Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Is the Impossible Possible?” in under 700 words. Heh.
How can I say something is outright not-possible, at all? See, when I say “impossible” and “possible” the reader comes along with extra information that I may not be intending. For example, someone might look at this and say “Well, Rey, Quantum Leaping is impossible now but that’s only because we haven’t gotten there technologically. Yet.”
But that would be something that is possible (even if it’s not probable). I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about things that have no possibility of happening. Zero, zilch, no-way that this thing has a chance of existing or being.
But then the reader might still be carrying some extra brain weight. “Wait,” you say “what if you have someone that can DO the impossible. Let’s say God or Thanos with the Infinite Gauntlet. Either can create things that we say are imaginary—like Unicorns. Surely nothing is impossible for God or a Gauntleted Thanos!”
And you’d have a point. An infinite being that has ultimate power to create ex nihilo (out of nothing) would have the power to bring imaginary beings into being and the sphere of impossibility seems to be non-existent. Until you think about one of those old philosophical puzzlers.
God can create anything. God can do anything. Can he therefore create a stone that is so heavy that he can’t lift it? If he can do that (the realm of possibility) then that necessarily puts something within his creative power that is greater than him. If so, then God’s power (or Thanos with Gauntlet) is limited.
But that’s where the philosophical puzzler is stumbling. It’s making an assumption about “the possible” and then using that to negate the power of God or a Gauntleted Thanos.
So that introduces us to a real sphere of the not-possible which is what I’m really thinking about: the logically impossible. Logical impossibility isn’t something that we can’t conceive of existing, it’s something that by its very definition results in an impossibility. That makes no sense, so I’ll use an example.
You know what a triangle is. Three sided polygon meaning it only has three angles. That’s the logical definition of a triangle and all it necessarily entails. You also know what a circle is. It’s not a polygon at all. It’s a closed plane curve where every point is equidistant from a fixed point within the curve—well, according to Merriam Webster anyway.
Now let’s go back to God or Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet: if they can do anything then shouldn’t they be able to create a triangle circle?
Well, no. Not really. Because whatever a triangle logically entails is antithetical to whatever a circle entails. That’s a logical contradiction which makes no sense—it’s impossible to be created.
The same thing would have occurred if we told God (or any nutter who grabs the Gauntlet) to create a married bachelor or a black-colored white or a stone that God can’t lift—they’re all logical impossibilities. We can try to make up imaginary categories by using the terms like this: “The Married Bachelor lifted up the triangle circle ring.” But that doesn’t result in this situation being possible—it just means that the terms are being used and the thinker (the reader) is being provoked to try to figure out how that would work (even if he can’t).
So now, at the end of the post, I’ve arrived at a point where I can attempt to answer my own question about truly impossible things. Are these really impossible things (ie: logically impossible) possible?
Well , no. And there’s nothing wrong with that.