The Nature of Physical Reality: A Philosophy of Modern Physics

By Henry Margenau | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
The Contours of Reality

21.1. A RÉESUMÉ

THIS BOOK began with an analysis of experience, an analysis admittedly incomplete and looking with unconcealed scientific bias to phases of experience that contribute most to physical reality. Mindful of the easy fallacy which equates what is physically real with what matters, we conceded at the outset that much, indeed most, of our active human experience with its multitonal emotive qualities, with its stretches of monotony and its peaks of sudden elation, its sense of duty, freedom, and responsibility, is at present neutral to the established concerns of reality. But no prediction was made that they will remain forever neutral to the principles by which physical existence sustains itself.

The central distinction in our analysis of experience was between its immediate and its rational elements, between data and constructs. Again, it was not claimed that these formed two clearly separable, mutually exclusive sets of entities with a dividing boundary definite enough to satisfy the desires of class-minded logicians. But the distinction is good enough for scientific purposes; the important results of our quest for reality are independent of the precise location of the boundary between sense and reason; the distinction in question is recognized and sanctioned in all respectable treatments of philosophic problems; and finally there is the undeniable evidence of our own actual interpretation of experience: normal behavior is conditioned by the acknowledgment of a difference between thought and perception.

Data have an ephemeralness, a rhapsodic spontaneity, a nakedness so utterly at variance with the orderly instincts that pervade our being and with the given unity of our own experience as to be unfit for use in the building of reality. The constructs, on the other

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