Are there an infinite number of possibilities?


Let's say there's a plate on the table in the kitchen and you walk in to see its broken on the floor. You weren't there to witness it. Now let's say you have a cat, the washing machine was on and there happened to be a small earthquake.

Can you be 100% certain that a blue dragon didn't come in and knock it off the table?


Posted 2017-04-24T16:13:11.700


Question was closed 2017-04-26T18:25:43.020


– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2017-04-24T16:20:29.887

I do not see how the title of the question is related to the body. – Arno – 2017-04-24T16:52:52.227

Distinguish subjective possibilities from objective possibilities. Your certainty is based on your knowledge, which is incomplete, and so there may be an infinite number of possibilities which you cannot choose from with absolute certainty. However, that doesn't mean that those possibilities were ever actually objectively possible. We don't even know if there is more than one possible objective reality. – Ask About Monica – 2017-04-24T17:10:47.757

Even if you "witnessed it," are you sure that's what really happened? Psychologists have developed an extraordinary body of evidence that points out that you can't be 100% sure you saw what you thought you saw. The most famous version of this is a test involving counting the number of basketball passes, though I prefer the work of Apollo Robbins myself

– Cort Ammon – 2017-04-24T19:03:40.223

Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what kinds of questions to ask here. At present, your question is missing context so it is unclear what you are asking, or if it is even about philosophy (in the academic sense) as understood on this site.

– Conifold – 2017-04-24T19:19:34.810

Welcome to philosophy.SE. As certainty is only a mood, isn't this a question for psychology? – Mr. Kennedy – 2017-04-24T23:15:46.667

Sorry arno, what I mean is that surely there are an infinite number of possibilities for how the plate fell so you can't be certain what didn't cause the plate to fall. phlegon has helped me realise that it really is a finite number of possibilites but the point still stands. – None – 2017-04-25T00:09:15.240



The way I read your question is, are there an infinite number of possibilities as to who/what broke the dish?

No, there are not. There appears to be a potentially infinite number of logical possibilities - that is to say, you could think of one idea after another, but you wouldn't ever get to an infinite amount.

Can you be certain that a blue dragon (or whatever) didn't do it? No. That is because absolute certainty is only obtained through deduction and there's precious little about objective reality that we can be certain about.

As to a blue dragon, I would say that you would have to define it first and if that definition was self contradictory, only then could we 100% be certain that it could not have broke the dish.

Of course, I would say that you do not need absolute certainty to be rationally confident that a blue dragon didn't break your dish.


Posted 2017-04-24T16:13:11.700

Reputation: 126

And yet there is no such thing as a blue dragon so, yes, in fact, we can conclude that a blue dragon did not knock the plate off the table. – Mr. Kennedy – 2017-04-24T23:17:54.370

3But surely we only know there is no such thing as a blue dragon due to induction? And no inductive conclusion is certain. – None – 2017-04-25T00:02:26.760


There aren't an infinite number of possibilities.

First of all, a possibility ,loosely defined, is something or anything that can happen in a given situation. For this to be possible (able to happen) it means there are several alternatives through which events can take course, this alternatives are infinite only if we do not eliminate the illogical/impossible alternatives, which ,in the real sense, aren't alternatives since they cannot happen.

Something is only possible if there is a chance it can happen in a given situation,this means that a possibility is valid only if the chosen hypothetical alternative is logical i.e if the laws of nature (all forces of the nature both known and unknown), the laws of the land (in some cases) approve of it and the environment or surrounding make it possible (able to happen)

In some instances what we think is impossible might be possible, so what we think is an impossibility could indeed be a quite likely possibility. I think that what humans perceive as possibilities are also limited to our knowledge, imagination and ,as previously stated, the laws of nature and the laws of the land.

For instance, there's a bus in the Sahara Desert there's a large number of possibilities that could occur, maybe aliens space ship could hover above it and disintegrate it, capture it, race with it.... or the wheel/s could get a puncture.... the list is extremely long but not infinite, perhaps it is impossible to name all the possibilities, that however ,doesn't make the possibilities infinite but rather just too many to list/name . The suggestion that there's infinite possibilities would be like saying the bus will loose control and sink into an ocean in the Sahara... the environment doesn't allow for such an alternative, this is therefore an impossibility.

On the question of whether a blue dragon broke your dish i'd say with humanity's or rather, my limited understanding of reality that its indeed impossible , unless of course it was a tiny dragon, if any such creature does exist.

Sherlock Kevin

Posted 2017-04-24T16:13:11.700

Reputation: 11

The fact that some events are impossible does not mean that there are finite possible events though, any more than the fact that some numbers are odd means there must be a finite number of even integers. – Simon Hibbs – 2017-04-26T09:48:13.773

Even if we could consider those impossible possibilities, it's should still be finite anyway. It's impossible because we don't think a blue dragon exists. But there's nothing to say that we couldn't find out tomorrow - its the problem of induction really. – None – 2017-04-26T14:45:46.720