SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search




218 IV. STRUCTURAL FACTORS IN A LANGUAGES
of the human nervous system inside of our skin and can never be the events themselves.
We see that the old two-valued verbal structure of 'cause' and 'effect' is not similar to the structure of the world, but a rash limiting generalization from probability. Since these expressions belong to the class of statistical averages and depend on the scale of the events and intervals dealt with, we must not expect that such terms as two-valued 'causality', which is a term of statistical macroscopic averages, will apply in that sense to small-scale events when the intervals are much smaller and when entirely different conditions and 'causes' prevail. Today we have structural evidence that even 'space' and 'time' represent statistical averages and do not apply to the smallest scale events. It is natural that 'cause' and 'effect' should join their company. The above involves epis-temologically the passing from the A two-valued system to a A oo-valued system. Psychophysiologically, it involves new s.r.
In mathematics, the old religious attitude toward the 'infinitesimal' is rapidly vanishing. Many mathematicians deliberately, and justly, avoid the use of the word. A term like 'indefinitely small' or 'indefinitesimal' is a better descriptive term, truer in its implications. We even see scientists like Eddington, who had the pluck - it is still pluck, unfortunately - to treat enormous stellar distances as 'infinitesimals of second order'. ('Infinitesimal' is used here in a mathematical sense of indefinitesimal.)
It has been already mentioned that most of the important discoveries of mathematics were due to a special semantic attitude on the part of those who made them. This attitude was an unconscious or conscious treatment of mathematics as a form of human behaviour. We see an example in the work of Weierstrass and his analysis of the 'infinitesimal'. He did not take the 'infinitesimal' as some objectified metaphysical structure and remain content; he analysed the genetic process by which the 'infinitesimal' was made by Smith and Brown, and so treated mathematics structurally as a form of human behaviour. Any deepening of the foundations, or clarification of fundamental notions, or investigation of underlying assumptions., must, by necessity, have this characteristic. The man who does it must take into account how the given process was produced - analyse its structure, and so start with the ways and methods of production. In other words, he must treat the given problem as a form of human behaviour. The fact that this simple and quite obvious method has been formulated and structurally explained as desirable is helpful. It shows the method and structure of the path by which advances can be reached. We can train the semantic reactions of students to it and make progress inevitable; but now, instead, it takes a genius to break, by him-