Wednesday 24 May 2017

One Sea Battle To Avoid

 I delve into all kinds of odd nooks and crannies when following this obscure interest of ancient galleys. Sometimes I find myself hopping back out again quickly.

One such side-road is Aristotle's Sea Battle  Problem.

I ordered '  The sea battle and the master argument : Aristotle and Diodorus Cronus on the metaphysics of the future'  by Richard Gaskin, De Wuyter 1995 from the library, on the basis that there may be some interesting background material or naval related material included. Mistake.

The local library performed its usual wonders and I had the book 36 hours later  from a library in Jylland. 
I open the book and read. I could understand the preface and how it had taken the author 10 years to write it. I could not understand anything else. It was a serious thesis about abstract logical argument originating with Aristotl'es 'Sea Battle Argument'.
I once made the mistake of trying to read Wittgenstein. I was at a university he had studied at. Philosophy was cool. Why not ? Because......

  • Suppose that (i) p is true or p is false and (ii) not-p is true or not-p is false.
  • Then p is true or not-p is true.
  • Now suppose that in 1900 one person says that a sea-battle will take place on 1/1/2100, and another says that a sea-battle will not take place on 1/1/2100.
  • Then either what the first person says is true or what the second person says is true.
  • But, in that case, either it is necessary in 1900 that a sea-battle takes place on 1/1/2100, or it is necessary in 1900 that one does not take place.
  • But the date of the predictions is irrelevant, and it is irrelevant whether any prediction is actually made at all.
  • So it is necessary at all times that a sea-battle takes place on 1/1/2100, or that a sea-battle does not take place on 1/1/2100.
  • But this type of argument can ostensibly be generalized...
  • Ergo, everything that happens, happens of necessity.
I am still angry that Aristotle used  a sea battle for his example. The problem is also known as 'The Problem of Future Contingents' and is basically a way of adding chance or uncertainty to logic.
I think.

My brain hurts.