Edited to add: It was the wording not the concept that was niggling. Thank you for all the replies.

The body is capable of innumerable positions.

Better, but still subject to further consideration and I've realised I was getting side-tracked.

I'm rewriting my post where I said:

'The body has an almost infinite number of potential positions'

And I am OK with it, but not completely. Something's niggling at me and I don't know what.

Am I missing something? Or is the statement valid?

(No link to the post containing my reasoning because I don't want to contaminate anyone else's thoughts...)

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One of the issues with the sentence is that "potential position" seems ill-defined. Even with a single joint you can have an infinite number of potential positions because you have an infinite amount of numbers between 0 and 1.

You would need to have a standard to distinguish two positions from each other to make positions countable in a meaningful sense. If you for example care about dancing you might say that two positions are the same if they have the same labanotion. A osteopath however cares about difference in articulation of a joint that are a lot more fine then what you could write down in labanotation.

"potential position" seems ill-defined

'The body has an almost infinite number of potential positions'

An improvement?

I was umming and ahing about how to phrase it and couldn't decide if 'positions', 'potential positions' or 'possible positions' were any better than each other.

Thank you for the introduction to labanotion, I've not come across it before. It looks like a representation of what I'd classify as generalised positions, not specific enough in detail for my line of thought.

I t... (read more)

I don't think it changes much. It still leaves the question of what counts as one position open. Defining what the term means is likely to be very beneficial to be able to later make exact statements about positions. Any good science operationalizes the terms it cares about.
I started a long answer but have deleted it all. Rather than repeating, here's my post if that clarifies anything of my thinking? I am struggling with a lot of wording on LW. Are you saying I need to define a position? The concepts floating around in my brain have morphed a bit, but aren't clear enough to express yet.
I missed that you wrote a lot on that post. I will comment on it more directly.
I would appreciate your thoughts. I have realised (through asking this question and reading the answers), the underlying concept is valid but what was niggling at me was all the words (apart from body!) I'd used in the statement. Does the body have an almost infinite number of potential has innumerable positions. - feels better. I'm not totally happy with 'positions', but I've also realised this is a minor addition to my main hypothesis ('vanity side project' is the phrase that springs to mind) and I've got distracted by unimportant details, ... so back to work on my next posts. Although my first three posts cover the key anatomy. All the information needed is there.

Perhaps this is what is true: However many postures and movements and ways of thinking about them and experiencing them you learn, the space of possibilities will remain unexhausted. For all practical purposes, the possibilities are unlimited: no-one will have cause to lament that there is nothing left to discover.

There seems to be additionally meaning in speaking about new discovery.

If you count various joint like the one of each toe you get a high dimensional space of possible positions and therefore a lot of different positions.

On the other hand you have somatic paradigms where movement exploration also leads people to discover new dimensions to distinguish different movement and body positions in a way they couldn't previously.

The claim about counting joints is a rather trivial one while the somatic claim is a nontrivial one which people who haven't engaged in somatic exploration might not find convincing.

Being to vague to distinguish the two claims seems problematic to me.

Yes, the degrees of freedom of nerve and muscle activation greatly exceed the degrees of freedom of the joints. In yoga, martial arts, ballet, and similar activites, it is not enough to merely achieve the right geometry of the posture and movement The inner work that produces the outer form is where the real activity happens.
the space of possibilities will remain unexhausted

I like that phrase.

no-one will have cause to lament that there is nothing left to discover.

I don't understand this one!

Ah, multiple negatives. Cancelling them out: there will always be more to discover or create in the arts of posture and movement.
That's certainly how I feel at the moment. An unending flow of movement and potential (rather than discrete positions). (A spontaneous comment)

I don't know what "almost infinite" means, but yes, the body has an infinite number of potential positions. E.g. you could raise your arm by any angle from 0 to 180 degrees. There are infinitely many real numbers from 0 to 180, hence infinitely many possible body positions.

:) me either!

Infinite is too definite a word in my mind, "almost infinite" is my way of not committing to that. (a get-out clause/covering my ass/leaving some wiggle room)

I considered "approaching infinite" but it's still on the side of wishy-washy.

Incalculable didn't seem right, but maybe is a better term? (It's a long time since I studied mathematics.)

I'll count your comment as one vote for the statement is OK!

If you mean self-controlled conscious positioning, I would disagree. There are limits to our sense of proprioception, fine motor control, etc. So, I doubt it's possible consciously move our body into an infinite number of positions. That being said, I do think we can consciously move our body into a huge number of different positions (even of no practical use) but, the number is not infinite or approaching infinite.


If you mean things beyond just joints, muscles, etc., like changes in the position of individual cells due to breathing, changes in blood flow/pressure, and things like that. I would guess that would approach an infinite number of positions. There are roughly 37.2 trillion cells in the human body, changes in their positioning would add up quick :-)

Depends on your perspective...

My perspective for the statement (is not down to the cellular level - I'm a finicky ass but not quite that much!):

But combining:

  • The number of moving joints in the body.
  • The range of motion of each of those joints.
  • Positions created by the action of muscles when the skeleton is stationary.
  • The degree a difference in position is measured.

self-controlled conscious positioning.

An interesting phrase. I need to think about that a bit.

No, not infinite, but in a technical sense very very high, in the same way that the Coastline Paradox allows you to have lots and lots of measurements for the length of a coastline. Since you can get to arbitrary precision with your measurements (not infinitely arbitrary, but like, really really really high), you can get more and more positions. And unlike the coastal paradox, you have multiple dimensions you can change which causes the total number of positions to balloon.

However, in a practical sense, for a given application you're going to have some level of precision that you want, and some limbs/body areas that you care about, this level and focus will limit the total number of possible positions for that purpose. For instance, sitting in a chair limits the amount of movements you can make, and then in terms of precision you probably alone care about gross postural positions rather than minute details of degree, so in practice there might be only 10 or so relevant "chair posture" positions.

I do make meaningful distinction when sitting that have a lot higher precision. Today, for example I cared about the fact that 3 toes on the left side and one toe of the right side didn't put down their weight on the ground while I was sitting.

When you care about good posture, I think I could easily stretch out what 5^25 different position might be that are worth distinguishing from each other.

3Matt Goldenberg4y
Fair enough.
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I contaminated myself because I thought it was a weird question by itself and had a smell of the answer being embedded in the context. In general "Does this analysis miss anything? I have not included analysis to avoid bias" isn't really an answerable question.

One of the tricks ot ponder on meanings is to wonder what the meaning stands in opposition to. To me it seems the statement plays the role of "enumerating the positions is not a fruitful way of approaching handling of positions" and if it is not enumerable then by theorycrafting it is probably some kind of infinity. And the example "proof" seems to be that for any proposal enumerating scheme you can take a position, apply a small mutator and end up with a position that is not covered by the original enumeration. A weaker versions results if only ""unlikely to be already enumerated".

Taking the logic a bit further it seems that the problem is already in "this position" where the pointing "this" can be ambigious in microparameters where trying to point to "one" position actually results in pointing to a whole class of positions. Thus "counting" positions is problematic and not really needed if we just want to undertand positions and their parameters/positions. So rather than there being a great many number of them an analysis is employed where we do not number them.

A similar thing could be made with water/ice. If you have icecubes it might make sense to count them. However if you have a cup of water or a block of ice it would be unnatural to place a integer amount to describe amount of water (althought with connection to avocadros number there probably is such a number) but neither it would make sense to say that a cup of water contains "infinite" amount of water. One might still care about big cup of water vs small cup of water. However the uncountable sense of size is not directly related to the countable sense of size (measure one in liters and one in objects).

The question was meant to be about the validity of a statement that I was making. A genuine question, was the answer embedded? I was hoping for fresh thoughts and clearer vocab - and I've got some.

Innumerable positions. Feels much better, thank you.

I'm still missing the defining of position. Interesting the water/ice analogy. Moving though innumerable positions should be fluid. I want to say a duality, in something - but i don't know what I mean by that yet.

What would it mean for the statement to be false? What would a body with a finite number of potential positions be like?

This view very much appeals to me!

What would a body with a finite number of potential positions be like?

I can't imagine it. Does that mean it doesn't exist? And there's my issue.

The fact (interestingly to me that's the first time I've typed fact without inverted commas) I can't imagine something is no confirmation about it's validity. Hence the original question.

So is the original statement valid? I've had more time to think and I want to change the statement...