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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/90

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

Does this form exist, or, if you choose, can we represent to ourselves space of more than three dimensions? And first what does this question mean? In the true sense of the word, it is clear that we can not represent to ourselves space of four, nor space of three, dimensions; we can not first represent them to ourselves empty, and no more can we represent to ourselves an object either in space of four, or in space of three, dimensions: (1) Because these spaces are both infinite and we can not represent to ourselves a figure in space, that is, the part in the whole, without representing the whole, and that is impossible, because it is infinite; (2) because these spaces are both mathematical continua and we can represent to ourselves only the physical continuum; (3) because these spaces are both homogeneous, and the frames in which we enclose our sensations, being limited, can not be homogeneous.

Thus the question put can only be understood in another manner; is it possible to imagine that, the results of the experiences related above having been different, we might have been led to attribute to space more than three dimensions; to imagine, for instance, that the sensation of accommodation might not be constantly in accord with the sensation of convergence of the eyes; or indeed that the experiences of which we have spoken in paragraph 2 and of which we express the result by saying 'that touch does not operate at a distance,' might have led us to an inverse conclusion.

And then evidently yes that is possible. From the moment one imagines an experience, one imagines just by that the two contrary results it may give. That is possible, but that is difficult, because we have to overcome a multitude of associations of ideas, which are the fruit of a long personal experience and of the still longer experience of the race. Is it these associations (or at least those of them that we have inherited from our ancestors), which constitute this a priori form of which it is said that we have pure intuition? Then I do not see why one should declare it refractory to analysis and should deny me the right of investigating its origin.

When it is said that our sensations are 'extended' only one thing can be meant, that is that they are always associated with the idea of certain muscular sensations, corresponding to the movements which enable us to reach the object which causes them, which enable us, in other words, to defend ourselves against it. And it is just because this association is useful for the defense of the organism, that it is so old in the history of the species and that it seems to us indestructible. Nevertheless, it is only an association and we can conceive that it may be broken; so that we may not say that sensation can not enter consciousness without entering in space, but that in fact it does not enter consciousness without entering in space, which means, without being entangled in this association.

No more can I understand one's saying that the idea of time is log-