# POLL 4 on a very simple argument especially designed for Sarkus

## Is the argument valid?

• ### I don't know

• Total voters
6
• Poll closed .
I think I already did. "May", in general and as it is used in modal logic, only suggests logical possibility in that it doesn't suggest probability.
"Might" suggests (low) probability and therefore can be, and usually is, used to express a degree of disbelief, and so isn't useful in a logical argument
As I've said previously, the way I use those terms is different to how you use them. My "might" means the same thing as your "may". And for me, "may" really ought to be reserved for when we're talking about having permission, and not about possibility or probability at all. However, I acknowledge that I'm fighting a losing battle on that one, so I accept that many people use the word "may" to mean "might".

As I said, though, for the purposes of your "simple argument" in this thread, nothing turns on probability anyway, so your "might" is just as good as your "may" in this context.

If you get into probabilities, it's maths, not logic.
As soon as you say "may" you're talking about a non-zero probability. When you say "x may be y", you're saying "There's a non-zero probability that x is y, and a non-zero probability that x is not y." But you haven't given us any guidance on how to estimate these probabilities a priori. For all we know, the probability that x is y could be negligibly small, or it could be a near certainty. All we know, as you say, is that it is conceivable that x is y.

This makes any deduction derived from "x may be y" an especially weak one, particularly since we could replace every instance of "may" in your argument by "may not" and it would make no difference.

The opposite of "might" would be "could very well be".
I'd say the opposite of "might be" would be "couldn't possibly be".
You're telling me that your "may" is the opposite of your "might", which makes things rather confusing, wouldn't you say?

Logic has many different forms. Is it always true? Yes! Yet the application of a certain type of logic when repeated on similar specific realities can be falsified.

Or am I missing something?

Unless, maybe, you think there is something like an absolute proof?
For a given definition of validity, yes, there is.
That's what you think "absolute" means?!
So, I take it you agree there's no absolute proof since it all depends on a definition.
And, do you think there is a rational justification for why the definition used in modern mathematical "classical" logic should be seen somehow as correct?
Let's see if you can live up to your posture here.
EB

I am surprised that a definitive answer is being asked for, valid or invalid when in fact the only answer is "maybe" either. Surely when an argument is as ambiguous and uncertain as this one is there can only be a vague, uncertain response to it.
And what do you think is the conclusion of the argument?!
EB

Neither do I. But Speakpigeon also wants to introduce a spurious distinction between the words "may" and "might", according to his own preference. As has already been pointed out, his argument only deals with possibility, not probability, and in that context the distinction, even if he wants to make it, is irrelevant.
The argument uses "may" and I explained why. If you can't process it as worded, don't answer the OP. Any answer on the basis of "might" is a derail.
EB

The argument uses "may" and I explained why. If you can't process it as worded, don't answer the OP. Any answer on the basis of "might" is a derail.
EB
The only derail is you insisting on the use of "may" and not "might", when regarding possibility they are synonymous.

I accept that many people use the word "may" to mean "might".
Nobody use "may" to mean "might". People use "may" to signal possibility and "might" to signal possibility with a low probability.
As I said, though, for the purposes of your "simple argument" in this thread, nothing turns on probability anyway, so your "might" is just as good as your "may" in this context.
I explained several times why you're wrong.
As soon as you say "may" you're talking about a non-zero probability.
That's obviously not true.
For all we know, the proposition "God may exist" is true. So, what's your guess of the probability of that? Low? High?
Why do you think so many people are dead certain God exist and so many people are dead certain he doesn't exist.
When you say "x may be y", you're saying "There's a non-zero probability that x is y, and a non-zero probability that x is not y." But you haven't given us any guidance on how to estimate these probabilities a priori. For all we know, the probability that x is y could be negligibly small, or it could be a near certainty. All we know, as you say, is that it is conceivable that x is y.
No probabilities, as I have already explained. And probabilities would be irrelevant in the case of validity.
This makes any deduction derived from "x may be y" an especially weak one, particularly since we could replace every instance of "may" in your argument by "may not" and it would make no difference.
As I already said many times, the question here is not "soundness" but validity. I'm interested in logic, not the application of logic to the real world.
I'd say the opposite of "might be" would be "couldn't possibly be".
You're telling me that your "may" is the opposite of your "might", which makes things rather confusing, wouldn't you say?
The answer is that I never said that.
When you claim people have said something, please provide the relevant quote.
You're not up to par to engage in any rational debate.
EB

Nobody use "may" to mean "might". People use "may" to signal possibility and "might" to signal possibility with a low probability.
I don't do that. I don't know anyone who does that.

You must live in a very special place, with very special people in it. Do they wear white coats?
For all we know, the proposition "God may exist" is true. So, what's your guess of the probability of that? Low? High?
Why do you think so many people are dead certain God exist and so many people are dead certain he doesn't exist.
Well, I'm leaning towards you telling us you've asked Him.
I'm interested in logic, not the application of logic to the real world.
But not really very interested, eh? You've got better things to do.

Might might mean might as in strength.

Logic has many different forms. Is it always true? Yes! Yet the application of a certain type of logic when repeated on similar specific realities can be falsified. Or am I missing something?
You're most very likely missing something the size of your brain.
This is an interesting point in itself but here a derail.
So, if you're at all interested, feel free to start a thread on this. Just make sure you articulate your position because, here, it's merely pathetic.
EB

I don't do that. I don't know anyone who does that. You must live in a very special place, with very special people in it. Do they wear white coats?Well, I'm leaning towards you telling us you've asked Him.But not really very interested, eh? You've got better things to do.
You don't seem to realise all your posts are irrelevant here.
EB

The only derail is you insisting on the use of "may" and not "might", when regarding possibility they are synonymous.
The argument uses "may". If you can't be bothered to understand how I use it, you can leave.
EB

The argument uses "may". If you can't be bothered to understand how I use it, you can leave.
We do understand how you use it: as an expression of possibility.
"Might" offers exactly the same expression of possibility, although you may see it as having an additional assumption of low probability, which does not affect in any way the expression of possibility.
With regard the notion of possibility they are both the same.
The issue here is thus clearly not with the use of "may" or "might", but with you and your attitude.

Speakpigeon said:
You don't seem to realise all your posts are irrelevant here.
EB
Oh but I do realise that. They're irrelevant because you're irrelevant.

You think you know something that nobody else does, you think you have some privileged view of logic.
But that's all you have, an idea. It doesn't seem to be based on much more than an opinion of yourself, which on inspection looks irrelevant.

AB

A comment on the gerrymandering of language in this thread.

James R mentions this:
And for me, "may" really ought to be reserved for when we're talking about having permission, and not about possibility or probability at all. However, I acknowledge that I'm fighting a losing battle on that one, so I accept that many people use the word "may" to mean "might".
(sorry didn't use the reply option, perhaps James has lost interest anyway)

I still remember teachers who would correct their children about asking permission, viz:

Kid: "Miss Teacher, can I go outside and play?"
Teach: "Of course you can, but you may not."

Kid: "Well, might I go out and play?"
Teach: "That depends, have you done the spelling assignment for today?" (note Teach here introduces a condition)

Kid: "Well, perhaps I have, perhaps I haven't." (this kid is smarter than he looks)
Teach: "Well, then perhaps you might hand it to me. If it's finished then you may go and play, ok?"

So, perhaps Speakpidgin thinks he can change the Oxford Dictionary (without reading it!), but then he might find out about how teachers can keep naughty children in the classroom. Since they may do so according to the (now somewhat defunct) legal definition of in loco parentis.

Last edited:
Star light star bright
I wish I may, I wish I might.

Proof that they are synonymous. You wouldn't doubt a classic poem would you?

Star light star bright
I wish I may, I wish I might.

Proof that they are synonymous. You wouldn't doubt a classic poem would you?
Yes I would. Anyone can write a poem with two words in the same line.

"The bloody cops are bloody keen
To bloody keep it bloody clean . . ."

You wouldn't doubt our Jack, would you?

It seems it's time for an English lesson. I think we can all learn something from this - especially Speakpigeon.

Let's compare two dictionaries from opposite sides of the ditch, on the definitions of "may" and "might".

may
Oxford English Dictionary (OED): The OED notes that "may" is a modal verb. As its first two meanings, the OED gives:
1. Expressing possibility (e.g. "That may be true.")
2. Used to ask for or give permission (e.g. "May I ask a few questions?")

Mirriam-Webster (MW) gives the following primary meanings:
1a. (archaic) have the ability to.
1b. Have permission to; be free to.
1c. Used to indicate possibility or probability.
----

Notice at this point that the OED says nothing about whether the probability is high or low or in between when using "may" to indicate possibility or (in the case of MW) probability.
----

might
OED:
1. past tense of "may".
1.1 Used in reported speech, to express possibility or permission.
‘he said he might be late’
1.2 Expressing a possibility based on an unfulfilled condition.
'we might have won if we'd played better’
1.3 Expressing annoyance about something that someone has not done.
‘you might have told me!’
1.4 Expressing purpose.
‘he avoided social engagements so that he might work’

2. Used tentatively to ask permission or to express a polite request.
‘might I just ask one question?’
‘you might just call me Jane, if you don't mind’

2.1 Asking for information, especially condescendingly.
‘and who might you be?’

3 Used to express possibility or make a suggestion.
‘this might be true’
‘you might try pain relievers

MW:
past tense of may.

1 —used to express permission, liberty, probability, or possibility in the past
'The president might do nothing without the board's consent."
2 —used to say that something is possible
We might get there before it rains.
I might go, but then again, I might not.

3 —used to express a present condition contrary to fact
If you were older you might understand.
4a —used as a polite alternative to may
Might I ask who is calling?
b —used as a polite alternative to ought or should
You might at least apologize.
I might have known she'd be late.

---

Notice that neither dictionary says anything about a low probability being attached to "might".

Notice also that both the OED and MW give the primary definition of "might" as the "past tense of 'may'".
Thus (and these are my examples now):
'I may go to the football today.'
'I might have gone to the football yesterday.'

'He says he may be late for the meeting this afternoon.'
'He said he might be late for yesterday's meeting.'

However, both dictionaries also recognise that most people don't follow the "rule" that "might" is only to be used to refer to past events. In practice these days, many people use "might" interchangeably with "may", to express present possibility.

The OED has a helpful explanatory article on when to use "may" vs "might", and how they are used. It can be found here. Quoting that article:

"In practice, this distinction [between present-tense and past tense use of 'may' and 'might'] is rarely made today and the two words are generally interchangeable:

I might go home early if I’m tired. He may have visited Italy before settling in Nuremberg."

The OED does note one exception to this interchangeability, concerning events in the past that were possible at the time but did not actually occur:

"But there is a distinction between may have and might have in certain contexts. If the truth of a situation is still not known at the time of speaking or writing, either of the two is acceptable:

By the time you read this, he may have made his decision. I think that comment might have offended some people.

If the event or situation referred to did not in fact occur, it's better to use might have:

The draw against Italy might have been a turning point, but it didn't turn out like that."
---
In this context, let us compare Speakpigeon's preferred usage of "may" and "might" with mine. Here's Speakpigeon:
Speakpigeon said:
Nobody use "may" to mean "might". People use "may" to signal possibility and "might" to signal possibility with a low probability.
Clearly, Speakpigeon is wrong to say that "nobody" uses "may" to mean "might", because, as both dictionaries agree, in current general usage the words are interchangeable. According to the dictionaries cited, Speakpigeon is also wrong to say that "might" signals a low probability. Since it is largely interchangeable with "may", it merely signals possibility, with no particular estimate of probability. Neither dictionary makes any mention of a level of probability in the definition of either word, although interestingly the MW does list both "possibility" and "probability" in the definitions whereas the OED mentions only "possibility".

What this means, of course, is that for the purposes of the current thread, whether any given poster uses "may" or "might" to refer to possibility is irrelevant, since the two words are effectively interchangeable in the context of Speakpigeon's "logical proof".

As for my position, I said I prefer to use "may" in the sense of permission, and "might" to indicate possibility. The OED has a separate article on the proper usage of "can" vs "may", highlighting the difference between ability and permission. I won't post that here, since it is not really relevant to the thread topic, and the matter is explored sufficiently by arfa brane anyway, just above this post.

It is clear that my personal usage of the words "may" and "might" is not inconsistent with the usage of those words given in both of the quoted dictionaries, whereas Speakpigeon's usage - and his insistence on how "everybody" uses the two words - is inconsistent with both of those sources.

Having said that, because I have learned from my research on this topic, from now on I will probably make a few little changes in how I personally use those two words, though not in a way that makes any difference to the discussion in this thread.

---
Here endeth the lesson.

Last edited:
Speakpigeon is also wrong to say that "might" signals a low probability.
I might be 54 years old. Not tellin'.
Low probability, SP?

Speakpigeon:

Nobody use "may" to mean "might". People use "may" to signal possibility and "might" to signal possibility with a low probability.
See my post above.

I explained several times why you're wrong.
So you're saying that the level of probability is important in your syllogism. In that case, could you please repost it, replacing terms like "x may be part of y" with terms like "x is likely to be part of y" or "x is unlikely to be part of y"? That will make it clearer for your readers.

Speakpigeon said:
James R said:
As soon as you say "may" you're talking about a non-zero probability.
That's obviously not true.
Sorry, but it "obviously" is true, given the definition of the word "may". "May" expresses the idea of possibility. If you say "x may be y", and x can't possibly be y, then your usage of "may" is incorrect. You ought to have written "x is not y" instead.

For all we know, the proposition "God may exist" is true. So, what's your guess of the probability of that? Low? High?
It doesn't matter, given that we're using the word "may". There's a non-zero possibility that God exists. That's sufficient for the statement. If you want more than that, you ought to write something like "It's likely that God exists" or "It's more probable than not that God exists", or whatever.

Your argument comes across as deliberately vague. Why not say what you mean, rather than talking ambiguously?

Why do you think so many people are dead certain God exist and so many people are dead certain he doesn't exist.
Lots of people don't recognise the relevance of reliable evidence in establishing a truth, I guess. How is this relevant to your argument in this thread? I thought you said you were only concerned with validity.

No probabilities, as I have already explained. And probabilities would be irrelevant in the case of validity.
So "might" or "may" makes no difference, even if you think those words carry implications about relative probabilities. Right?

You can't have it both ways, Speakpigeon. Either your argument is concerned with relative probabilities, or it isn't. Which is it?

As I already said many times, the question here is not "soundness" but validity. I'm interested in logic, not the application of logic to the real world.
I think we should wait until you formulate your syllogism in an unambiguous way. Then we can discuss the validity question without all this guessing at what you might mean by this or that.