quinta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2013

Happy Every Day Halloween from Germany!

domingo, 27 de outubro de 2013

Overcoming the Strong Nuclear Force - The Ecstasy by John Donne

WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,
A pregnant bank swell'd up, to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.

Our hands were firmly cemented
By a fast balm, which thence did spring ;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string.

So to engraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one ;
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.

As, 'twixt two equal armies, Fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls—which to advance their state,
Were gone out—hung 'twixt her and me.

And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay ;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.

If any, so by love refined,
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,

He—though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same—
Might thence a new concoction take,
And part far purer than he came.

This ecstasy doth unperplex
(We said) and tell us what we love ;
We see by this, it was not sex ;
We see, we saw not, what did move :

But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again,
And makes both one, each this, and that.

A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size—
All which before was poor and scant—
Redoubles still, and multiplies.

When love with one another so
Interanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.

We then, who are this new soul, know,
Of what we are composed, and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls, whom no change can invade.

But, O alas ! so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They are ours, though not we ; we are
Th' intelligences, they the spheres.

We owe them thanks, because they thus 
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.

On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air ;
For soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.

As our blood labours to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can ;
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot, which makes us man ;

So must pure lovers' souls descend
To affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.

To our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal'd may look ;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.

And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change when we're to bodies gone.

Mira Bodek - "Kepler's Dream" - Voices of Galaxy 

quinta-feira, 24 de outubro de 2013

“O Death, Where is Your Victory? O Death, Where is Your Sting?” (Corinthians 15:55) - J’Accuse (1919) by Abel Gance

To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’ (Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.

Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (Corinthians 15:26) 

Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed(Corinthians 15:51) 

Abel Gance - J'accuse! (1919) - seq morti

A remake of the 1919 film also directed by Gance

quarta-feira, 23 de outubro de 2013

At Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Temple in Hannover

We should like Nature to go no further; we should like it to be finite, like our mind; but this is to ignore the greatness and majesty of the Author of things.

(Letter to S. Clarke, 1715. Trans. M. Morris and G. H. R. Parkinson, Leibniz: Philosophical Writings (1973), 220)

where h is an infinitesimal...

The Monadology

1. The Monad, of which we shall here speak, is nothing but a simple substance, which enters into compounds. By 'simple' is meant 'without parts.' (Theod. 10.)

2. And there must be simple substances, since there are compounds; for a compound is nothing but a collection or aggregatum of simple things.

3. Now where there are no parts, there can be neither extension nor form [figure] nor divisibility. These Monads are the real atoms of nature and, in a word, the elements of things.

4. No dissolution of these elements need be feared, and there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can be destroyed by natural means. (Theod. 89.)

5. For the same reason there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can come into being by natural means, since it cannot be formed by the combination of parts [composition].

6. Thus it may be said that a Monad can only come into being or come to an end all at once; that is to say, it can come into being only by creation and come to an end only by annihilation, while that which is compound comes into being or comes to an end by parts.

7. Further, there is no way of explaining how a Monad can be altered in quality or internally changed by any other created thing; since it is impossible to change the place of anything in it or to conceive in it any internal motion which could be produced, directed, increased or diminished therein, although all this is possible in the case of compounds, in which there are changes among the parts. The Monads have no windows, through which anything could come in or go out. Accidents cannot separate themselves from substances nor go about outside of them, as the 'sensible species' of the Scholastics used to do. Thus neither substance nor accident can come into a Monad from outside.

8. Yet the Monads must have some qualities, otherwise they would not even be existing things. And if simple substances did not differ in quality, there would be absolutely no means of perceiving any change in things. For what is in the compound can come only from the simple elements it contains, and the Monads, if they had no qualities, would be indistinguishable from one another, since they do not differ in quantity. Consequently, space being a plenum, each part of space would always receive, in any motion, exactly the equivalent of what it already had, and no one state of things would be discernible from another.

9. Indeed, each Monad must be different from every other. For in nature there are never two beings which are perfectly alike and in which it is not possible to find an internal difference, or at least a difference founded upon an intrinsic quality [denomination].

10. I assume also as admitted that every created being, and consequently the created Monad, is subject to change, and further that this change is continuous in each.

11. It follows from what has just been said, that the natural changes of the Monads come from an internal principle, since an external cause can have no influence upon their inner being. (Theod. 396, 400.)

12. But, besides the principle of the change, there must be a particular series of changes [un detail de ce qui change], which constitutes, so to speak, the specific nature and variety of the simple substances.

13. This particular series of changes should involve a multiplicity in the unit [unite] or in that which is simple. For, as every natural change takes place gradually, something changes and something remains unchanged; and consequently a simple substance must be affected and related in many ways, although it has no parts.

14. The passing condition, which involves and represents a multiplicity in the unit [unite] or in the simple substance, is nothing but what is called Perception, which is to be distinguished from Apperception or Consciousness, as will afterwards appear. In this matter the Cartesian view is extremely defective, for it treats as non-existent those perceptions of which we are not consciously aware. This has also led them to believe that minds [esprits] alone are Monads, and that there are no souls of animals nor other Entelechies. Thus, like the crowd, they have failed to distinguish between a prolonged unconsciousness and absolute death, which has made them fall again into the Scholastic prejudice of souls entirely separate [from bodies], and has even confirmed ill-balanced minds in the opinion that souls are mortal.

15. The activity of the internal principle which produces change or passage from one perception to another may be called Appetition. It is true that desire [l'appetit] cannot always fully attain to the whole perception at which it aims, but it always obtains some of it and attains to new perceptions.

16. We have in ourselves experience of a multiplicity in simple substance, when we find that the least thought of which we are conscious involves variety in its object. Thus all those who admit that the soul is a simple substance should admit this multiplicity in the Monad; and M. Bayle ought not to have found any difficulty in this, as he has done in his Dictionary, article 'Rorarius.'

17. Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, that is to say, by means of figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. Thus it is in a simple substance, and not in a compound or in a machine, that perception must be sought for. Further, nothing but this (namely, perceptions and their changes) can be found in a simple substance. It is also in this alone that all the internal activities of simple substances can consist. (Theod. Pref. [E. 474; G. vi. 37].)

18. All simple substances or created Monads might be called Entelechies, for they have in them a certain perfection (echousi to enteles); they have a certain self-sufficiency (autarkeia) which makes them the sources of their internal activities and, so to speak, incorporeal automata. (Theod. 87.)

19. If we are to give the name of Soul to everything which has perceptions and desires [appetits] in the general sense which I have explained, then all simple substances or created Monads might be called souls; but as feeling [le sentiment] is something more than a bare perception, I think it right that the general name of Monads or Entelechies should suffice for simple substances which have perception only, and that the name of Souls should be given only to those in which perception is more distinct, and is accompanied by memory.

20. For we experience in ourselves a condition in which we remember nothing and have no distinguishable perception; as when we fall into a swoon or when we are overcome with a profound dreamless sleep. In this state the soul does not perceptibly differ from a bare Monad; but as this state is not lasting, and the soul comes out of it, the soul is something more than a bare Monad. (Theod. 64.)

21. And it does not follow that in this state the simple substance is without any perception. That, indeed, cannot be, for the reasons already given; for it cannot perish, and it cannot continue to exist without being affected in some way, and this affection is nothing but its perception. But when there is a great multitude of little perceptions, in which there is nothing distinct, one is stunned; as when one turns continuously round in the same way several times in succession, whence comes a giddiness which may make us swoon, and which keeps us from distinguishing anything. Death can for a time put animals into this condition.

22. And as every present state of a simple substance is naturally a consequence of its preceding state, in such a way that its present is big with its future; (Theod. 350.)

23. And as, on waking from stupor, we are conscious of our perceptions, we must have had perceptions immediately before we awoke, although we were not at all conscious of them; for one perception can in a natural way come only from another perception, as a motion can in a natural way come only from a motion. (Theod. 401-403.)

24. It thus appears that if we had in our perceptions nothing marked and, so to speak, striking and highly-flavoured, we should always be in a state of stupor. And this is the state in which the bare Monads are.

25. We see also that nature has given heightened perceptions to animals, from the care she has taken to provide them with organs, which collect numerous rays of light, or numerous undulations of the air, in order, by uniting them, to make them have greater effect. Something similar to this takes place in smell, in taste and in touch, and perhaps in a number of other senses, which are unknown to us. And I will explain presently how that which takes place in the soul represents what happens in the bodily organs.

26. Memory provides the soul with a kind of consecutiveness, which resembles [imite] reason, but which is to be distinguished from it. Thus we see that when animals have a perception of something which strikes them and of which they have formerly had a similar perception, they are led, by means of representation in their memory, to expect what was combined with the thing in this previous perception, and they come to have feelings similar to those they had on the former occasion. For instance, when a stick is shown to dogs, they remember the pain it has caused them, and howl and run away. (Theod. Discours de la Conformite, &c., ss. 65.)
27. And the strength of the mental image which impresses and moves them comes either from the magnitude or the number of the preceding perceptions. For often a strong impression produces all at once the same effect as a long-formed habit, or as many and oft-repeated ordinary perceptions.

28. In so far as the concatenation of their perceptions is due to the principle of memory alone, men act like the lower animals, resembling the empirical physicians, whose methods are those of mere practice without theory. Indeed, in three-fourths of our actions we are nothing but empirics. For instance, when we expect that there will be daylight to-morrow, we do so empirically, because it has always so happened until now. It is only the astronomer who thinks it on rational grounds.

29. But it is the knowledge of necessary and eternal truths that distinguishes us from the mere animals and gives us Reason and the sciences, raising us to the knowledge of ourselves and of God. And it is this in us that is called the rational soul or mind [esprit].

30. It is also through the knowledge of necessary truths, and through their abstract expression, that we rise to acts of reflexion, which make us think of what is called I, and observe that this or that is within us: and thus, thinking of ourselves, we think of being, of substance, of the simple and the compound, of the immaterial, and of God Himself, conceiving that what is limited in us is in Him without limits. And these acts of reflexion furnish the chief objects of our reasonings. (Theod. Pref. [E. 469; G. vi. 27].)

31. Our reasonings are grounded upon two great principles, that of contradiction, in virtue of which we judge false that which involves a contradiction, and true that which is opposed or contradictory to the false; (Theod. 44, 169.)
32. And that of sufficient reason, in virtue of which we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason, why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us. (Theod. 44, 196.)

33. There are also two kinds of truths, those of reasoning and those of fact. Truths of reasoning are necessary and their opposite is impossible: truths of fact are contingent and their opposite is possible. When a truth is necessary, its reason can be found by analysis, resolving it into more simple ideas and truths, until we come to those which are primary. (Theod. 170, 174, 189, 280-282, 367. Abrege, Object. 3.)

34. It is thus that in Mathematics speculative Theorems and practical Canons are reduced by analysis to Definitions, Axioms and Postulates.

35. In short, there are simple ideas, of which no definition can be given; there are also axioms and postulates, in a word, primary principles, which cannot be proved, and indeed have no need of proof; and these are identical propositions, whose opposite involves an express contradiction. (Theod. 36, 37, 44, 45, 49, 52, 121-122, 337, 340-344.)

36. But there must also be a sufficient reason for contingent truths or truths of fact, that is to say, for the sequence or connexion of the things which are dispersed throughout the universe of created beings, in which the analyzing into particular reasons might go on into endless detail, because of the immense variety of things in nature and the infinite division of bodies. There is an infinity of present and past forms and motions which go to make up the efficient cause of my present writing; and there is an infinity of minute tendencies and dispositions of my soul, which go to make its final cause.

37. And as all this detail again involves other prior or more detailed contingent things, each of which still needs a similar analysis to yield its reason, we are no further forward: and the sufficient or final reason must be outside of the sequence or series of particular contingent things, however infinite this series may be.

38. Thus the final reason of things must be in a necessary substance, in which the variety of particular changes exists only eminently, as in its source; and this substance we call God. (Theod. 7.)

39. Now as this substance is a sufficient reason of all this variety of particulars, which are also connected together throughout; there is only one God, and this God is sufficient.

40. We may also hold that this supreme substance, which is unique, universal and necessary, nothing outside of it being independent of it,- this substance, which is a pure sequence of possible being, must be illimitable and must contain as much reality as is possible.

41. Whence it follows that God is absolutely perfect; for perfection is nothing but amount of positive reality, in the strict sense, leaving out of account the limits or bounds in things which are limited. And where there are no bounds, that is to say in God, perfection is absolutely infinite. (Theod. 22, Pref. [E. 469 a; G. vi. 27].)

42. It follows also that created beings derive their perfections from the influence of God, but that their imperfections come from their own nature, which is incapable of being without limits. For it is in this that they differ from God. An instance of this original imperfection of created beings may be seen in the natural inertia of bodies. (Theod. 20, 27-30, 153, 167, 377 sqq.)

43. It is farther true that in God there is not only the source of existences but also that of essences, in so far as they are real, that is to say, the source of what is real in the possible. For the understanding of God is the region of eternal truths or of the ideas on which they depend, and without Him there would be nothing real in the possibilities of things, and not only would there be nothing in existence, but nothing would even be possible. (Theod. 20.) 44. For if there is a reality in essences or possibilities, or rather in eternal truths, this reality must needs be founded in something existing and actual, and consequently in the existence of the necessary Being, in whom essence involves existence, or in whom to be possible is to be actual. (Theod. 184-189, 335.)

45. Thus God alone (or the necessary Being) has this prerogative that He must necessarily exist, if He is possible. And as nothing can interfere with the possibility of that which involves no limits, no negation and consequently no contradiction, this [His possibility] is sufficient of itself to make known the existence of God a priori. We have thus proved it, through the reality of eternal truths. But a little while ago we proved it also a posteriori, since there exist contingent beings, which can have their final or sufficient reason only in the necessary Being, which has the reason of its existence in itself.

46. We must not, however, imagine, as some do, that eternal truths, being dependent on God, are arbitrary and depend on His will, as Descartes, and afterwards M. Poiret, appear to have held. That is true only of contingent truths, of which the principle is fitness [convenance] or choice of the best, whereas necessary truths depend solely on His understanding and are its inner object. (Theod. 180-184, 185, 335, 351, 380.)

47. Thus God alone is the primary unity or original simple substance, of which all created or derivative Monads are products and have their birth, so to speak, through continual fulgurations of the Divinity from moment to moment, limited by the receptivity of the created being, of whose essence it is to have limits. (Theod. 382-391, 398, 395.)

48. In God there is Power, which is the source of all, also Knowledge, whose content is the variety of the ideas, and finally Will, which makes changes or products according to the principle of the best. (Theod. 7, 149, 150.) These characteristics correspond to what in the created Monads forms the ground or basis, to the faculty of Perception and to the faculty of Appetition. But in God these attributes are absolutely infinite or perfect; and in the created Monads or the Entelechies (or perfectihabiae, as Hermolaus Barbarus translated the word) there are only imitations of these attributes, according to the degree of perfection of the Monad. (Theod. 87.)

49. A created thing is said to act outwardly in so far as it has perfection, and to suffer [or be passive, patir] in relation to another, in so far as it is imperfect. Thus activity [action] is attributed to a Monad, in so far as it has distinct perceptions, and passivity [passion] in so far as its perceptions are confused. (Theod. 32, 66, 386.)

50. And one created thing is more perfect than another, in this, that there is found in the more perfect that which serves to explain a priori what takes place in the less perfect, and it is on this account that the former is said to act upon the latter.

51. But in simple substances the influence of one Monad upon another is only ideal, and it can have its effect only through the mediation of God, in so far as in the ideas of God any Monad rightly claims that God, in regulating the others from the beginning of things, should have regard to it. For since one created Monad cannot have any physical influence upon the inner being of another, it is only by this means that the one can be dependent upon the other. (Theod. 9, 54, 65, 66, 201. Abrege, Object. 3.)

52. Accordingly, among created things, activities and passivities are mutual. For God, comparing two simple substances, finds in each reasons which oblige Him to adapt the other to it, and consequently what is active in certain respects is passive from another point of view; active in so far as what we distinctly know in it serves to explain [rendre raison de] what takes place in another, and passive in so far as the explanation [raison] of what takes place in it is to be found in that which is distinctly known in another. (Theod. 66.) 53. Now, as in the Ideas of God there is an infinite number of possible universes, and as only one of them can be actual, there must be a sufficient reason for the choice of God, which leads Him to decide upon one rather than another. (Theod. 8, 10, 44, 173, 196 sqq., 225, 414-416.)

54. And this reason can be found only in the fitness [convenance], or in the degrees of perfection, that these worlds possess, since each possible thing has the right to aspire to existence in proportion to the amount of perfection it contains in germ. (Theod. 74, 167, 350, 201, 130, 352, 345 sqq., 354.)

55. Thus the actual existence of the best that wisdom makes known to God is due to this, that His goodness makes Him choose it, and His power makes Him produce it. (Theod. 8, 78, 80, 84, 119, 204, 206, 208. Abrege, Object. 1 and 8.)

56. Now this connexion or adaptation of all created things to each and of each to all, means that each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and, consequently, that it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe. (Theod. 130, 360.)

57. And as the same town, looked at from various sides, appears quite different and becomes as it were numerous in aspects [perspectivement]; even so, as a result of the infinite number of simple substances, it is as if there were so many different universes, which, nevertheless are nothing but aspects [perspectives] of a single universe, according to the special point of view of each Monad. (Theod. 147.)

58. And by this means there is obtained as great variety as possible, along with the greatest possible order; that is to say, it is the way to get as much perfection as possible. (Theod. 120, 124, 241 sqq., 214, 243, 275.)

59. Besides, no hypothesis but this (which I venture to call proved) fittingly exalts the greatness of God; and this Monsieur Bayle recognized when, in his Dictionary (article Rorarius), he raised objections to it, in which indeed he was inclined to think that I was attributing too much to God- more than it is possible to attribute. But he was unable to give any reason which could show the impossibility of this universal harmony, according to which every substance exactly expresses all others through the relations it has with them.

60. Further, in what I have just said there may be seen the reasons a priori why things could not be otherwise than they are. For God in regulating the whole has had regard to each part, and in particular to each Monad, whose nature being to represent, nothing can confine it to the representing of only one part of things; though it is true that this representation is merely confused as regards the variety of particular things [le detail] in the whole universe, and can be distinct only as regards a small part of things, namely, those which are either nearest or greatest in relation to each of the Monads; otherwise each Monad would be a deity. It is not as regards their object, but as regards the different ways in which they have knowledge of their object, that the Monads are limited. In a confused way they all strive after [vont a] the infinite, the whole; but they are limited and differentiated through the degrees of their distinct perceptions.

61. And compounds are in this respect analogous with [symbolisent avec] simple substances. For all is a plenum (and thus all matter is connected together) and in the plenum every motion has an effect upon distant bodies in proportion to their distance, so that each body not only is affected by those which are in contact with it and in some way feels the effect of everything that happens to them, but also is mediately affected by bodies adjoining those with which it itself is in immediate contact. Wherefore it follows that this inter-communication of things extends to any distance, however great. And consequently every body feels the effect of all that takes place in the universe, so that he who sees all might read in each what is happening everywhere, and even what has happened or shall happen, observing in the present that which is far off as well in time as in place: sympnoia panta, as Hippocrates said. But a soul can read in itself only that which is there represented distinctly; it cannot all at once unroll everything that is enfolded in it, for its complexity is infinite.
62. Thus, although each created Monad represents the whole universe, it represents more distinctly the body which specially pertains to it, and of which it is the entelechy; and as this body expresses the whole universe through the connexion of all matter in the plenum, the soul also represents the whole universe in representing this body, which belongs to it in a special way. (Theod. 400.)

63. The body belonging to a Monad (which is its entelechy or its soul) constitutes along with the entelechy what may be called a living being, and along with the soul what is called an animal. Now this body of living being or of an animal is always organic; for, as every Monad is, in its own way, a mirror of the universe, and as the universe is ruled according to a perfect order, there must also be order in that which represents it, i.e. in the perceptions of the soul, and consequently there must be order in the body, through which the universe is represented in the soul. (Theod. 403.)

64. Thus the organic body of each living being is a kind of divine machine or natural automaton, which infinitely surpasses all artificial automata. For a machine made by the skill of man is not a machine in each of its parts. For instance, the tooth of a brass wheel has parts or fragments which for us are not artificial products, and which do not have the special characteristics of the machine, for they give no indication of the use for which the wheel was intended. But the machines of nature, namely, living bodies, are still machines in their smallest parts ad infinitum. It is this that constitutes the difference between nature and art, that is to say, between the divine art and ours. (Theod. 134, 146, 194, 403.)

65. And the Author of nature has been able to employ this divine and infinitely wonderful power of art, because each portion of matter is not only infinitely divisible, as the ancients observed, but is also actually subdivided without end, each part into further parts, of which each has some motion of its own; otherwise it would be impossible for each portion of matter to express the whole universe. (Theod. Prelim., Disc. de la Conform. 70, and 195.)

66. Whence it appears that in the smallest particle of matter there is a world of creatures, living beings, animals, entelechies, souls.

67. Each portion of matter may be conceived as like a garden full of plants and like a pond full of fishes. But each branch of every plant, each member of every animal, each drop of its liquid parts is also some such garden or pond.

68. And though the earth and the air which are between the plants of the garden, or the water which is between the fish of the pond, be neither plant nor fish; yet they also contain plants and fishes, but mostly so minute as to be imperceptible to us.

69. Thus there is nothing fallow, nothing sterile, nothing dead in the universe, no chaos, no confusion save in appearance, somewhat as it might appear to be in a pond at a distance, in which one would see a confused movement and, as it were, a swarming of fish in the pond, without separately distinguishing the fish themselves. (Theod. Pref. [E. 475 b; 477 b; G. vi. 40, 44].)

70. Hence it appears that each living body has a dominant entelechy, which in an animal is the soul; but the members of this living body are full of other living beings, plants, animals, each of which has also its dominant entelechy or soul.

71. But it must not be imagined, as has been done by some who have misunderstood my thought, that each soul has a quantity or portion of matter belonging exclusively to itself or attached to it for ever, and that it consequently owns other inferior living beings, which are devoted for ever to its service. For all bodies are in a perpetual flux like rivers, and parts are entering into them and passing out of them continually.

72. Thus the soul changes its body only by degrees, little by little, so that it is never all at once deprived of all its organs; and there is often metamorphosis in animals, but never metempsychosis or transmigration of souls; nor are there souls entirely separate [from bodies] nor unembodied spirits [genies sans corps]. God alone is completely without body. (Theod. 90, 124.)

73. It also follows from this that there never is absolute birth [generation] nor complete death, in the strict sense, consisting in the separation of the soul from the body. What we call births [generations] are developments and growths, while what we call deaths are envelopments and diminutions.

74. Philosophers have been much perplexed about the origin of forms, entelechies, or souls; but nowadays it has become known, through careful studies of plants, insects, and animals, that the organic bodies of nature are never products of chaos or putrefaction, but always come from seeds, in which there was undoubtedly some preformation; and it is held that not only the organic body was already there before conception, but also a soul in this body, and, in short, the animal itself; and that by means of conception this animal has merely been prepared for the great transformation involved in its becoming an animal of another kind. Something like this is indeed seen apart from birth [generation], as when worms become flies and caterpillars become butterflies. (Theod. 86, 89. Pref. [E. 475 b; G. vi. 40 sqq.]; 90, 187, 188, 403, 86, 397.)

75. The animals, of which some are raised by means of conception to the rank of larger animals, may be called spermatic, but those among them which are not so raised but remain in their own kind (that is, the majority) are born, multiply, and are destroyed like the large animals, and it is only a few chosen ones [elus] that pass to a greater theatre.

76. But this is only half of the truth, and accordingly I hold that if an animal never comes into being by natural means [naturellement], no more does it come to an end by natural means; and that not only will there be no birth [generation], but also no complete destruction or death in the strict sense. And these reasonings, made a posteriori and drawn from experience are in perfect agreement with my principles deduced a priori, as above. (Theod. 90.)

77. Thus it may be said that not only the soul (mirror of an indestructible universe) is indestructible, but also the animal itself, though its mechanism [machine] may often perish in part and take off or put on an organic slough [des depouilles organiques].

78. These principles have given me a way of explaining naturally the union or rather the mutual agreement [conformite] of the soul and the organic body. The soul follows its own laws, and the body likewise follows its own laws; and they agree with each other in virtue of the pre-established harmony between all substances, since they are all representations of one and the same universe. (Pref. [E. 475 a; G. vi. 39]; Theod. 340, 352, 353, 358.)

79. Souls act according to the laws of final causes through appetitions, ends, and means. Bodies act according to the laws of efficient causes or motions. And the two realms, that of efficient causes and that of final causes, are in harmony with one another.

80. Descartes recognized that souls cannot impart any force to bodies, because there is always the same quantity of force in matter. Nevertheless he was of opinion that the soul could change the direction of bodies. But that is because in his time it was not known that there is a law of nature which affirms also the conservation of the same total direction in matter. Had Descartes noticed this he would have come upon my system of pre-established harmony. (Pref. [E. 477 a; G. vi. 44]; Theod. 22, 59, 60, 61, 63, 66, 345, 346 sqq., 354, 355.)

81. According to this system bodies act as if (to suppose the impossible) there were no souls, and souls act as if there were no bodies, and both act as if each influenced the other.

82. As regards minds [esprits] or rational souls, though I find that what I have just been saying is true of all living beings and animals (namely that animals and souls come into being when the world begins and no more come to an end that the world does), yet there is this peculiarity in rational animals, that their spermatic animalcules, so long as they are only spermatic, have merely ordinary or sensuous [sensitive] souls; but when those which are chosen [elus], so to speak, attain to human nature through an actual conception, their sensuous souls are raised to the rank of reason and to the prerogative of minds [esprits]. (Theod. 91, 397.)

83. Among other differences which exist between ordinary souls and minds [esprits], some of which differences I have already noted, there is also this: that souls in general are living mirrors or images of the universe of created things, but that minds are also images of the Deity or Author of nature Himself, capable of knowing the system of the universe, and to some extent of imitating it through architectonic ensamples [echantillons], each mind being like a small divinity in its own sphere. (Theod. 147.)

84. It is this that enables spirits [or minds- esprits] to enter into a kind of fellowship with God, and brings it about that in relation to them He is not only what an inventor is to his machine (which is the relation of God to other created things), but also what a prince is to his subjects, and, indeed, what a father is to his children.

85. Whence it is easy to conclude that the totality [assemblage] of all spirits [esprits] must compose the City of God, that is to say, the most perfect State that is possible, under the most perfect of Monarchs. (Theod. 146; Abrege, Object. 2.)

86. This City of God, this truly universal monarchy, is a moral world in the natural world, and is the most exalted and most divine among the works of God; and it is in it that the glory of God really consists, for He would have no glory were not His greatness and His goodness known and admired by spirits [esprits]. It is also in relation to this divine City that God specially has goodness, while His wisdom and His power are manifested everywhere. (Theod. 146; Abrege, Object. 2.)

87. As we have shown above that there is a perfect harmony between the two realms in nature, one of efficient, and the other of final causes, we should here notice also another harmony between the physical realm of nature and the moral realm of grace, that is to say, between God, considered as Architect of the mechanism [machine] of the universe and God considered as Monarch of the divine City of spirits [esprits]. (Theod. 62, 74, 118, 248, 112, 130, 247.)

88. A result of this harmony is that things lead to grace by the very ways of nature, and that this globe, for instance, must be destroyed and renewed by natural means at the very time when the government of spirits requires it, for the punishment of some and the reward of others. (Theod. 18 sqq., 110, 244, 245, 340.)

89. It may also be said that God as Architect satisfies in all respects God as Lawgiver, and thus that sins must bear their penalty with them, through the order of nature, and even in virtue of the mechanical structure of things; and similarly that noble actions will attain their rewards by ways which, on the bodily side, are mechanical, although this cannot and ought not always to happen immediately.

90. Finally, under this perfect government no good action would be unrewarded and no bad one unpunished, and all should issue in the well-being of the good, that is to say, of those who are not malcontents in this great state, but who trust in Providence, after having done their duty, and who love and imitate, as is meet, the Author of all good, finding pleasure in the contemplation of His perfections, as is the way of genuine 'pure love,' which takes pleasure in the happiness of the beloved. This it is which leads wise and virtuous people to devote their energies to everything which appears in harmony with the presumptive or antecedent will of God, and yet makes them content with what God actually brings to pass by His secret, consequent and positive [decisive] will, recognizing that if we could sufficiently understand the order of the universe, we should find that it exceeds all the desires of the wisest men, and that it is impossible to make it better than it is, not only as a whole and in general but also for ourselves in particular, if we are attached, as we ought to be, to the Author of all, not only as to the architect and efficient cause of our being, but as to our master and to the final cause, which ought to be the whole aim of our will, and which can alone make our happiness. (Theod. 134, 278. Pref. [E. 469; G. vi. 27, 28].)

translated by Robert Latta

quarta-feira, 16 de outubro de 2013

Is the External World Real? by Max Planck

WE are living in a very singular moment of history. It is a moment of crisis, in the literal sense of that word. In every branch, of our spiritual and material civilization we seem to have arrived at a critical turning-point. This spirit shows itself not only in the actual state of public affairs but also in the general attitude towards fundamental values in per­sonal and social life.

Many people say that these symptoms mark the be­ginnings of a great renaissance, but there are others who see in them the tidings of a downfall to which our civilization is fatally destined. Formerly it was only religion, especially in its doctrinal and moral systems, that was the object of skeptical attack. Then the iconoclast began to shatter the ideals and principles that had hitherto been accepted in the province of art. Now he has invaded the temple of science. There is scarcely a scientific axiom that is not nowadays denied by somebody. And at the same time almost any non­sensical theory that may be put forward in the name of science would be almost sure to find believers and disciples somewhere or other.

In the midst of this confusion it is natural to ask whether there is any rock of truth left on which we can take our stand and feel sure that it is unassailable and that it will hold firm against the storm of skepticism raging around it. Science, in general, presents us with the spectacle of a marvelous theoretical structure which is one of the proudest achievements of constructive reasoning. The logical coherence of the scientific struc­ture was hitherto the object of unstinted admiration on the part of those who criticized the fundamentals of art and religion. But this logical quality will not avail us now against the skeptics’ attack. Logic in its purest form, which is mathematics, only coordinates and ar­ticulates one truth with another. It gives harmony to the superstructure of science; but it cannot provide the foundation or the building-stones.

Where shall we look for a firm foundation upon which our outlook on nature and the world in general can be scientifically based? The moment this question is asked the mind turns immediately to the most exact of our natural sciences, namely, Physics. But even physical science has not escaped the contagion of this critical moment of history. It is not merely that the claim to reliability put forward by physical science is questioned from the outside; but even within the province of this science itself the spirit of confusion and contradiction has begun to be active. And this spirit is remarkably noticeable in regard to questions that affect the very fundamental problem of how far and in what way the human mind is capable of coming to a knowledge of external reality. To take one instance: Hitherto the principle of causality was universally accepted as an indispensable postulate of scientific re­search, but now we are told by some physicists that it must be thrown overboard. The fact that such an extraordinary opinion should be expressed in respon­sible scientific quarters is widely taken to be significant of the all-round unreliability of human knowledge. This indeed is a very serious situation, and for that reason I feel, as a physicist, that I ought to put forward my own views on the situation in which physical science now finds itself. Perhaps what I shall have to say may throw some light on other fields of human activity which the cloud of skepticism has also darkened.

Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the starting- point of every science, must be in our own personal experiences. I am using the word, experience, here in its technical philosophical connotation, namely, our direct sensory perception of outside things. These are the immediate data of the act of knowing. They form the first and most real hook on which we fasten the thought-chain of science; because the material that fur­nishes, as it were, the building-stones of science is received either directly through our own perception of outer things or indirectly, through the information of others, that is to say from former researchers and teachers and publications and so on. There are no other sources of scientific knowledge. In physical science we have to deal specially and exclusively with that material which is the result of observing natural phenomena through the medium of our senses, with of course the help of measuring instruments such as telescopes, oscillators and so on. The reactions thus registered in observing external nature are collated and schematized on the basis of repeated observations and calculations. This subject-matter of our scientific constructions, being the immediate reactions of what we see, hear, feel, and touch, forms immediate data and indisputable reality. If physical science could dis­charge its function by merely concatenating these data and reporting them, then nobody could question the reliability of its foundations.

But the problem is: Does this foundation fully meet the needs of physical science? If we may say that it is the business of physical science, solely and exclu­sively, in the most accurate and most simple way, to describe the order observed in studying various natural phenomena, then is the task of physical science ade­quately and exhaustively fulfilled? There is a certain school of philosophers and physicists who hold that this and this alone forms the scope of physical science. Many outstanding physicists have been induced to ac­cept this view because of the general confusion and insecurity that arises from the skeptical spirit of the times. They feel that here at any rate is a foundation that is impregnable. The school which puts forward this view is generally called the Positivist School; and in all that I have to say here I shall take the word Positivism in that sense. Since the time of Auguste Comte, the founder of Positivism, many meanings have been given to the word. Therefore I think it well to declare here at the outset that I am restricting its application to the definite meaning which I have already indicated. This happens also to be the meaning in which the word, Positivism, is most generally used.

Now let us ask, is the foundation which Positivism offers broad enough to support the whole structure of physical science? The best test that can be applied in finding an answer to this question is to ask where Posi­tivism would lead if we once were to accept it as offering the sole groundwork of physical science.

Suppose for the moment that we are positivists. And let us take the trouble to control ourselves so that we shall hold strictly to its logical implications and not allow commonplaces and considerations of sentiment to lure us from the logical train of positivist thought. Let us here and now decide that no matter what singular consequences we may encounter in deal­ing with the positivist line of thought we shall stick steadfastly to it. And we shall be sure that in doing so we cannot be faced with logical contradictions di­rectly emerging from the field of observation; because obviously two actually observed facts in nature can­not be in logical contradiction to one another. On the other hand as long as we remain positivists we must deal with every kind of experience and ignore no source of human knowledge whatsoever. Therein lies the strength of the positivist theory. As long as physi­cal science sticks to the positivist rule it occupies itself with all the problems that can be answered through direct observation. Every problem that has a meaning of definite importance comes within the ambit of physical science under the positivist rule. If we are to content ourselves with a direct observation of natu­ral phenomena and the recording of them, we shall obviously have no fundamental riddles to solve nor any obscure questions. Everything will lie in the open daylight. Thus far the state of affairs looks quite simple. But it is no simple matter at all to carry out the principle when we begin to deal with individual cases. Our daily habits of speech make it rather diffi­cult for us to observe the strict positivist rule. In ordi­nary life when we speak of an outer object—a table, for instance—we mean something that is different from the table as actually observed by physical science. We can see the table and we can touch it and we can try its firmness by leaning on it and its hardness and if we give it a thump with our knuckles we shall feel a hurt. In the light of positivist science the table is nothing more than a complex of these sensory perceptions and we have merely got into the habit of associating them with the word table.

Remove these sensory perceptions and absolutely nothing remains. In the positivist theory we must entirely ignore everything beyond what is registered by the senses and therefore we are impreg­nable in this clearly defined realm. For the positivist, to ask what a table in reality is has no meaning what­soever; and this is so with our other physical concepts. The whole world around us is nothing but an analogue of experiences we have received. To speak of this world as existing independently of these experiences is to make a statement that has no meaning. If a problem dealing with the external world does not admit of being referred immediately to some kind of sensory experi­ence and does not allow of being placed under observa­tion, then it has no meaning and must be ruled out. Therefore within the scope of the positivist system there is no place for any kind of metaphysics. If we glance upwards at the star-strewn firmament we see innumerable points or patines of light which move in a more or less regular way through the heavens. We can measure the intensity and the color of their rays. According to the positivist theory, these measurements are not merely the raw material of astronomy and astrophysics, but they are the sole and exclusive sub­ject-matter of these sciences. Beyond merely recording these measurements, astronomy and astrophysics have nothing more to say. If they draw any inferences from the measurements, these inferences cannot be con­sidered as legitimate science. That is the positivist standpoint. The mental constructions that we make in collating and selecting and systematizing the measure­ment data, and the theories which we advance to explain why they should be so and not otherwise, are an un­warranted human intrusion on the scene. They are mere arbitrary inventions of human reason. They may be convenient, just as the habit of thinking in similes is a convenient help to the mind, but we have no right to put them forward as representing anything that really happens in nature.

All we know is the bare result of the sensory meas­urements and we have no right to attach an ulterior significance to these.

Supposing we say, with Ptolemy, that the earth is the fixed center of the universe and that the sun and all the stars move around it; or supposing we say, with Copernicus, that the earth is a small particle of matter which is relatively insignificant in relation to the whole universe, turning on its axis once every twenty-four hours and revolving around the sun once in every twelve months—on the positivist principle the one theory is as good as the other, when con­sidered from the scientific viewpoint. They are merely two different ways of making a mental construction out of sensory reactions to some outer phenomena; but they have no more right to be looked upon as scientifically significant than the mental construction which the mystic or poet may make out of his sensory impressions when face to face with nature. It is true that the Copemican theory of astronomy is more widely accepted; but that is because it is a simpler way of formulating a synthesis of sensory observations and it does not give rise to so many difficulties about astronomical laws as would arise from the acceptance of the Ptolemaic theory. Therefore Copernicus is not to be judged as a pioneer discoverer in the realms of science, no more than a poet is to be judged as a pioneer discoverer when he gives fanciful and attractive expression to sentiments that are known to every human breast. Copernicus discovered nothing. He only formulated, in the shape of a fanciful mental construc­tion, a mass of facts that were already known. He did not add anything to the store of scientific knowledge already in existence. A tremendous mental revolution was caused by his theory and bitter battles were waged around it. For the logical consequence of it was to give an entirely different account of man’s place in the universe from that generally held at the time by the religion and philosophy of Europe. But for the positivist scientist all the fuss and trouble made over the Copernican theory were quite as senseless, from the scientific point of view, as if one were to quarrel with the rapture of a contemplative who gazes on the Milky Way and ponders over the fact that each star in that Milky Way is a sun somewhat like ours and that each spiral nebula is again a Milky Way from which the light has taken many millions of years to reach our earth, while the earth itself, with its human race on it, sinks away into an insignificant speck which is hardly discernible in the boundless space.

Incidentally we must remind ourselves that to look at nature in this way is to look at it from the sesthetic and ethical standpoints. These, of course, have no direct relation to physical science. Therefore they are excluded. But in excluding them there is a fundamental difference between the attitude of the non-positivist and that of the positivist physicist. The ordinary scientist, who does not believe in the positivist attitude, admits the validity of the sesthetic standpoint and the ethical standpoint; but he recognizes these as belonging to another way of looking at nature. Such a way does not come within the province of physical science. On the other hand, the positivist does not admit any such values as real at all, even in other provinces than physical science. For him a beautiful sunset is merely a sequence of sensory impressions. Therefore, as I said at the beginning, as long as we logically pursue the positivist teaching we must exclude every influence of a sentimental, sesthetic or ethical character from our minds. We have to keep to the logical track. That is the indispensable guarantee of certainty which the positivist teaching has to offer. And here I may remind the reader once again that we are examining a system which has been put forward with the very laudable motive of furnishing a sure basis for the reliability of science. Therefore the whole position must be dis­cussed entirely objectively and free from any polemical feeling.

In the positivist way of looking at nature sensory impressions are the primary data and therefore signify immediate reality. From this it follows that in principle it would be a mistake to speak of the senses themselves being deceived. What under certain circumstances can be deceptive are not the sensory impressions themselves but the conclusions we so often draw from them. If we plunge a straight stick into water and hold it slant­wise, and notice the apparent bend at the point of im­mersion, we are not deceived by the sense of sight into thinking that the stick is thereby bent. There is an actual bending present as an optical perception; but that is quite a different thing from concluding that the stick itself is bent. The positivist will not allow us to conclude anything. We have a sensory impression of the part of the stick that is in water and a contiguous sensory impression of the part that is in air; but we have no right to say anything about the stick itself. The most that the positivist principle will allow us to say is that the stick looks “as if” it were bent. If we explain the whole phenomenon by saying that the light rays which are reflected in the air from the stick to the eye pass through a less dense medium than that through which the rays pass when reflected from the part of the stick immersed in water, and that therefore the latter are more strongly deflected, that way of stating the case is useful from many points of view but it is no closer to reality than to say that the senses perceive the stick “as if” it were bent.

The essential point here is that, from the standpoint of Positivism, both ways of stating the case are funda­mentally of equal validity. And there would be no sense in attempting to judge their rival validities by asking how far one is more appropriate than the other, by appealing to the sense of touch to rectify the ap­parent anomaly of a stick which was straight in air being bent in water. In the positivist system there would be no meaning in a decision one way or another; be­cause a strictly logical positivist science would have to be content with merely noting the sensory impressions and leaving the matter at that. We could say that the stick looks “as if” it were bent. In practice, of course, anything like a serious attempt at an all-round appli­cation of this “as if” theory would lead to ridiculous consequences. But here we are not testing the positivist theory by any such grounds. We are considering it on its own chosen ground of logical consistency, which is its bedrock foundation. It must stand or fall by the consequences that would result for physical science by the logical application of the positivist premises.

What I have said here in regard to the stick applies equally to all the surrounding objects of inanimate nature. In the positivist view a tree is nothing more than a complex of sense-impressions. We can see it grow. We can hear the rustle of its leaves and inhale the perfumes of . its blossoms. But if we take away all these sensory impressions then nothing remains to cor­respond to whait may be called the “tree in itself.”

What holds good for the world of plant life must also have meaning for the animal world. We speak of this world as a special and independent realm of being, but that is solely because it is a convenient way of thinking and talking. If we tread on a worm it squirms. That we can see. But there would be no sense in asking if the worm suffers pain thereby. For a man can feel only his own pain and he cannot with any certainty of knowledge extend that same feeling to the animal world. To say that an animal suffers pain is an assumption based on a summary of various char­acteristics that correspond to what happens in our own case under similar circumstances. In the case of a worm we notice a squirming or shrugging. In the case of other animals we notice contortions of the face and body. These are analogous to what happens in our case under like conditions. And there are certain cries in the animal world which are analogous to the sounds we utter when we suffer pain.

When we come from the animal world to the world of human beings we find the positivist scientists making a clear distinction between one’s own impressions and the impressions of others. One’s own impressions are the sole reality and they are realities only for oneself. The impressions of another person are only indirectly knowable to us. As objects of knowledge they signify something fundamentally different from our own im­pressions. Therefore in speaking of them we are merely following the same sort of useful analogy as when we speak of the suffering of animals. But, in the strict positivist view, we have no reliable knowledge what­soever of other people’s impressions. Because they are not a direct sensory perception, they do not furnish a basis for the certainty of our knowledge.

It is quite clear that the positivist outlook cannot be accused of logical inconsistency. So long as we stick closely to its principles we do not find ourselves up against any contradiction. That is the strong point of the whole system. But when we come to apply it as the exclusive foundation on which scientific research can be carried on we shall find that the result would be of very significant import for physical science. If the scope of physical science extends no further than the mere description of sensory experiences, then strictly only one’s own experiences can be taken as the object of such description; because only one’s own experiences are primary data. Now it is clear that on the basis of a mere individual complex of experience not even the most gifted of men could construct anything like a comprehensive scientific system. So we are faced with the alternative of either renouncing the idea of a com­prehensive science, which will hardly be agreed to even by the most extreme positivist, or to admit a compro­mise and allow the experiences of others to enter into the groundwork of scientific knowledge. But we should thereby, strictly speaking, give up our original stand­point, namely, that only primary data constituted a reliable basis of scientific truth. The sensory impressions of others are secondary and they are data for us only through the reports we have of them. This brings a new factor into play here, namely, the trustworthiness of oral and written information in scientific reports. Therewith we break at least one link of the logical chain which holds the positivist system together; for the foundational principle of the system is that only imme­diate perception can be considered as offering material for scientific certainty.

Let us, however, pass over this difficulty and let us assume that all reports furnished by scientific research­ers are reliable or at least that we have an infallible means of excluding those which are unreliable. In this case it is obvious that the reports furnished by the numerous scientists who were and are acknowledged as honorable and reliable both in the past and to-day must be taken into scientific consideration} and there are no grounds whereon some should be excluded in favor of others. It would be quite wrong to devaluate the claims of any investigators on the grounds that his findings have not been corroborated by others.

If we should stick to this idea then it would be diffi­cult to explain or to justify the conduct of physical science in regard to certain individual researchers. Let us take one instance as illustrative.

The so-called N-rays which were discovered by the French physicist, Blondlot, in the year 1903, and at that time studied on all sides, are to-day entirely ignored. Rene Blondlot, who was professor at the Uni­versity of Nancy, was admittedly an excellent and reliable investigator. His discovery was for him an ex­perience as great as that of any other physicist. We cannot say that he was fooled by his sense-perceptions; for in positivist physics, as we have seen, there is no such thing as delusion in sensuous perception. It would be only proper and right to look upon the N-rays as primary reality-data, something that directly struck the perception of one man. And if since the time of Blond­lot and his school no man throughout all the years between has succeeded in reproducing them, that is no reason for saying—at least from the positivist stand­point—that they will not one day, under some special circumstances, yet again become discernible.

Under the positivist test we should have to agree that the number of those researchers whose findings are of value for physical science is indeed very small. We should have to admit only those who devote themselves specially to this science, because the discoveries which outsiders have made in this field are more or less insignificant. Moreover, we must from the outset ex­clude all theoretical physicists; for their experiences are restricted essentially to the use of pen, ink, and paper and abstract reasoning. And thus we have only the experimental physicists remaining, and in the first line only those who confine themselves to the operation of extremely sensitive instruments for special investi­gation. Therefore in the positivist hypothesis only a small roll of specially qualified physicists come into the picture when we speak of the contributions of those who have devoted themselves to the progress of physical science.

From this standpoint how are we to explain the extraordinary impression made and the revolution which was created in the world of international science by the findings, for instance, of Oersted, who detected the influence of a galvanic current on the compass . needle, or of Faraday, who first discovered the effect of electromagnetic induction, or of Hertz, who discov­ered small electric sparks in the focus of his parabolic reflector by the use of the magnifying glass? How and why did these individual sensory impressions create such a furore and lead to such a world revolution in the theory and application of scientific methods? To this question the upholders of positivism can give only a roundabout and entirely unsatisfactory answer. They have to fall back upon the theory that these individual experiences, which were insignificant in themselves, merely opened up a viewpoint as a result of which other researchers were led to the discovery of a series of much greater and more portentous results. That is a rather lame answer but it illustrates very well the positivist position, because the upholder of positivism will admit nothing except a bald description of results experienced in research j and if we ask why it is that certain findings of a few obscure individuals, carried out under quite primitive conditions, had such an im­mediate and world-wide significance for all other physicists—that question has no meaning for physical science as viewed from the positivist standpoint

The reason for taking up this striking attitude is quite easy to understand. Those who lean towards the discipline that I have been describing deny the idea and the necessity of an objective physical science which is independent of the actually experiencing and sense- perceiving investigator. They cling to this attitude be­cause they are bound logically to acknowledge no other reality save that of the factual experience of the indi­vidual physicist. Now I think it is obvious here that if physical science as such were to accept this position, as the exclusive basis of its research, then it would find itself trying to support a huge structure on a very inadequate foundation. A science that starts off by pre­dicting the denial of objectivity has already passed sentence on itself. Of what value to the world are the sensory impressions of a mere individual? Yet that is the foundation to which in the last analysis physical science is reduced in looking for a basis for its struc­ture. This plot is entirely too small for such a building. It has to be extended by the addition of other ground. No science can rest its foundation on the dependability of single human individuals. And the moment we have made that statement we have taken a step which puts us off the logical pathway of the positivist system. We have followed the call of common sense. We have taken a jump into the metaphysical realm; because we have accepted the hypothesis that sensory perceptions do not of themselves create the physical world around us, but rather that they bring news of another world which lies outside of ours and is entirely independent of us.

And thus we strike out the positivist als-ob (As-If) and attribute a higher kind of reality than that of mere description of immediate sensory impressions to the practical discoveries that have been already mentioned —Faraday’s, etc. Once we take this step we lift the goal of physical science to a higher level. It is not restricted to the mere description of bare facts of ex­perimental discovery; but it aims at furnishing an ever increasing knowledge of the real outer world around us.

At this point a new epistemological (1) difficulty enters. The basic principle of the positivist theory is that there is no other source of knowledge except within the re­stricted range of perception through the senses. Now there are two theorems that form together the cardinal hinge on which the whole structure of physical science turns. These theorems are: (I) There is a real outer world which exists independently of our act of know­ing, and, (2) The real outer world is not directly knowable. To a certain degree these two statements are mutually contradictory. And this fact discloses the presence of an irrational or mystic element which ad­heres to physical science as to every other branch of human knowledge. The knowable realities of nature cannot be exhaustively discovered by any branch of science. This means that science is never in a position completely and exhaustively to explain the problems it has to face. We see in all modern scientific advances that the solution of one problem only unveils the mys­tery of another. Each hilltop that we reach discloses to us another hilltop beyond. We must accept this as a hard and fast irrefutable fact. And we cannot remove this fact by trying to fall back upon a basis which would restrict the scope of science from the very start merely to the description of sensory experiences. The aim of science is something more. It is an incessant struggle towards a goal which can never be reached. Because the goal is of its very nature unattainable. It is some­thing that is essentially metaphysical and as such is always again and again beyond each achievement.

But if physical science is never to come to an ex­haustive knowledge of its object, then does not this seem like reducing all science to a meaningless activity? Not at all. For it is just this striving forward that brings us to the fruits which are always falling into our hands and which are the unfailing sign that we are on the right road and that we are ever and ever drawing nearer to our journey’s end. But that journey’s end will never be reached, because it is always the still far thing that glimmers in the distance and is unattain­able. It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him. This is an acknowl­edgment made long ago by thinkers of deepest insight, even before Lessing gave it the classic stamp of his famous phrase.

1. Epistemology is the Science of the Nature of Knowledge.

In: Where is science going? The universe in the light of modern physics. New York, 1932, pp. 64-83.

domingo, 13 de outubro de 2013

Space as Culture by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Keynote speech at the 28th National Space Symposium)

I'm telling you that the man space program is a force on the educational pipeline of America. It is the force that excites people want to become scientists in the first place. This is not just for America, this is deeply embedded in our DNA as human beings, we have been exploring ever since we left the cave. Not everyone leaves the cave, but those that do make great discoveries.

The 850 billion dollar bailout of the banks, that sum of money is greater than the entire 50 year running budget of NASA. So when someone says we don’t have enough money for the space program I say no, it's just that the distribution of money you are spending is warped, in a way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream and hope about tomorrow.

Let me make sure we are all on the same pager. Space, is a 3 billion dollar industry worldwide. Nasa is actually only a tiny percentage of that. Interesting how smaller percentage NASA is to the total world spending. That little bit, however, is what inspires dreams. Every corporation in here with representatives in here, if you ever touched a science mission you would lead off with that n your quarterly reports, because it inspires, it is the act of discovery that empowers nations in the world to undertake these activities. We know this.

Heres the problem. As far as I can judge people outside the space community see the space community by and large as special interest group. In the following way. So moneys get distributed to districts, so representatives fight for that money so they can get special interest in their district. How much fighting do other representatives do for NASA or space industry, if they don’t space industry or a NASA centre in their district; hardly at all.
So NASA is kind of lucky that its got ten centers across eight states.

Its not clear what NASA survival factor would have been over the decades if it didn't have that breadth of representation, not only that but those states in which it is represented typically flip back and forth between republican or democrat. So if you look at the balance over the years it's typically about 50/50. So there is even partisan balance between the parties when it's there, but none the less it is seen as special interest.

And here whats interesting. Theres space tapped heavily in the service of the military, there's space tapped heavily in terms of weather satellites and communication. But you know something? If you do your job perfectly its the kind of job where no body notices. If we are protected by a web of space Borne military satellites and we are not attacked, that goes unnoticed. If we are using GPS and we are driving down the road and it's working, we are trying to find our destination, no body is thinking about satellites. They are just thinking did I get to my destination on time.

It's like shaving. No one will come up to you and say “hey you shaved real good today!” The act of doing it perfectly is the measure of it going unnoticed. Mowing your lawn, you can mow your lawn perfectly, that means no body is going to notice it. So there is a hidden dimension that space plays n our culture, that no body notices, or at least is just taken for granted.

I have more evidence of this.

I recently delivered a testimony to the senate to the subcommittee on commerce transportation and science. It was about NASA, really about space and our ambitions. That committee has two dozen senators, three showed up. Thats in my expectation that not a complaint i'm launching here its an observation i'm sharing with you. Who were those three senators? Senators with the three most important NASA headquarters in their state. To me that's a measure that the senate thinks of space as special interest, as only the senators that had direct interest were there for the hearing.

And I kept thinking to myself; really thats not who I should be speaking to. You guys stay home, bring me everybody else who doesn't understand what the role of this epic adventure is. Fortunately somebody later posted the video on youtube, thus its reaching the people for whom the senate and congress and president works. The president works for us. Congress works for us. So when someone asks me if I want access to a senator, I say no, give me access to the people.

So. that's actually not what I came here to talk about.

I want to talk about space, not as spin offs, not as weather satellites, no.

I want to talk to you about space as culture.

Space, as culture.

You know the first hunk of hardware that had the power to exit earth atmosphere was the V2 rocket. Verner Von Brown and everyone knew that if we have any future in space it will have to borrow some of that technology if not all of it.

The 1950s descends upon us. You remember the v2 rocket, it was kind of bullet shaped, had these huge fins? Fins. CARS had fins in the 1950s! Where do you think those fins came from? I propose a test, you could probably dig up the designers of those cars and they would probably just say “well fins just look cool” they are probably not even thinking about the v2 rocket, even if they are it's probably not in their frontal lobe. But our cars had fins. When did the fins go away? When we learned that the v2 shape and the fins is not the shape we are going to need to get to the moon.

Saturn five emerges, the fins go away. What happened to the fins? So maybe the designer thought it's played itself out. Or maybe deep down inside space was operating on their creativity.

So what happens, the 60s are underway. We are going to the moon, everybody knows it. Everyone is innovating, we have an innovative culture, you know this because every day a space story garners the headlines. Something new to think about daily. Each mission previously more adventurous than the previous one.

So when did we go to the moon? That was 1968. Everyone was dreaming about tomorrow, thats what the world fair was all about. It wasn't about yesterday, or today, but about tomorrow. The kind of tomorrow that could only be brought into the present by scientists and engineers. And people knew this.

How else is space influencing, ok how about the uni-sphere. Gorgeous Earth just sitting there. It's got three rings around it. Ask the designers, they will probably say that the three orbits of John Glenn did not influence them, but the rings are there, and they are going polar, not equatorial.

The 1960s is the bloodiest decade in american history since the civil war since the 1860s. Servicemen are killed weekly, reported in by the papers, the civil rights movement playing out, campus unrest.

The bloodiest year in that most bloody of decades? 1968. The Tet offensive. Martin Luther King assassinated. JFK assassinated. Yet somehow we were still able to dream about tomorrow. It was still in us, it still mattered. It's what birthed the star trek television series.

The twilight zone was also heavily influenced by space. Our presence in space is effecting not only the engineers and the mathematicians and the scientists, it's effecting the creative dimension of that which we call culture. We are living it at every turn. Hardly what I would call special interest.

What happens December 1968, how do you cap off that year? Apollo 8. A lot of people have never heard of it, it's a very unappreciated mission. Excuse me, that was the first time anyone ever left Earth, with a destination in mind. Figurating around the moon. The photo of Earth rising over the lunar landscape is iconic.

That photo, we all know it, Earth Rise over the Moon. There was Earth, not as the map maker would have you identify to it as, no it was not color coded with boundaries. It was seen as nature intended it to be viewed. Oceans, land, clouds.

We went to the moon; and we discovered Earth.

And I claim we discovered Earth for the first time.

How does that effect culture? I've got a list. You could probably take apart this list and probably come up with an explanation for each and reference a reason not related to space. You could probably do that. But I take a step back and look at that list and say, wait a minute, how is it.

Lets back up to 1962, Rachael Carlson publishes silent spring. The green movement typically credits that as the birth of ecology, the birth of caring about the environment, it was a bestselling book. I have a different view, maybe it planted a few seeds and tilled the landscape; but stuff did not really start happening until that photo of Earth rise over the moon was published.

1968, the whole Earth catalogue was published. There is a version before that version was printed, but since that picture it was the entire identifying cover for the preceding releases. Thinking of Earth as a whole, not thinking about the Earth not as a place where nations war, but as a whole.

Seven months later we land on the moon. In 1970 we are still going to the moon, we are still going till 1972, so watch these sequence of events. 1970 the comprehensive clean air act is passed. There were two other versions of that before in the 60's, but the most important rendering of that act came in 1970. Earth day was birthed in march 1970. The environmental protection agency was founded in 1970. The Hellstrom chronicle was the first documentary to hit the cinemas, it was a scare movie about insects, but it got us thinking. The organization doctors without borders was founded in 1971. WHERE DO YOU EVEN GET THAT PHRASE FROM?! No one thought of that phrase before that photo was published. Because every globe in your classroom has countries painted on it.

DDT gets banned in 1972, we are still going to the moon we’re till looking back at Earth. The clean water act 1971, 1972 the endangered species act, the catalytic converted gets put in in 1973, unleaded gas gets introduced in 1973. We are still at war in Vietnam, there is still campus unrest, yet we found the time to start thinking about Earth. That is space operating on our culture and you can not even put a price on that. That is a nation and world reacting to a new perspective about what it is to be alive on this planet we all share.

And out of that era and entire generation of people, they think they feel they intellectualize about space,. We see it in the art, the movies, the science, storytellers. That's because the space frontier was crossed weekly. You know back then you didn't need special programs to convince people that engineering and maths are useful to society, because the headlines that were writ large in that era had built into them that innovation created those headlines. Innovation brought to you by a community of scientists engineers and mathematicians.

So what happens? The mid 1970's come, it all ends. I have a collection of news paper issues back from that era and they all talk about tomorrow, it was all about the innovations of tomorrow, the possibilities, the technology of tomorrow, it was in our culture it was in our mindset it was in our zeitgeist.

That all ended, the space frontier stopped being breached. We did other things, by the way there was an engineering frontier that took off. How do you make a renewable spacecraft? How do you build something in zero g? Thats advancing an engineering frontier, it's not advancing a space frontier. If I may put some of this in perspective, remember the maps I was telling you about? How far away is Mars on that scale? It's a mile away. How far away is the moon? Thirty feet away. Most people get that distance wrong because in textbooks they have to fit the Earth on the same page.

So mars is a mile away, the moon thirty miles away, the international space station is orbiting Earth at three eights of an inch above it's surface. Thats not advancing a space frontier but some kind of other frontier, I assert.

By the way the thickness of Earths atmosphere on that scale is the thickness of the lacquer on the Globe. Thats how thin this air is that we breathe, but we figure there is an o0cean of air. It is as thin to Earth as the skin of an apple is to an apple.

So you've gotta love the space entrepreneurs that are taking people into space out of the atmosphere, but we are kind of telling them that is space. And I look at earth and I look at it as an astrophysicist and see the rest of the cosmos, and I think you've got some more work to do, keep at it guys.

The problem with this definition of space is that it's a function of the thickness of our atmosphere, if we had half the amount of atmosphere you would only need to half that distance. If we had no atmosphere you could just stand there, and your in space.

So what are the current problems here in America? Not in other parts of the world. Our economy is in the toilet. Hardly anyone is interested in the stem fields, meanwhile our best minds are going overseas. Politicians are pretty sure they have a solution to that, lets get better science teachers, how about our jobs going overseas, hows about moving some tariffs and contracts? People are not innovating so we put money in innovative initiatives. There things are all band aids people. They don't work.

Here's what we do. And I've said this a billion times. We double NASAs budget, right now it's half a penny on the dollar, that pays for the lot, every single mission. Double it to a penny. Thats's all I'm saying. And here what you do. I'm quite unorthodox in my views, but I'm not trying to twist peoples arms with it, I'm just putting it out there. I don't want to be driven by one space destination or another, I don't want to say “the next thing we are going to do is go to mars”, its like, excuse me, hows about the rest of space?

You know what I would do if you double the budget, lets create a suite of launch vehicles, with strap ons and all sorts of configurations. One will get you to the moon. Another will get you to a Lagrangian point. Another will get you to Mars. There might be an asteroid heading our way, we might want to do something about that. We've got another special configurations of rockets that can get you there.

So we create a suite of vehicles that gives us access to space. When Eisenhower came back from Europe after he saw the autobahn and saw how it survived heavy climatic variations and manoeuvres he wanted one in this country. Did he say I want to build a road from New york to LA, because that's where you should go. No. The interstate system connects everybody in which ever way you want./ Thats how you grow a system. Hell, i'm going to discriminate, if there is a military reason to go the the moon we have the launch vehicles to do it, if there is a tourist reason thats another one, if scientists or biologists want to study life on mars they can do that, you want to mine the moon that's another one.

Everyones space interests get served by this capacity. And when you do this you guarantee that you are advancing a space frontier every week, and as you do this I can guarantee there will be innovative new headlines 'Astronauts found a way to extract rocket fuel and water from rocks on mars' we now have a filling station on mars so yo don't have to carry all the fuel with you. We are mining helium three on the lunar surface, I'm not sure if it's cheap enough to bring it back to Earth but set it up somewhere else, in a nuclear reactor in space.

What ever the motives, be they geopolitical, military, economic, space becomes the frontier, and you know every week that some new innovation is going to be proposed, new patents are going to accepted. Space is exciting. These innovations make headlines, and these articles filter down the educational pipeline, everybody in school knows about it. You don't have to set up programs to convince people that being an engineer is cool, they will know it just by the cultural presence of those activities.

You do that it will jump start our dreams. And you know that innovation drives economies, especially true since the industrial revolution.

Double NASAs budget, It's not a handout, thats what everyone thinks today, 'it's a handout for special interest'. You know what Mitt Romney got wrong when he had a go at Neuit Gingringe for pandering to florida by saying all these nice things for NASA. If you went to new hampshire you would be saying something different about what they want. There is a deep misunderstanding there. The very statement that talking about nasa is pandering omits the fact that NASA DRIVES our economy. The culture of NASA drives the culture of innovation, and it's the culture of innovation that drives the economies in the 21st century. Thats what is missing.

Even if there is pork spending on NASA what comes out of that spending benefits the nation in ways that a power plant or bridge or road does not. I can be honest about that, because your in it and your too close for objectivity. You know what happens? The jobs do not go overseas, you do not have to set up tax benefits, because we are innovating and they have not found out how to do it yet. They will eventually catch up, Fine hand it to them. You can not simultaneously assert that we are in a global economy and then cry foul when a corporation takes jobs overseas. That's kind of how it works.

So the solution is not just trying to prevent that with laws, you innovate so it doesn't happen in the first place. Teacher training? We need that, it's a necessary but insufficient condition to make this happen. You can have an awesome teacher in high-school, now you want to be a scientist, but you come out the pother end of that pipeline and what do you do? we lost an entire generation of scientists and smart people who became investment bankers and lawyers as there was no place to take their interest in science. If we have big bold ambitious projects you get them all.

Especially since the NASA portfolio includes biologists, we are looking for life. Geologists. Chemists. Astrophysicists. The NASA portfolio touches all of these. Not only that but we need the electrical engineers, the mechanical engineers, the structural engineers. NASA is a one agency showdown.

If we have an innovation culture, we will resurrect some of that culture we had in the 1960s. Except this time it will be without the tandem offensive war.

By the way, a sneaky thought, if China wants to put military bases on Mars, we will be there in ten months. You just have to leak that memo,. Doesn't even have to be true. One month to fund design and build the craft, we will be on mars in nine months. We already understand our resolve when we feel threatened.

That mentality will remain, the difference is we need to look at NASA not as a handout, but as an investment.

Because I can tell you, that as goes the health of space fairing ambitions, so to goes the spiritual, the emotional, the intellectual, the creative and the economic ambitions of a nation.

So goes the future of America.

Thank you.