Let the reader suppose that somebody states: “The gostak distims
the doshes.” You do not know what this means, nor do I. But if
we assume that it is English, we know that the doshes are dis-
timmed by the gostak. We know that one distimmer of the doshes
is a gostak. If, moreover, doshes are galloons, we know that some
galloons are distimmed by the gostak. And so we may go on, and
so we often do go on.
—Unknown writer quoted by Ogden and Richards, in The Mean-
ing of Meaning, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1923; also by Walter N.
Polakov in Man and His Affairs, Williams & Wilkins, 1925.
“Why! That is lifting yourself by your own bootstraps!” I exclaimed in amazed incredulity. “It’s absurd.”
Woleshensky smiled indulgently. He towered in his chair as though in the infinite kindness of his vast mind there were room to understand and overlook all the foolish little foibles of all the weak little beings that called themselves men. A mathematical physicist lives in vast spaces where a light-year is a footstep, where universes are being born and blotted out, where space unrolls along a fourth dimension on a surface distended from a fifth. To him, human beings and their affairs do not loom very important.
“Relativity,” he explained. In his voice there was a patient forbearance for my slowness of comprehension. “Merely relativity. It doesn’t take much physical effort to make the moon move through the treetops, does it? Just enough to walk down the garden path.”
I stared at him, and he continued: “If you had been born and raised on a moving train, no one could convince you that the landscape was not in rapid motion. Well, our conception of the universe