for a naval battle occuring at time^2 (assuming time^2 to be exactly one day after time^1).

3. Therefore, a necessary condition for his issuing order which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1 is the occurrence of a naval battle at time^2.

4. Naval Commander issuing order which “will ensure that no naval battle occurs the following day” at time^1 is a sufficent condition for no naval battle occuring at time^2.

5. Therefore, a necessary condition for his issuing order which “will ensure that no naval battle occurs the following day” at time^1 is no naval battle occuring at time^2.

6. But at time^2 it is true or, if not true, then false, that a naval battle occurs at time^2.

7. If it is true at time^2 that a naval battle will occurs at time^2, then a necesssary condition is lacking for his having issued order which “will ensure that no naval battle occurs the following day” at time^1.

8. If it is false at time^2 that a naval battle occurs at time^2, then a necessary condition is lacking for his having issued order which “will ensure  a naval battle the following day” at time^1.

9. But in either case, a necessary condition is lacking for his having issued one or the other of the two orders.

10. Therefore, one of the orders was such that he could not issue it, and he was forced to issue the order.

Now this argument can be denied, and avoid fatalsim. But we’d do this by saying the argument doesn’t prove that a necessary condition for one of the two orders was lacking at time^1, but that the conditions were only lacking at time^2. Thus, the naval commander didn’t have it within their power to issue ither command. This means that the law of excluded middle was denied to certain statements in the future. But this seems to bring about some problems. Here’s an argument that tries to show that problem.

1. In order to issue order which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1, all conditions necessary for the occurrence of order which  “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1 must be satisfied at time^1.

2. In order to issue order which “will insure no naval battle the following day” at time^1,  all conditions necessary for the occurrence of  which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1 must be satisfied at time^1.

3. If order which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” is issued at time^1, then that is a sufficient condition for a naval battle occurring at time^2.

4. Therefore, a necessary condition for the issuance of order which “will ensure a naval battle the following day” at time^1 is the occurrence of a naval battle at time^2.

5. If order which “will ensure no naval battle the following day”  is issued at time^1, then that is a sufficient condition for no naval battle occurring at time^2.

6. Therefore, a necessary condition for the issuance of order which “will ensure no naval battle the following day”at time^1 is no occurrence of a naval battle at time^2

7. But at time^1 it is neither true nor false, according to those who wish to deny the law of excluded middle, that a naval battle occurs at time^2.

8. In order to issue order which “will ensure a naval battle will occur tomorrow”  at time^1 all conditions necessary for the issuance of that order must then be satisfied, and one of those conditions is that a naval battle occurs at time^2. But this condition is not satisfied at time^1. Therefore order which “will ensure a naval battle will occur tomorrow”  cannot be issued at time^1.

9. In order to issue order which “will ensure no naval battle will occur tomorrow” at time^1, all conditions necessary for the issuance of that order must then be satisfied, and one of those conditions is that no naval battle occurs at time^2. But this condition is not satisfied at time^1. Therefore order which “will ensure no naval battle will occur tomorrow” cannot be issued at time^1.

10. Thus, neither order which “will ensure a naval battle will occur tomorrow” nor order which “will ensure no naval battle will occur tomorrow” can be issued at time^1.

What this argument shows is that we can avoid the conclusion of Taylor’s argument by rejecting the Law of Excluded Middle with regards to certain statements about the future. But if we do this, then we’re led to dney that any action can occur. But this conclusion is even stranger than Taylor’s argument that leads to Fatalism.

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Fatalism

Posted by allzermalmer on November 6, 2011

This blog is based on a paper done by the philosopher Richard Taylor. The paper is called Fatalism, and was in the philosophical journal The Philosophical Review, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jan., 1962), pp. 56-66.

Richard Taylor first starts out by stating what a Fatalist is suppose to be.

“A Fatalist-if there is any such-thinks he cannot do anything about the future. He thinks it is not up to him what is going to happen next year, tomorrow, or the very next moment. He thinks that even his own behavior is -not in the least within his power, any more than the motions of the heavenly bodies, the events of remote history, or the political developments in China….A fatalist, in short, thinks of the future in the manner in which we all think of the past. For we do all believe that it is not up to us what happened last year, yesterday, or even a moment ago, that these things are not within our power…”

Now he sets up six presupposings, which are supposed to help to lead to Fatalism. And most of these presuppositions are very common, which is what makes the argument interesting.

First Presupposition: A statement is either true or false.  [Law of Excluded Middle]

Second Presupposition: If any state of affairs is sufficient for the occurrence of some further condition at the same or any other time, then the former cannot occur without the latter occurring also. [Sufficient Condition]

Third Presupposition: If the occurrence of any condition is necessary for the occurrence of some other condition at the same or any other time, then the latter cannot occur without the former occurring also. [Necessary Condition]

Fourth Presupposition: If one condition or set of conditions is sufficient for (ensures) another, then that other is necessary (essential) for it. Or, if one condition or set of conditions is necessary (essential) for another, then that other is sufficient for (ensures) it. [Logical implication of 2nd and 3rd Presuppositon]

Fifth Presupposition:  No agent can perform any given act if there is lacking, at the same or any other time, some condition necessary for the occurrence of that act.

Sixth Presupposition: Time is not by itself “efficacious”; that is, that the mere passage of time does not augment or diminish the capacities of anything and, in particular, that it does not enhance or decrease an agent’s powers or abilities.

First Situation: Now let’s imagine that I wake up in the morning, and I find my newspaper at the doorstep. I pick it up and go to sit at the kitchen table. I open it up to look at the headlines of the newspaper. It’s assumed conditions are such that only if there was a naval battle yesterday does the newspaper carry a certain kind of headline, or if it carries a certain different sort (shape) of headline, this will ensure that there was no such battle. Like either it says there was a naval battle, or there wasn’t any naval battle.

Now I know I’m either going to see the headline with a certain shape (i.e. Naval battle) or I won’t see the headline with a certain shape (i.e. Naval battle). And each shall be represented like this:
X=see the headline with a certain shape
~X= don’t see the headline with a certain shape .

We also two more statements, with their own meaning:
Y= “A naval battle occurred yesterday”
~Y= “No naval battle occurred yesterday”

If I perform X, then my doing that will ensure that ~Y. Or, if I perform seeing the headling with a certain shape, then my doing so will ensure that no naval battle occurred yesterday. If I perform ~X, then my doing that will ensure that Y. Or, if I perform not seeing the headline with a certain shape, then my doing that will ensure that a naval battle occurred yesterday.

Now I come to wonder if it was up to me what headline I read when I open up the newspaper, to see the headlines.

I might come to think, “It’s within my power to do X, and it is also within my power to do ~X.” Or, in another way, “It’s within my power to see the headling with a certain shape, and it is also within my power to do not seeing the headling with a certain shape.”

Now this comes off as false, because if it were up to me which one to do, then it would also be up to me whether that naval battle took place or not. This would imply me having the power over the past, and I don’t plainly posses this power.

1. If “a naval battle occurred yesterday” is true, then it is not within my power to “don’t see the headling with a certain shape”.[Reason: for in case “a naval battle occurred yesterday is true”, then there is, or was, lacking a condition essential for my doing “not seeing the headling with a certain shape”, the condition, namely, of there being no naval battle yesterday.]

2. But if “no naval battle occurred yesterday”, then it’s not within my power to see “a headline with a certain shape”. [Reason: same as the reason above.]

3. But a naval battle occurred yesterday or no naval battle occurred yesterday.

4. Therefore, either it is not within my power to  “see the headling with a certain shape”, or it is not within my power to “don’t see the headling with a certain shape.”

This, basically, says that the sort of headline that I read depends on what took place yesterday, or in the past. And what happened yesterday or in the past isn’t up to me. We’re all fatalist when it comes to the past, or it seems that we are. “Don’t cry over spilt milk.”

But there is nothing self-contradictory with thinking that, if I did open up the newspaper and saw a certain shape, then I brought about a naval battle. This is another way of saying that me looking at the headline on the newspaper, and it having a certain shape, that I’ve ensured that there was a naval battle. But I can’t see the headline with a certain shape unless there was a naval battle yesterday.

Second situation: Assume that I’m a naval commander, and I’m going to give my orders for the day. Now assuming the totality of other conditions prevailing,  if I issue a certain kind of order, then it will ensure a naval battle. If I issue a different kind of order, then it will ensure no naval battle. We know that I’ll either issue the first type of order or issue the second type of order.

Here’s a certain symbolic representation:
O= “issue certain kind of order M”
~O= “don’t issue certain kind of order M”
H= “a naval battle will occur tomorrow”
~H= “no naval battle occur tomorrow”

So, if I “issue a certain kind of order M”, then it will ensure that there’s “a naval battle tomorrow”. If I “don’t issue certain kind of order M”, then it will ensure that there’s “no naval battle tomorrow.” But is it up to me which sort of order I issue?

A fatalist would disagree that doing either proposition is within your power. But most of us typically think that it is within our power to do either proposition. For we typically think it is up to the naval commander, with the totality of other conditions prevailing, whether there is a naval battle or no naval battle. The commander, after all, gives the order to do it, and we think that it’s within his power to give the order or not.

But the same formal argument presented for the first instance can be presented for this, the second, instance.

1. If  “a naval battle will occur tomorrow” is true, then it’s not within my power to “don’t issue certain kind of order M”. [Reason: for in case “a naval battle will occur tomorrow” is true, then there is, or will be, lacking a condition essential for my doing “don’t issue certain kind of order M”, the condition, namely, of there being no naval battle tomorrow.]

2. But if “no naval battle occur tomorrow” is true, then it’s not within my power to “issue certain kind of order M”. [Reason: same as for above.]

3. But either “a naval battle will occur tomorrow” or “no naval battle will occur tomorrow.”

4. Therefore, either it is not within my power to “issue certain kind of order M” or it is not within my power to “don’t issue certain kind of order M”.

Another way to say this is, the order you issue depends on whether “a naval battle will occur tomorrow”. By our fourth presupposition, it is a necessary condition for “issue certain kind of order M”, while no naval battle tomorrow is equally essential to “don’t issue certain kind of order M”. Now we might have trouble with this, but we didn’t have trouble when the same type of inference and rules were used with the first situation, with the headline of the newspaper.

Considerations of Time:  Some might object by saying that no condition can be necessary for any other before that conditions exist. However, the fifth and sixth presuppose don’t allow for this.

“Surely if some condition, at any given time, whether past, present,
or future, is necessary for the occurrence of something else, and that condition does not in fact exist at the time it is needed, then nothing we do can be of any avail in bringing about that occurrence for which it is necessary.”

In order for me to be a U.S. Senator, it is necessary that I be at least 30 years old. Past, present, or future, it’s necessary that I be at least 30 years old. If I’m not at least 30 years old, then I can never be U.S. Senator. Being at least 30 years of age is the necessary condition of being U.S. Senator, and I can’t be a U.S. Senator if this condition is never met.

“And if one should suggest, in spite of all this, that a state of affairs that exists not yet cannot, just because of this temporal removal, be a necessary condition of anything existing prior to it, this would be logically equivalent to saying that no present state of affairs can ensure another subsequent to it.”

We would be in a strange  position if we would deny the necessary conditions of states of affairs that don’t exist yet. And this is usually what we do with things in the future, by us thinking that we will either give the naval command or we won’t give the naval command. And this means that what happened in the next second will not be ensured by what happened in the previous second.

“All that is needed, to restrict the powers that I imagine myself to have to do this or that, is that some condition essential to my doing it does not, did not, or will not occur.”

“What restricts the range of my power to do this thing or that is not the mere temporal relations between my acts and certain other states of affairs, but the very existence of those states of affairs themselves;”

We would come to recognize that these states of affairs already exist. All these state of affairs exist, but they don’t exist for us right now. Imagine that you have a long line of dominos, all set up and orderly. You come to focus on one domino. This is basically the position that we’re in. All the dominos lined up are the “states of affairs”, past, present, and future. The present domino is the one that we’re focused on. There’s the one’s in the past which we say exist, and then theres also be the ones in the future which we say exists. We don’t think that we can change the past, and this also follows with us not being able to change the future.

“The fact that there is going to be “a naval battle tomorrow” is quite enough to render me unable to  “don’t issue certain kind of order M”, just as the fact that there has been a naval battle yesterday renders me unable to “don’t see the headline with a certain shape”, the nonoccurrence of those conditions being essential, respectively, for my doing those things.”

Causation: This problem is presented without any reference to causation. Thus, bringing up causation, like it only working from backwards to forwards, or past to future. This objection won’t help with what’s being discussed.

The Law of Excluded Middle:  You can reject one of the premises in the second instance. The first two, the hypothetical premises of “If…then”, can’t be denied without having to reject the the second to fifth presuppositions. And none of those presuppositions seem to have any problems, and are widely used. You can reject the third premise in the second instance, but then you’d have to reject the law of excluded middle.

The reject of the laws of excluded middle has been attempted, and there’s no absurdity in doing so. This leaves with either “a naval battle tomorrow” or “no naval battle tomorrow”. This statement is necessarily true, but each one of the disjuncts isn’t a necessary truth. Thus, we can break apart the statement, and have “A naval battle tomorrow” and “No naval battle tomorrow”. Neither of these statements is necessarily true, but possibly/contingently true. We can thus suppose that neither of them are true and neither of them are false. They’re each “possible”, but it only becomes “necessary” when combine them both together.

Now we can replace the third premise in the second instance, and we can employ keeping the two statements apart from each other, other than putting it into the form of law of excluded middle.

1. If “a naval battle tomorrow” is true, then it is not within my power to “issue certain kind of order M”

2. But if “no naval battle tomorrow” is true, then it is not within my power to “no issue certain kind of order M”.

3. But it is within my power to “not issue certain kind of order M”, and it is also within my power to “issue certain kind of order M”.

4. Therefore, “no naval battle tomorrow” is not true, and “a naval battle tomorrow” is not true”.

Now “a naval battle tomorrow” and “no naval battle tomorrow” are logical contradictories, and if either is false then the other is true. But when we look at the first situation, we find no problems and don’t argue about the law of excluded middle. But when it comes to the second situation, and deals with the future, we find that there’s some problem. It looks like a problem, but the logic is the same, and uses the same presuppositions.

Temporal efficacy: It looks that if we want to avoid fatalism, then we’d have to get rid of the first presupposition of the law of excluded middle, and to get rid of the sixth presupposition of Time is not by itself “efficacious”; that is, that the mere passage of time does not augment or diminish the capacities of anything and, in particular, that it does not enhance or decrease an agent’s powers or abilities.

“In fact, it is doubtful whether one can in any way avoid fatalism with respect to the future while conceding that things past are, by virtue of their pastness alone, no longer within our power without also conceding an efficacy to time; for any such view will entail that future possibilities, at one time within our power to realize or not, cease to be such merely as a result of the passage of time-which is precisely what our sixth presupposition denies.”

Some might want to deny the first presupposition and the sixth presupposition, because they think of status of some future things as mere possibilities. This position denies the futures factuality and lack of it’s factuality. And this makes it look like the first presupposition and the sixth are linked together.

The Assertion of Fatalism: 

“Of course one other possibility remains, and that is to assert, out of respect for the law of excluded middle and a preference for viewing things under the aspect of eternity, that fatalism is indeed a true doctrine, that propositions such as (the second instance) are, like (the first instance), never true in such situation as we have described, and that the difference in our attitudes toward things future and past, which leads us to call some of the former but none of the latter “possibilities”, resulting entirely from epistemological and psychological cosiderations- such as, that we happen to know more about what the past contains than about what is contained in the future, that our memory extends to past experience rather than future ones, and so on.”

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