PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION |
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agreement on vital points impossible. We grope by animalistic trial and error, and by equally animalistic strife, wars, revolutions, etc. These first two points apply practically to all of us, and introduce great difficulties even into mathematics. (3) One of the main reasons why psychiatry has advanced so rapidly in such a short period in contradistinction to 'psychology', is that it studies relatively simple and relatively singled-out symptoms. But as these symptoms are not isolated, and represent the reactions of the organism-as-a-whole, their partial study yields glimpses of the general and fundamental mechanisms. If we study mathematics and mathematical sciences as forms of human behaviour, we study also simplified and singled-out human reactions of the type: 'one and one make two', 'two and one make three', etc., and we also get glimpses of general mechanisms. In psychiatry we study simplified psycho-logical reactions at their worst; in mathematics and mathematical sciences we study simplified psychological reactions at their best. When both types of reactions are studied conjointly, most unexpected and very far-reaching results follow which deeply affect every known phase of human life and activity, science included. The results of such widely separated studies do not conflict, but supplement each other, elucidating very clearly a general mechanism which operates in all of us. Psychiatrical studies help us most unexpectedly in the solution of mathematical paradoxes; and mathematical studies help us to solve very important problems in psychotherapy and in prevention of psycho-logical disorders.
History shows that the advancement of science and civilization involves, first, an accumulation of observations; second, a preliminary formulation of some kind of 'principles' (which always involve some unconscious assumptions) ; and, finally, as the numbers of observations increase, it leads to the revision and usually the rejection of unjustified, or false to facts 'principles', which ultimately are found to represent only postulates. Because of the cumulative and non-elementalistic character of human knowledge, a mere challenge to a 'principle' does not carry us far. For expediency, assumptions underlying a system have (1) to be discovered, (2) tested, (3) eventually challenged, (4) eventually rejected, and (5) a
system, free from the eventually objectionable postulates, has to be built.Examples of this abound in every field, but the histories of the non-euclidean and non-newtonian systems supply the simplest and most obvious illustrations. For instance, the fifth postulate of Euclid did not satisfy even his contemporaries, but these challenges were ineffective for more than two thousand years. Only in the nineteenth |
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