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Essays Towards a Theory of Knowledge   By:

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Transcriber's Note: Words in Greek in the original are transliterated and placed between plus signs. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by underscores . Characters superscripted in the original are inclosed in {} brackets.

ESSAYS TOWARDS A THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

Rosalind: I pray you, what is't o'clock?

Orlando: You should ask me, what time o' day; there's no clock in the forest.

As You Like It, Act III. Sc. 2.

ESSAYS TOWARDS A THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

BY

ALEXANDER PHILIP F.R.S.E

[Illustration]

LONDON GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS LIMITED NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO. 1915

hê gar achrômatos te kai aschêmatistos kai anaphês ousia ontôs ousa psychês kybernêtê monôi theatêi nô, peri hên to tês alêthous epistêmês genos, touton echei ton topon. PHÆDRUS.

PREFACE

Two years ago, in the preface to another essay, the present writer ventured to affirm that "Civilisation moves rather towards a chaos than towards a cosmos." But he could not foretell that the descensus Averni would be so alarmingly rapid.

When we find Science, which has done so much and promised so much for the happiness of mankind, devoting so large a proportion of its resources to the destruction of human life, we are prone to ask despairingly Is this the end? If not; how are we to discover and assure for stricken Humanity the vision and the possession of a Better Land?

Not certainly by the ostentatious building of peace palaces nor even by the actual accomplishment of successful war. Only by the discovery of true first principles of Thought and Action can Humanity be redeemed. Undeterred by the confused tumult of to day we must still seek a true understanding of what knowledge is what are its powers and what also are its limitations. Nor may we forget that other principle of life with which it is so quaintly contrasted in Lord Bacon's translation of the Pauline aphorism Knowledge bloweth up, Charity buildeth up.

January 1915.

CONTENTS

PAGE I

TIME AND PERIODICITY 11

II

THE ORIGIN OF PHYSICAL CONCEPTS 17

III

THE TWO TYPICAL THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE 36

IV

THE DOCTRINE OF ENERGY 81

ESSAYS TOWARDS A THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

I

TIME AND PERIODICITY

We can measure Time in one way only by counting repeated motions. Apart from the operation of the physical Law of Periodicity we should have no natural measures of Time. If that statement be true it follows that apart from the operation of this law we could not attain to any knowledge of Time.[11:1] Perhaps this latter proposition may not at first be readily granted. Few, probably, would hesitate to admit that in a condition in which our experience was a complete blank we should be unable to acquire any knowledge of Time; but it may not be quite so evident that in a condition in which experience consisted of a multifarious but never repeated succession of impressions the Knowledge of Time would be equally awanting.[12:1] Yet so it is. The operation of the Law of Periodicity is necessary to the measurement of Time. It is by means, and only by means, of periodic pulsative movements that we ever do or can measure Time. Now, apart from some sort of measurement Time would be unknowable. A time which was neither long nor short would be meaningless. The idea of unquantified Time cannot be conceived or apprehended. Time to be known must be measured.

Periodicity, therefore, is essential to our Knowledge of Time. But Nature amply supplies us with this necessary instrument. The Law of Periodicity prevails widely throughout Nature. It absolutely dominates Life.

The centre of animal vitality is to be found in the beating heart and breathing lungs. Pulsation qualifies not merely the nutrient life but the musculo motor activity as well. Eating, Walking, all our most elementary movements are pulsatory. We wake and sleep, we grow weary and rest... Continue reading book >>




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