Sunday, February 6, 2011

What is Combinatorial Possibility?

At the moment I think mathematics is best understood in terms of neo-carnapian/neo-logicist existence conditions for mathematical objects plus a kind of specifically mathematical modality (along the lines considered by Charles Parsons) which is looser than metaphysical possibility, and which I call "combinatorial possibility".

Here's a new way I thought of to explain what I mean by combinatorial possibility:

Combinatorial possibility is just like Tarski's notion of logical possibility, except a) we drop the assumption that you have to shanghai objects from the actual world to use in making a given claim true, allowing arbitrary choices of domain as well as arbitrary reassignments of extensions to properties and b) we allow more vocabulary to count as "logical vocabulary" in the sense that when reassigning extensions to predicates you can't change its meaning.

What more vocabulary?

In general anything like "finitely many" or "equinumerous" which functions like logical vocabulary in a sentence that its effect on the truthvalue of the whole sentence is systematically determined just by the domain and extension of relations in a set theoretic model is OK. Call these semi-logical expressions.

However I conjecture that we can cash out all of these all the semi-logical expressions, or at least all the ones that occur in modern mathematics and and its applications by merely using two things:
- an actuality opporator @F, so that you can say things about how it would be combinatorially possible for the things that are actually kittens, to be related by liking to the things that are actually baskets, e.g. there are enough different kittens and few enough baskets that it is combinatorially impossible that each kitten slept in a different basket last night.
- nesting, so that you can ask questions about the combinatorial possibility or impossibility of questions which are themselves described in terms of how it would be combinatorially possible to supplement them e.g. There are people at this party representing all combinatorially possible choices of whether to take sugar and/or milk in your tea = It would be combinatorially impossible to supplement the actual people with some additional person who differs from all actual people with respect to either whether they take coffee or whether they take tea = not combiposs(Ex person(x) & Ay [if @person(y) then ~x=y , and takessugar(x)iff~takessugar(y) and takesmilk(x) iff~takesmilk(y)) ] *

*yes, when you have multiple nesting of claims about combinatorial possibility, actuality opporators will need to be indexed to a particular instance "combiposs" so you will have combiposs_i and @F_i.

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