Saturday, October 11, 2014

Only the Containers of Things

All experimental finding is reduced, in the end, to confining within as close limits as possible the value of the measurable element of phenomena. We never reach the exact points at which the phenomenon really begins and ends. Moreover, we cannot affirm that such points exist, except, perhaps, in indivisible instants; a hypothesis which, in all probability, is contrary to the nature of time itself. Thus we see, as it were, only the containers of things, not the things themselves. We do not know if things occupy, in their containers, an assignable place. Supposing that phenomena were indeterminate, though only in a certain measure insuperably transcending the range of our rough methods of reckoning, appearances would none the less be exactly as we see them.

Emile Boutroux, The Contingency of the Laws of Nature, Fred Rothwell, tr., p. 28. This work is from 1874, although the English translation is quite a bit later.

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