Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics

By Alfred Korzybski | Go to book overview
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In order to be able to deal with such quantities as are involved in the measurement of motion, time, velocity, etc., or indeed in the quantitative analysis of any physical phenomena, it is necessary to have some system or systems of reference with respect to which measurements can be made. Let us consider any set of things consisting of objects and any kind of physical quantities whatever, as electric charges or magnets or light-sources or telescopes or other objects and instruments, each of which is at rest with respect to each of the others. Let us suppose that among the objects are clocks, to be used for measuring time, and rods or rules to be used for measuring length, and that time and length may be measured at any desired instant and any assigned place. Such a set of objects and quantities and instruments, including the equipment for measuring time and length, all being at rest relatively to each other, we shall call a system of reference. Such a system we shall denote by S. In case we have to deal at once with two or more systems of reference we shall denote them by S, S̱, S1, S2 . . .

In this definition of systems of reference nothing specific has been said about the units of length and of time. If we were dealing with our usual principles of mechanics we might pass over such a matter without any feeling of difficulty about it; it would be sufficient to proceed in accordance with our intuitive conceptions of time and length. But in the theory of relativity these appear in a new light. We can not proceed with confident dependence upon our intuition. On the other hand we shall not attempt to give explicit definitions of units of time and length. We shall proceed from certain principles or postulates, presently to be stated, to an analysis of time and length and so arrive at a suitable precision of these conceptions by means of certain guiding principles. It will be seen that it is not far from the truth to say that our fundamental terms are defined implicitly and indirectly by means of the statements made about them and accepted initially as valid and that they may mean anything which is consistent with the truth of these fundamental principles and postulates.

The restricted principle of relativity may now be stated in the following form:

RESTRICTED PRINCIPLE OF RELATIVITY.If S1 and S2 are two systems of reference having with respect to each other a uniform unaccelerated motion, then natural phenomena run their course with respect to S2 in accordance with precisely the same general laws as with respect to S1.

This principle says nothing about the suitability of any particular system of reference for the convenient expression of the laws of nature; but it does say


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Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


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