politics, philosophy, and other lonely musings
I’ve always enjoyed bits and pieces of Pink Floyd. But it wasn’t until a recent experience that I really heard, and felt, and saw how great they truly are.
Time was a song that I was aware of, but hadn’t really paid attention to. I listened, but didn’t hear, as it were. The lyrics themselves are sad, resigned to passage of time, filled with regrets of unfulfilled plans and wasted days.
As I come up to my ten-year high school reunion (presumably, anyway, I haven’t heard anything about it as yet), I’m reminded that I have, in some ways, essentially wasted an entire decade. I fear going back to the reunion, and I likely won’t. The reason I commonly give is that I’ve managed to keep in touch with everyone that I cared to keep in touch with. Bugger the rest of them, I don’t care.
But the reason I don’t usually voice—even to myself—is that I’m unsure I can even stand to look into the eyes of my former peers, and hear tales of the real world, of children, mortgages, careers, and post-graduate degrees without having a complete breakdown. I’m nearing the third decade of life, and haven’t finished even a simple 4-year degree. My living situation is roughly the same as it was a decade ago. I’m incredibly scared of finishing school as well. The real world is a completely foreign entity to me, though it shouldn’t be (and truly, really isn’t). But graduation signifies a new beginning. An end to the previous chapter. And it fills me with anxiety, fear, and not a small bit of revulsion. I’m a 27-year old boy. I don’t even know how to be a grown up.
In so many ways, I desperately wish I could redo the last decade. So many regrets and so many poor decisions. In many ways, though, as I ponder possibility and contingency, I’m struck by how many great people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, the people I don’t regret leaving behind, and the experiences that I’m not sure I would be willing to give up.
Afraid to move on, and unwilling to retreat, I find myself stuck in an uneasy present.
A quick preview—from a shorter assignment—of a paper I’m preparing on for my undergraduate metaphysics course. The paper focuses on the same issues of material objects, and is going to argue that alloys present insurmountable problems for several theories of material objects, and that mereological nihilism is the best way to avoid these devastating problems.
David Wiggins’ paper, On Being In The Same Place At The Same Time, makes a good case for believing that two or more objects cannot occupy the same volume at the same time. Wiggins notes at the end that there may be some “questions about scientifically more realistic examples concerning chemical compounds and alloys.” I’d like to explore the problem of alloys in more detail.
Suppose that we have two clumps of metal. Clump A is silver and clump B is gold. Presumably, we have two separate objects that share no parts whatsoever at time t1. Now, what if we were to melt these two clumps in such a fashion as to make white gold. In other words, we have melted A and B in a process such that the aggregate molecules constituting both objects have become intermingled in a fashion that seemingly creates a new object C. We will assume that the process was carried out such that there is nothing from a standard human level of perception that would let us discover (through sight and color or otherwise) which areas of C were once made up of A and B. In other words, we have the uniform clump C of white gold.
What can we say of clump C? We might simply say that A and B have ceased to exist; they have been subsumed into C in a fashion that destroyed A and B. Such an account is plausible: we can’t discern any distinctiveness in different areas of C that would allow us to identify A or B. By this, we have no problems with any two objects existing in the same place at the same time: we only have one object. Wiggins notes at the beginning of his essay that a tree T is not the same thing as the aggregate W of the cellulose molecules that T is constituted of. This seems to me a relatively acceptable answer.
But what if we wanted to say there is still some sense in which A and B survived, but yet are not inhabiting the same volume at the same time. Such an argument might claim though any distinguishing characteristics are no longer present at the level of human perception, still the molecules—or atoms—themselves are not inhabiting the same volume at the same time. That the aggregate molecules or atoms of A and B should be considered scattered parts, and so they are still not inhabiting the same volume, though they are now part of C.
However, this latter position would commit us to believing that objects really can have parts with scattered locations. Further, there is another problem. If we argue that the molecules or atoms are parts of A and B, we are not only saying that objects can have a vast number of scattered parts while still remaining objects made up of these parts in the aggregate, but that objects so constituted might continue to exist though it is impossible to reconstitute them. Or, at least, we might be say such while stipulating that is only impossible now: some future technological advance would allow us to reconstitute objects scattered in such a fashion.
We are left with the idea that objects cannot occupy the same volume at the same time, while also that objects can have scattered parts, and further that objects may continue to exist though it is impossible to reconstitute them into a single “whole.” It seems better to me simply to say that A and B no longer exist in any meaningful sense
I had a few thoughts on several recent conversations I’ve had, as well as some thoughts spurred on by my classes and some experiences therein. There’s an overarching theme to this post, I assure you, but at first I shall relate some experiences and thoughts in no particular order. Bear in mind this post is over three thousand words. You’ve been warned. Read more of this post