Arbitrary Quotes (27 quotes)
“Pieces” almost always appear 'as parts' in whole processes. ... To sever a “'part” from the organized whole in which it occurs—whether it itself be a subsidiary whole or an “element”—is a very real process usually involving alterations in that “part”. Modifications of a part frequently involve changes elsewhere in the whole itself. Nor is the nature of these alterations arbitrary, for they too are determined by whole-conditions.
A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
But in the present century, thanks in good part to the influence of Hilbert, we have come to see that the unproved postulates with which we start are purely arbitrary. They must be consistent, they had better lead to something interesting.
Extremely hazardous is the desire to explain everything, and to supply whatever appears a gap in history—for in this propensity lies the first cause and germ of all those violent and arbitrary hypotheses which perplex and pervert the science of history far more than the open avowal of our ignorance, or the uncertainty of our knowledge: hypotheses which give an oblique direction, or an exaggerated and false extension, to a view of the subject originally not incorrect.
However far the mathematician’s calculating senses seem to be separated from the audacious flight of the artist’s imagination, these manifestations refer to mere instantaneous images, which have been arbitrarily torn from the operation of both. In designing new theories, the mathematician needs an equally bold and inspired imagination as creative as the artist, and in carrying out the details of a work the artist must unemotionally reckon all the resources necessary for the success of the parts. Common to both is the fabrication, the creation of the structure from the intellect.
I asked Fermi whether he was not impressed by the agreement between our calculated numbers and his measured numbers. He replied, “How many arbitrary parameters did you use for your calculations?" I thought for a moment about our cut-off procedures and said, “Four." He said, “I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.” With that, the conversation was over.
In general the actions which we see ever taking place around us are complex, or due to the simultaneous action of many causes. When, as in astronomy, we endeavour to ascertain these causes by simply watching their effects, we observe; when, as in our laboratories, we interfere arbitrarily with the causes or circumstances of a phenomenon, we are said to experiment.
In speaking of cause and effect we arbitrarily give relief to those elements to whose connection we have to attend … in the respect in which it is important to us. [But t]here is no cause nor effect in nature; nature has but an individual existence; nature simply is.
In the modern interpretation of Mendelism, facts are being transformed into factors at a rapid rate. If one factor will not explain the facts, then two are involved; if two prove insufficient, three will sometimes work out. The superior jugglery sometimes necessary to account for the results may blind us, if taken too naively, to the common-place that the results are often so excellently 'explained' because the explanation was invented to explain them. We work backwards from the facts to the factors, and then, presto! explain the facts by the very factors that we invented to account for them. I am not unappreciative of the distinct advantages that this method has in handling the facts. I realize how valuable it has been to us to be able to marshal our results under a few simple assumptions, yet I cannot but fear that we are rapidly developing a sort of Mendelian ritual by which to explain the extraordinary facts of alternative inheritance. So long as we do not lose sight of the purely arbitrary and formal nature of our formulae, little harm will be done; and it is only fair to state that those who are doing the actual work of progress along Mendelian lines are aware of the hypothetical nature of the factor-assumption.
It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.
Let us make an arbitrary decision (by a show of hands if necessary) to define the base of every stratigraphical unit in a selected section. This may be called the Principle of the Golden Spike. Then stratigraphical nomenclature can be forgotten and we can get on with the real work of stratigraphy, which is correlation and interpretation.
Metaphorical language is a species of natural language which we construct out of arbitrary but concrete words. That is why it is so pleasing.
Our most successful theories in physics are those that explicitly leave room for the unknown, while confining this room sufficiently to make the theory empirically disprovable. It does not matter whether this room is created by allowing for arbitrary forces as Newtonian dynamics does, or by allowing for arbitrary equations of state for matter, as General Relativity does, or for arbitrary motions of charges and dipoles, as Maxwell's electrodynamics does. To exclude the unknown wholly as a “unified field theory” or a “world equation” purports to do is pointless and of no scientific significance.
Our progress in education has truly been a curious one. We have gone from the hard and arbitrary curriculum, with its primary insistence upon training the memory and the consequent devitalization of valuable and beneficial subjects, to the free elective system, with its wholesale invitations to follow the paths of least resistance, back to a half-hearted compromise somewhere between the two extremes, and we have arrived at what? Certainly at little more than an educational jumble. A maelstrom in which the maximum amount of theory and the minimum amount of practice whirl those who are thrown into it round and round for definitely fixed periods of time, to be cast out as flotsam for another period until corporate business and industrial organizations can accomplish that which could and should have been done by general education.
Psychology appeared to be a jungle of confusing, conflicting, and arbitrary concepts. These pre-scientific theories doubtless contained insights which still surpass in refinement those depended upon by psychiatrists or psychologists today. But who knows, among the many brilliant ideas offered, which are the true ones? Some will claim that the statements of one theorist are correct, but others will favour the views of another. Then there is no objective way of sorting out the truth except through scientific research.
The axioms of geometry are—according to my way of thinking—not arbitrary, but sensible. statements, which are, in general, induced by space perception and are determined as to their precise content by expediency.
The greatest human evils are not those that individuals perform in private, the tiny transgressions against some arbitrary social standard we call sins. The ultimate evils are the mass murders that occur in revolution and war, the large-scale savageries that arise when one agglomeration of humans tries to dominate another: the deeds of the social group. … only group efforts can save us from the sporadic insanities of the group.
The laws and conditions of the production of wealth partake of the character of physical truths. There is nothing optional or arbitrary in them ... It is not so with the Distribution of Wealth. That is a matter of human institution solely. The things once there, mankind, individually or collectively, can do with them as they like.
The material world begins to seem so trivial, so arbitrary, so ephemeral when contrasted with the timeless beauty of mathematics.
The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
There are several kinds of truths, and it is customary to place in the first order mathematical truths, which are, however, only truths of definition. These definitions rest upon simple, but abstract, suppositions, and all truths in this category are only constructed, but abstract, consequences of these definitions ... Physical truths, to the contrary, are in no way arbitrary, and do not depend on us.
There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Though genius isn't something that can be produced arbitrarily, it is freely willed—like wit, love, and faith, which one day will have to become arts and sciences. You should demand genius from everyone, but not expect it. A Kantian would call this the categorical imperative of genius.
Truth can only be found by the human intellect, exercised in perfect freedom, and trained to submit itself to the facts of nature. This is the essence of the Scientific Method, which is the exact opposite of the Theological Method. Science teaches men to think with absolute independence of all arbitrary authority, but to submit all their thoughts to the test of actual experiences of Nature. Christianity teaches them to think only according to its own foregone dogmatic conclusions, and to stick to these dogmatic conclusion in defiance of all possible experience.
We come now to the question: what is a priori certain or necessary, respectively in geometry (doctrine of space) or its foundations? Formerly we thought everything; nowadays we think nothing. Already the distance-concept is logically arbitrary; there need be no things that correspond to it, even approximately.
We may consequently regard it as certain that, neither by natural agencies of inanimate matter, nor by the operations arbitrarily effected by animated Creatures, can there be any change produced in the amount of mechanical energy in the Universe.