Theory and Senses

Rex Allen has made two nice quotes on the everything-list (his message is below):

http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list/msg/b67081cae1891cf6

Another good Schrödinger quote:

“Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey of our observations and experimental findings. Every scientist knows how difficult it is to remember a moderately extended group of facts, before at least some primitive theoretical picture about them has been shaped. It is therefore small wonder, and by no means to be blamed on the authors of original papers or of text-books, that after a reasonably coherent theory has been formed, they do not describe the bare facts they have found or wish to convey to the reader, but clothe them in the terminology of that theory or theories. This procedure, while very useful for our remembering the facts in a well-ordered pattern, tends to obliterate the distinction between the actual observations and the theory arisen from them. And since the former always are of some sensual quality, theories are easily thought to account for sensual qualities; which, of course, they never do.”

In a similar vein, Democritus’s imagined conversation between the intellect and the senses:

 “Intellect: ‘Color is by convention, sweet by convention, bitter by convention; in truth there are but atoms and the void.’

Senses: ‘Wretched mind, from us you are taking the evidence by which you would overthrow us? Your victory is your own fall.’”


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