Page:Our knowledge of the external world.djvu/138

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

worlds are so correlated as to belong to one momentary “state” of a thing, it would be natural to regard them as simultaneous, and as thus affording a simple means of correlating different private times. But this can only be regarded as a first approximation. What we call one sound will be heard sooner by people near the source of the sound than by people further from it, and the same applies, though in a less degree, to light. Thus two correlated appearances in different worlds are not necessarily to be regarded as occurring at the same date in physical time, though they will be parts of one momentary state of a thing. The correlation of different private times is regulated by the desire to secure the simplest possible statement of the laws of physics, and thus raises rather complicated technical problems; but from the point of view of philosophical theory, there is no very serious difficulty of principle involved.

The above brief outline must not be regarded as more than tentative and suggestive. It is intended merely to show the kind of way in which, given a world with the kind of properties that psychologists find in the world of sense, it may be possible, by means of purely logical constructions, to make it amenable to mathematical treatment by defining series or classes of sense-data which can be called respectively particles, points, and instants. If such constructions are possible, then mathematical physics is applicable to the real world, in spite of the fact that its particles, points, and instants are not to be found among actually existing entities.

The problem which the above considerations are intended to elucidate is one whose importance and even existence has been concealed by the unfortunate separation of different studies which prevails throughout the civilised world. Physicists, ignorant and contempt-