[hist-analytic] Eddington's Two Tables

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Feb 3 23:08:52 EST 2009

What _is_ the scientist talking about?!


""The slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; 
eight in the oxygen wave, seven in nitrogen."
        apres Eddington. 

I now realise the magnitude of S. Bayne's point when drawing the analogy  
between Eddington and Russell's neutral monism. In fact, Eddington's views on  
the interface between ontology and epistemology (if we may call them thus) seem  
slightly misguided vis a vis the best of the 'empiricist' tradition 
represented  by Russell.
I was revising my previous post on Eddington when I review under which  
entries he is quoted in the OED. Some may amuse or interest S. Bayne (I've just  
come across his (S. Bayne's) 'eliminationist' account of Eddington on 'chairs'  
in the hist-analytic website).

One such entry then is 'event', and the  quote

1920 A. S. EDDINGTON Space Time & Gravit. iii. 45 
"A point in this space-time, that is to say a given instant at a given  
is called an ‘event’. An event in its customary meaning would be 
the physical happening which occurs at and identifies a 
particular place and time. However, we shall use the word in both  senses."
     A. S. Eddington, "Space Time & Gravit., 1920,  p. 45
-- I don't think Grice's monosemy ("do not multiply senses beyond  
necessity") would allow _that_! 

Then under 'field': 
1928 A. S. EDDINGTON Nature Physical World vii. 153 
"It is usually considered that when we use these [sc. magnets,  
electroscopes, etc.] 
we are exploring not space, but a *field* in _space_."
         Eddington, Nature Physical  World, 1928, p. 153. 
Under 'indeterminacy' (but not of translation, necessarily!):
"It was Heisenberg again who set in motion the new development in the  summer 
of 1927, and the consequences were further elucidated by Bohr. The  outcome 
of it is a fundamental general principle which seems to rank in  importance 
with the principle of relativity. I shall here call it the ‘principle  of 
indeterminacy’. The gist of it can be stated as follows: 
a particle may have position or it may have velocity b
ut it cannot in any exact sense have both."
       Eddington, "Nature PHysical World",  1928, p. 220

Under 'non-physical', which I guess is as extreme an adj. for a physicist  to 
use as 'non-philosophical' for _me_!
"The matter..can only differ in a mysterious non-physical qualitythat of  
      Eddington, Space, Time, Gravitation, 1920,  p. 194.  
Under 'quantum property':
1927 A. S. EDDINGTON Stars & Atoms 68 
"The property here referred to (the quantum property) is the deepest  mystery 
of light." 
                    Eddington, Stars and Atoms, 1927, p. 68 -- (Grosseteste 
would be impressed :-)). 
Under 'sense' for the phrase, 'sense-picture' (Wittgenstein echo about it  -- 
Bildung, and Sensibilia)
"It would be unreasonable to limit our thought of nature to what can be  
comprised in sense-pictures."
under (Carrollian) 'slithy':
"Eight slithy toves gyre and gimble in the oxygen wabe; seven in  nitrogen."
    Eddington, Nature of Physical World, 1928, p. 291.  

An interesting one is under 'thingless':
"You cannot have space without things or things without space; and the  
adoption of thingless space (vacuum) as a standard in most of our current  physical 
thought is a definite hindrance to the progress of physics."
        Eddington, New Pathways in  Science, 1935, p. 48. 
And I did notice in my reading "Two Tables" (courtesy of S. Bayne) that  
there was this reference to 'emptiness' that struck me -- in fact reminded me,  on 
second thoughts, of Lucretius, De rerum natura (Loeb Classical Library) and  
all _he_ says (alla Atomic Theory -- Democritean) about _vacuum_ between 
Oddly, I did some googling to get more philosophical references for  
Eddington, and one confused me. Apparently it's a book in google.books that  makes a 
connection between Virginia Woolf's The Waves and Eddington's The  Wavicles! 
(But I thought it was by Strawson, and it's not). 
I would think that in terms of more recent (than Eddington's) analytic  
philosophy, it all resolves around Strawson's 'revisionary' metaphysics, and in  
general, his 'analysis' of Aristotelian categories. Grice himself was wildly  
aware that this was the central topic of philosophy, and did not leave this  
world (to use Eddington's phrase, 'world'), without leaving a word for us,  
"philosophical eschatology", or the metaphysical examination of transcategorial  
epithets (he would love a mouthful). 
And now to the 'scientific' bed! (so soft). 
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