Sorites


... or why classical logic cannot be applied to aggregates.

came to me attention from Patrick John Hayes' post ...

source: facebook post

Where did this absurd and dangerous idea that human life begins at conception come from? It is not in the Bible, and its not part of English common law. Does anyone know the origin of this idea?

Chris Menzel Why is it absurd, Pat? Conception is the point where an individual's DNA is determined and from that point you have continuous development. Seems to me it's quite scientifically correct to say that an embryo is the first stage in the biological development of a human life. To say that this view is "dangerous" seems to me to be a category mistake of the same sort as those who consider evolution dangerous because they don't like its implications for their religious dogmas. Likewise, acknowledging that an embryo or fetus is a human life might be considered dangerous because of its implications for one's political or social dogmas -- to acknowledge that a fetus is a human life is to acknowledge that we have at least to *consider* its moral standing. For the record, I am staunchly pro-choice, but not because I think it is always morally permissible to have an abortion -- whether or not it is depends on the circumstances -- but because the difficult moral decision-making is ultimately the mother's, not the state's, business.

Patrick John Hayes Chris, it is absurd to claim that a ball of a few thousand cells is a human being. It may develop into a human being, but it is not one yet. And the argument that since there is no clear point at which it becomes human, therefore it must always be human, is an elementary failure to understand Sorites.

i wonder if Chris is the same Chris mentioned here.

My take away from these thoughts is ...
Well we cannot distinguish what makes up a heap of sand. That is the Sorites paradox. What it tells me is that distinctions do not accurately model the world ... notwithstanding that our language sometimes seems to presume that they must. When it comes to things like life and identity of being, i think we need to keep in mind that these are processes of networked causes and effects interacting ... the elements of which are not easily plucked out and recognized separate from the whole.


That train of thought has a couple of things that i have not previously heard expressed.  
  1. That distinctions themselves do not always accurately model the world
  2. That language seems to imply that they do
  3. Distinctions do not accurately model the unity of networks of interacting causes and effects
I'm saying here that the human mind is not capable of recognizing some kind of processes by using distinctions exclusively ... notwithstanding that to describe those processes in language it must.


Tags

  1. sorites
  2. aggregates
  3. logic

Comments


Seth says
M 2014-09-11 12:26:11 17756
M 2014-09-11 12:22:11 17756
certainly, without reading this pile, it can't be said that human life begins before the egg & the sperm meet & greet.
 
There are even some liberals who would prefer that gender not really be assigned until maybe the middle of puberty, eh?
PML

Yeah it seems that many people have presumed they have the authority to make this choice for us.

Here was my take on that choice ...
source: me on Facebook
Well if life is a voluntary process, then that includes when a new one begins. I choose one starting with an ejaculation. It would be interesting to know who has the authority to alter my choice and why.
...


Seth says
i hear tell that ...
"Wittgenstein showed how certain seemingly intractable philosophic questions were tied to the way language works"
... and yes i believe he probably did.  I think Sorites are a case in point.  A presumption that any particular language can express everything is unfounded.  Knowing where the deficiencies of representation are in a language might help us close the gaps.

Seth says
M 2014-09-11 13:52:51 17756
seth 2014-09-11 13:32:48 17756
M 2014-09-11 13:27:21 17756
seth 2014-09-11 13:05:41 17756
M 2014-09-11 12:26:11 17756
M 2014-09-11 12:22:11 17756
certainly, without reading this pile, it can't be said that human life begins before the egg & the sperm meet & greet.
 
There are even some liberals who would prefer that gender not really be assigned until maybe the middle of puberty, eh?
PML

Yeah it seems that many people have presumed they have the authority to make this choice for us.

Here was my take on that choice ...
source: me on Facebook
Well if life is a voluntary process, then that includes when a new one begins. I choose one starting with an ejaculation. It would be interesting to know who has the authority to alter my choice and why.
...

Who says it is voluntary? choose-able?

i chose to start that life with my ejaculation.
I say that somewhere near the 9th stroke the process is NOT voluntary any more.
PML

yeah perhaps.  

but then is that not always the case ... when one voluntarily starts something is there not always a point beyond which one is committed to completion ... then one either finishes, or falls on their ass.   a case could have been made that the point of volition was way back when i decided to take up with Denise ... or more likely when she took out her iud.  so we are back to the network of cause effect waves plopping like pebbles in a pond ... where do you logically distinguish a processess start and who is credited?  To be honest with you, i'm not so very sure it matters.  When i am aware that i am choosing it, that is when it matters to me. 

Seth says
M 2014-09-11 12:40:49 17756
When I was in zoology class there was some controversy over what constitutes biological life. Some of the properties were growth, food intake, excretion etc. it might be refined nowadays to something like brain waves or life-waves.


Yeah just like we cannot distinguish what makes up a heap of sand.  That is the Sorites paradox.  What it tells me is that distinctions do not accurately model the world ... notwithstanding that our language sometimes seems to presumes that they must.  When it comes to things like life and identity of being, i think we need to keep in mind that these are processes of networked causes and effects interacting ... the elements of which are not easily plucked out and recognized separate from the whole.

Seth says
M 2014-09-12 07:21:48 17756
seth 2014-09-12 06:30:09 17756
M 2014-09-11 12:40:49 17756
When I was in zoology class there was some controversy over what constitutes biological life. Some of the properties were growth, food intake, excretion etc. it might be refined nowadays to something like brain waves or life-waves.


Yeah just like we cannot distinguish what makes up a heap of sand.  That is the Sorites paradox.  What it tells me is that distinctions do not accurately model the world ... notwithstanding that our language sometimes seems to presumes that they must.  When it comes to things like life and identity of being, i think we need to keep in mind that these are processes of networked causes and effects interacting ... the elements of which are not easily plucked out and recognized separate from the whole.
Nope! You are describing a problem about too much or blurred lines.
It had not at that time been decided amongst the biologists & zoologists which specific properties were necessary & sufficient to call something living. That is all! There is no need to munge it with a lot of your other philosophy. See also biological life article in the Wikipedia, which seems to have gone beyond what was discussed in my Zoology 1 course.


I always laugh at your "Nopes" which precede your thoughts and respond to mine

Seth says
M 2014-09-12 07:50:24 17756
Laugh it up in your walled garden!

then of course you get personal and change the subject to me or to yourself ... that is not so very funny to me ... that is more just sickening.

Seth says
 my take away from this ...

source: me

"We cannot perceive what makes up a heap of sand."   Something becoming a heap of sand is not an experience.  Nope, it is just something that we can talk about in language.  I'm saying that it is just part of the language itself ... like a comma or a period or a verb agreeing in number with its subject.


... in other words, a heap is just something in a mind. 

Then this question begs to be answered:  when does a human life begin?  ... er, well just when a collection of sand particles becomes a heap of sand. 

The question is all about becoming aware of what is just in a mind and what is actually in the world.  That kind of matters to me. 

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