§5. The Divisions of Philosophy 1)

 

273. It is plain that philosophy cannot, like idioscopy, be split from top to bottom into an efficient and a final wing. For, not to mention other reasons, to philosophy must fall the task of comparing the two stems of causation and of exhuming their common root. In another way, however, philosophy falls asunder into two groups of studies to which the appellation of subclasses is alone appropriate, if we are to understand by a subclass a modification of that class-making sense in which philosophy may be said to be observational. For besides what constitutes — in the present stage of the study, at least — the main body of philosophy, resting exclusively upon universal experience, and imparting to it a tinge of necessity, there is a department of science which, while it rests, and can only rest, as to the bulk of it, upon universal experience, yet for certain special yet obtrusive points is obliged to appeal to the most specialized and refined observations, in order to ascertain what minute modifications of everyday experience they may introduce. If in these departments the teachings of ordinary experience took on the true complexion of necessity, as they usually do, it would hardly be in our power to appeal to special experience to contradict them. But it is a remarkable fact that though inattentive minds do pronounce the dicta of ordinary experience in these cases to be necessary, they do not appear so to those who examine them more critically. For example, everyday experience is that events occur in time, and that time has but one dimension. So much appears necessary. For we should be utterly bewildered by the suggestion that two events were each anterior to the other or that, happening at different times, one was not anterior to the other. But a two-dimensional anteriority is easily shown to involve a self-contradiction. So, then, that time is one-dimensional is, for the present, necessary; and we know not how to appeal to special experience to disprove it. But that space is three-dimensional involves no such necessity. We can perfectly well suppose that atoms or their corpuscles move freely in four or more dimensions. So everyday experience seems to teach us that time flows continuously. But that we are not sure that it really does so, appears from the fact that many men of powerful minds who have examined the question are of the opinion that it is not so. Why may there not be a succession of stationary states, say a milliasse or so of them or perhaps an infinite multitude per second, and why may states of things not break abruptly from one to the next? Here the teachings of ordinary experience are, at least, difficult of ascertainment. There are cases where they are decidedly indefinite. Thus, such experience shows that the events of one day or year are not exactly like those of another, although in part there is a cyclical repetition. Speculative minds have asked whether there may not be a complete cycle at the expiration of which all things will happen again as they did before. Such is said to have been the opinion of Pythagoras; and the stoics took it up as a necessary consequence of their philistine views. Yet in our day, certain experiences, especially the inspiring history of science and art during the nineteenth century, have inclined many to the theory that there is endless progress, a definite current of change on the whole of the whole universe. What treasures would we not sacrifice for the sake of knowing for certain whether it really be so, or not! It is nothing to you or me, to our children, or to our remoter posterity. What concern have we with the universe, or with the course of ages? No more than my dog has in the book I am writing. Yet I dare say he would defend the manuscript from harm with his life. However, to return to the matter of progress, universal experience is rather for the notion than against it, since there is a current in time, so far as we can see: the past influences our intellect, the future our spirit, with entire uniformity. Still universal experience merely favors a guess as to larger periods.

274. There are two distinct questions to be answered concerning time, even when we have accepted the doctrine that it is strictly continuous. The first is, whether or not it has any exceptional instants in which it is discontinuous, — any abrupt beginning and end. Philosophers there have been who have said that such a thing is inconceivable; but it is perfectly conceivable to a mind which takes up intelligently and seriously the task of forming the conception. Men who are ready to pronounce a thing impossible before they have seriously studied out the proper way of doing it, and especially without having submitted to a course of training in making the requisite exertion of will, merit contempt. When a man tells us something is inconceivable, he ought to accompany the assertion with a full narrative of all he has done in these two ways to see if it could not be conceived. If he fails to do that, he may be set down as a trifler. There is no difficulty in imagining that at a certain moment, velocity was suddenly imparted to every atom and corpuscle of the universe; before which all was absolutely motionless and dead. To say that there was no motion nor acceleration is to say there was no time. To say there was no action is to say there was no actuality. However contrary to the evidence, then, such a hypothesis may be, it is perfectly conceivable. The other question is whether time is infinite in duration or not. If it has no flaw in its continuity, it must, as we shall see in chapter 4,1) return into itself. This may happen after a finite time, as Pythagoras is said to have supposed, or in infinite time, which would be the doctrine of a consistent pessimism.

275. Measurement, as shall, in due course, be distinctly proved 2), is a business fundamentally of the same nature as classification; and just as there are artificial classifications in profusion, but only one natural classification, so there are artificial measurements to answer every demand; but only one of them is the natural measurement. If time returns into itself, an oval line is an icon [or analytic picture] of it. Now an oval line may be so measured as to be finite, as when we measure positions on a circle by an angular quantity, θ, running up to 360 degrees, where it drops to 0 degree (which is the natural measure in the case of the circle); or it may be measured so that the measure shall once pass through infinity, in going round the circle, as when we project the positions on the circumference from one of them as a centre upon a straight line on which we measure the shadows by a rigid bar, as in the accompanying figure, here. This is measuring by tan 1/2 (θ - {THETA}), instead of by θ; where {THETA} depends upon the position of the centre of projection. Such a mode of measurement has the mathematical convenience of using every real number once and once only. It is quite possible, however, to measure so as to run over the whole gamut of numbers twice or more times. The single projection from a point within the circle gives one repetition.


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