Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A Highly Exceptional Phenomenon

 Among other regular facts that have to be explained is Law or regularity itself. We enormously exaggerate the part that law plays in the universe. It is by means of regularities that we understand what little we do understand of the world, and thus there is a sort of mental perspective which brings regular phenomena to the foreground. We say that every event is determined by causes according to law. But apart from the fact that this must not be regarded as absolutely true, it does not mean so much as it seems to do. We do not mean, for example, that if a man and his antipode both sneeze at the same instant, that that event comes under any general law. That is merely what we call a coincidence. But what we mean is there was a cause for the first man's sneezing, and another cause for the second man's sneezing; and the aggregate of these two events make up the first event about which we began by inquiring. The doctrine is that the events of the physical universe are merely motions of matter, and that these obey the laws of dynamics. But this only amounts to saying that among the countless systems of relationship existing among things we have found one that is universal and at the same time is subject to law. There is nothing except this singular character which makes this particular system of relationship any more important than the others. From this point of view, uniformity is seen to be really a highly exceptional phenomenon. But we pay no attention to irregular relationships, as having no interest for us.

C. S. Peirce, "A Guess at the Riddle".

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