Nature and Life

Nature and Life

Nature and Life

Nature and Life

Excerpt

Philosophy is the product of wonder. The effort after the general characterization of the world around us is the romance of human thought. The correct statement seems so easy, so obvious, and yet it is always eluding us. We inherit the traditional doctrine; we can detect the oversights, the superstitions, the rash generalizations of the past ages. We know so well what we mean and yet we remain so curiously uncertain about the formulation of any detail of our knowledge. This word "detail" lies at the heart of the whole difficulty. You cannot talk vaguely about Nature in general. We must fix upon details within Nature and discuss their essences and their types of interconnection. The world around is complex, composed of details. We have to settle upon the primary types of detail in terms of which we endeavor to express our understanding of Nature. We have to analyze and to abstract, and to understand the natural status of our abstractions. At first sight there are sharp-cut classes within which we can sort the various types of things and characters of things which we find in Nature. Every age manages to find modes of classification which seem fundamental starting points for the researches of the special sciences. Each succeeding age discovers that the primary classifications of its predecessors will not work. In this way a doubt is thrown . . .

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