Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nothing to see here, just fact of geography

So says Bertrand Russell. This would be a deterministic universe, to be sure.

Physical science is thus approaching the stage when it will be complete, and therefore uninteresting. Given the laws governing the motions of electrons and protons, the rest is merely geography—a collection of particular facts telling their distribution throughout some portion of the world’s history. The total number of facts of geography required to determine the world’s history is probably finite; theoretically they could all be written down in a big book to be kept at Somerset House with a calculating machine attached which, by turning a handle, would enable the inquirer to find out the facts at other times than those recorded. It is difficult to imagine anything less interesting or more different from the passionate delights of incomplete discovery. Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1925,


StardustyPsyche said...

"Physical science is thus approaching the stage when it will be complete"
A rather foolish statement, clearly.

This is another example as to why historical philosophies are very largely a wast of time. Russell said as much himself regarding the history of philosophy, saying that ancient philosophers must be read by historians but scarcely a sentence in an entire volume is true.

Within the last few hundred years a few more bits and pieces remain valid but most philosophy of the past centuries is of sporadic value at best.

Physicists still say some embarrassing things from time to time when they delve into philosophy.

Starhopper said...

I can't recall which scientist lamented near the end of the 19th Century that there was nothing new to discover in physics, and that subsequent generations would be doomed to merely refining the last decimal point in what was already known.

And this was said before relativity, quantum mechanics, and the big bang!

I read about this quote in an Arthur C. Clarke book, probably Profiles of the Future.

David Brightly said...

The End of Physics?

Starhopper said...

Thanks, David!

bmiller said...

von Jolly good!