Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/88

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
84
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

'transformed' one into the other; they are isomorphic. How are we led to conclude thence that they are identical?

Consider the two series and . I have said that often, but not always, the series preserves the tactile impression felt by the finger ; and similarly it often happens, but not always, that the series preserves the tactile impression felt by the ringer . Now I ascertain that it happens very often (that is, much more often than what I have just called 'often') that when the series has preserved the impression of the finger , the series preserves at the same time the impression of the finger ; and, inversely, that if the first impression is altered, the second is likewise. That happens very often, but not always.

We interpret this experimental fact by saying that the unknown object a which gives the impression to the finger is identical with the unknown object which gives the impression to the finger . And in fact when the first object moves, which the disappearance of the impression tells us, the second likewise moves, since the impression disappears likewise. When the first object remains motionless, the second remains motionless. If these two objects are identical, as the first is at the point of the first space and the second at the point of the second space, these two points are identical. This is how we are led to regard these two spaces as identical; or better this is wbat we mean when we say that they are identical.

What we have just said of the identity of the two tactile spaces makes unnecessary our discussing the question of the identity of tactile space and visual space, which could be treated in the same way.

 

§ 5. Space and Empiricism

It seems that I am about to be led to conclusions in conformity with empiristic ideas. I have, in fact, sought to put in evidence the role of experience and to analyze the experimental facts which intervene in the genesis of space of three dimensions. But whatever may be the importance of these facts, there is one thing we must not forget and to which besides I have more than once called attention. These experimental facts are often verified but not always. That evidently does not mean that space has often three dimensions, but not always.

I know well that it is easy to save oneself and that, if the facts do not verify, it will be easily explained by saying that the exterior objects have moved. If experience succeeds, we say that it teaches us about space; if it does not succeed, we hie to exterior objects which we accuse of having moved; in other words, if it does not succeed, it is given a fillip.

These fillips are legitimate; I do not refuse to admit them; but they suffice to tell us that the properties of space are not experimental truths, properly so called. If we had wished to verify other laws, we