What Makes a World Possible?

I was thinking to myself, "The best possible outcome of the upcoming US presidential election is for Obama to be re-elected."

And then I thought to myself, "What do I mean here by possible?"

Let's say someone says to me, "Well, what about if the Dalai Lama became president?"

OK, that might be better, but it wasn't something I was considering among the "possible results."

Well, why not? After all, it's not logically impossible.

I think what I mean by possible, in this sense, is that it could occur without an extraordinary amount of change happening between now and when the event being imagined is thought to occur. For Obama to be elected president, basically nothing has to change except for it to be November instead of February. But I still consider Romney being elected president possible, because for that to occur, the only further thing that has to happen is for him to win the GOP nomination (which seems very likely at this point), and for about 5% of US voters to change their mind about who should be the next president. And I've seen things like the latter happen.

But for the Dalai Lama to be elected president, first of all, the US Constitution would have to be changed within the next eight months. It would also have to become widely known that he wanted to be president. There would have to be some massive change in the opinions of American voters, so that they would desire to make a foreign-born religious leader our president. And probably a dozen other major things, of which I am not thinking, would have to change as well.

And all of that would be, for me, an unprecedented amount of change over such a time span. That's why I discount that scenario as "not possible." But should it occur anyway, I would not think "I made a logical error in determining what is impossible," because I never meant it was logically impossible. Instead, I would think, "There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy!"

And the amount of change involved explains why I can only say it might be better to have the Dalai Lama be the next president: so many other things would have to be different for that to happen that I really can't even guess whether that world would be better than this one.


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