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THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD ix INTRODUCTION
 

Summary: THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD ix
INTRODUCTION
I have settled down to the task of writing these lectures and have drawn up my
chairs to my two tables. Two tables! Yes; there are duplicates of every object about
metwo tables, two chairs, two pens.
This is not a very profound beginning to a course which ought to reach
transcendent levels of scientific philosophy. But we cannot touch bedrock immediately;
we must scratch a bit at the surface of things first. And whenever I begin to scratch the
first thing I strike ismy two tables.
One of them has been familiar to me from earliest years. It is a commonplace
object of that environment which I call the world. How shall I describe it? It has
extension; it is comparatively permanent; it is coloured; above all it is substantial. By
substantial I do not merely mean that it does not collapse when I lean upon it; I mean that
it is constituted of "substance" and by that word I am trying to convey to you some
conception of its intrinsic nature. It is a thing; not like space, which is a mere negation;
nor like time, which isHeaven knows what! But that will not help you to my meaning
because it is the distinctive characteristic of a "thing" to have this substantiality, and I do
not think substantiality can be described better than by saying that it is the kind of nature
exemplified by an ordinary table. And so we go round in circles. After all if you are a
plain commonsense man, not too much worried with scientific scruples, you will be

  

Source: Henry, Richard C.- Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University

 

Collections: Physics