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I was speaking with a colleague who suggested that a mutual friend was "lucky" to get that awesome new job at Google. While I understood the meaning of their statement, I was not so sure it was "luck"; that person worked very hard and placed herself in strategic circles. While there was a "chance" that her work wouldn't pay off, it did. Which made me really wonder...

Does the concept of "luck" really exist? If causation is a fundamental property of reality, then wouldn't luck only serve the purpose of describing confusion/chaos in the absence of understanding? Is the term "luck" just used as an expression or as an actual way to identify causality in an otherwise complex world? IE: I don't understand how she got that job, therefore, it was luck.

asked Jan 06 '15 at 16:51

Cameron's gravatar image

Cameron
10937

I think a lot of the time when people say "he's lucky" that's really just another way of saying "he is fortunate" or "he has benefited", and doesn't have to imply reasons/causes.

If we say "luck" is the same as "chance" or "randomness" then that is to say "unpredictable". Well, was it? Was it unpredictable? In the case of someone being offered a job, the job is offered by someone who has their reasons for offering - so, the reasons for the event are knowable, they're just secret in that case, only known by some.

(Feb 19 '15 at 16:06) Marce11o Marce11o's gravatar image

In my understanding, "luck" should not be confused with "chance." I understand "luck" to mean a chance occurrence that is beneficial to someone in some way (although "luck" sometimes is used as subsuming bad luck as well as good luck). The issue of good or bad, benefit or detriment, is separate from the phenomenon of chance itself. One can observe that chance exists by doing experiments such as flipping a coin. One can even quantify the relative frequency of occurrence of the outcomes, both on average and as a spectrum of possible variations (number of "heads" events in "n" trials, and the variation across multiple sequences of trials of varying sizes of "n").

Regarding obtaining a job that one may have been seeking, there are certainly elements of causality involved (one is actively seeking it) as well as elements of chance (who else might also be seeking the same position, what exact qualities is the employer actually looking for, etc.).

... causation is a fundamental property of reality...

In Objectivism (and Aristotle), causality simply refers to the fact that actions are actions of entities, and entities act in accord with their nature. This doesn't imply determinism or absence of random (chance) elements. Philosophy cannot say that the universe has to be deterministic unless altered by man. That is an issue for special sciences such as physics to grapple with.

answered Jan 07 '15 at 08:44

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

I think there is a case to be made for contextual luck. The bolide that hit the Earth 65.4 million years ago was 100% predictable (had any been around to run the equation), but can be treated as random from the perspective of the biosphere, which (back then) had no capacity to affect such things, or be affected by them until it actually happened. As such, it's a term that establishes the limits of the discussion. We're not talking about what caused the earthquake, we're talking about how the building responded. The earthquake was bad luck.

(Feb 26 '15 at 12:59) James James's gravatar image

For those who may be interested in reading more about a "bolide" hitting the Earth 65 million years ago, here is an interesting weblink: K-Pg extinction event. Also, the state of the art in predicting just about anything depends on how far into the future we are trying to predict. As the time span increases, the number of relevant factors increases sharply, as does the need for ever higher precision in measurements of present conditions. "Predictable" depends on man's actual present knowledge, not just potential future knowledge.

(Feb 28 '15 at 00:09) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

It's true that all things are, from a broad enough perspective, predictable. However, a more narrow perspective is often useful, or even required, when trying to understand something. What I'm saying is that if some event can affect the system in question, but is not a part of that system, it can be termed random--or lucky/unlucky. The reason is, the event outside the system cannot be predicted from knowledge of the system in question. In some cases, broadening one's perspective to include those events may not aid in understanding the system in question, at least not significantly.

(Mar 02 '15 at 09:46) James James's gravatar image

My use of the term "bolide" stems from its use in the paleontological literature. It may not agree with how astronomers use the term, but then they use the term "extinction level event", which is pure nonsense from a paleontological perspective, so I say we're even on that front. :)

(Mar 02 '15 at 09:48) James James's gravatar image
... a more narrow perspective is often useful, or even required, when trying to understand something.... if some event can affect the system in question, but is not a part of that system, it can be termed random--or lucky/unlucky. The reason is, the event outside the system cannot be predicted from knowledge of the system in question. In some cases, broadening one's perspective to include those events may not aid in understanding the system in question, at least not significantly.

[Astronomers] use the term "extinction level event", which is pure nonsense from a paleontological perspective, so I say we're even on that front. :) [What about a biological perspective that integrates the evidence of paleontology, geology, and astronomy?]

Objectivism regards philosophy and science as serious endeavors to understand reality by integrating all available evidence that has any rational bearing on the issues. In the terminology of Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis, Objectivism advocates 'I' over 'D' or 'M' -- cognitive integration over disintegration or misintegration. And it's not a competitive academic game, like some sort of debating contest.

(Mar 03 '15 at 05:52) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 06 '15 at 16:51

Seen: 860 times

Last updated: Mar 03 '15 at 05:53