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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Plus Quotes (43 quotes)

Ce grand ouvrage, toujours plus merveilleux à mesure qu’il est plus connu, nous donne une si grande idée de son ouvrier, que nous en sentons notre esprit accablé d’admiration et de respect.
[The Universe] This great work, always more amazing in proportion as it is better known, raises in us so grand an idea of its Maker, that we find our mind overwhelmed with feelings of wonder and adoration.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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Ces détails scientifiques qui effarouchent les fabricans d’un certain âge, ne seront qu’un jeu pour leurs enfans, quand ils auront apprit dans leurs collèges un peu plus de mathématiques et un peu moins de Latin; un peu plus de Chimie, et un peu moins de Grec!
The scientific details which now terrify the adult manufacturer will be mere trifles to his children when they shall be taught at school, a little more Mathematics and a little less Latin, a little more Chemistry, and a little less Greek.
As quoted in 'Sketches From Life of Some Eminent Foreign Scientific Lecturers: Dumas', Magazine of Popular Science, and Journal of the Useful Arts (1836). Vol. 1, 177.
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Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis.
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Dans les sciences physiques en général, on ait souvent supposé au lieu de conclure; que les suppositions transmises d’âge en âge, soient devenues de plus en plus imposantes par le poids des autorités qu'elles ont acquises , & qu'elles ayent enfin été adoptées & regardées comme des vérités fondamentales, même par de très-bons esprits.
In the science of physics in general, men have so often formed suppositions, instead of drawing conclusions. These suppositions, handed down from one age to another, acquire additional weight from the authorities by which they are supported, till at last they are received, even by men of genius, as fundamental truths.
From the original French in Traité élémentaire de chimie (1789, 1793), discours préliminaire, x; and from edition translated into English by Robert Kerr, as Elements of Chemistry (1790), Preface, xvi.
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En un mot, pour tirer la loi de l'expérience, if faut généraliser; c'est une nécessité qui s'impose à l'observateur le plus circonspect.
In one word, to draw the rule from experience, one must generalize; this is a necessity that imposes itself on the most circumspect observer.
La valeur de la science. In Anton Bovier, Statistical Mechanics of Disordered Systems (2006), 186.
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Il n'y a qu'un demi-siècle, un orateur chrétien, se défiant des hommes de la science leur disait: 'Arrêtez-vous enfin, et ne creusez pas jusqu'aux enfers.' Aujourd'hui, Messieurs, rassurés sur l'inébranlable constance de notre foi, nous vous disons: creusez, creusez encore; plus vous descendrez, plus vous rapprocherez du grand mystère de l'impuissance de l'homme et de la vérité de la religion. Creusez donc, creusez toujours,mundum tradidit disputationibus eorum; et quand la science aura donné son dernier coup de marteau sur les fondements de la terre, vous pourrez à la lueur du feu qu'il fera jaillir, lire encore l'idée de Dieu et contempler l'empreinte de sa main.
Only a half-century ago, a Christian speaker, mistrustful of men of science told them: 'Stop finally, and do not dig to hell.' Today, gentlemen, reassured about the steadfastness of our unshakeable faith, we say: dig, dig again; the further down you, the closer you come to the great mystery of the impotence of man and truth of religion. So dig, always dig: and when science has stuck its final hammer blow on the bosom of the earth, you will be able to ignite a burst of light, read furthermore the mind of God and contemplate the imprint of His hand.
As Monseigneur Rendu, Bishop of Annecy, Savoy, presiding at the closing session of a meeting of the Geological Society of France at Chambéry, Savoy (27 Aug 1844). In Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 1843 à 1844, Tome 1, Ser. 2, 857. (1844), li. Google trans., edited by Webmaster.
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Il ne peut y avoir de langage plus universel et plus simple, plus exempt d’erreurs et d’obscurités, c'est-à-dire plus digne d'exprimer les rapports invariables des êtres naturels.
There cannot be a language more universal and more simple, more free from errors and obscurities, … more worthy to express the invariable relations of all natural things. [About mathematical analysis.]
From Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), xiv, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 7.
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Je me rends parfaitement compte du desagreable effet que produit sur la majorite de l'humanité, tout ce qui se rapporte, même au plus faible dègré, á des calculs ou raisonnements mathematiques.
I am well aware of the disagreeable effect produced on the majority of humanity, by whatever relates, even at the slightest degree to calculations or mathematical reasonings.
From 'French Reply to Baron Czyllak' concerning the game at Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo Facts and Fallacies (1904), 290, originally published in L'Écho de la Mediterranée as a response to an earlier open letter by the Baron in the same magazine. Maxim defended his prior mathematical calculations about gambling games. At the end of his paper giving a cautionary mathematical analysis of 'The Gambler's Ruin', < a href="http://todayinsci.com/C/Coolidge_Julian/CoolidgeJulian-Quotations.htm">Julian Coolidge referenced this quotation, saying “it gives the best explanation which I have seen for the fact that the people continue to gamble.”
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La chaleur pénètre, comme la gravité, toutes les substances de l’univers, ses rayons occupent toutes les parties de l’espace. Le but de notre ouvrage est d’exposer les lois mathématiques que suit cet élément. Cette théorie formera désormais une des branches les plus importantes de la physique générale.
Heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe, its rays occupy all parts of space. The object of our work is to set forth the mathematical laws which this element obeys. The theory of heat will hereafter form one of the most important branches of general physics.
From 'Discours Préliminaire' to Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), i, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 1.
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La nature veut que dans certains temps les hommes se succèdent les uns aux autres par le moyen de la mort; il leur est permis de se défendre contr’elle jusqu’à un certain point; mais passé cela, on aura beau faire de nouvelles découvertes dans l’Anatomie, on aura beau pénétrer de plus en plus dans les secrets de la structure du corps humain, on ne prendra point la Nature pour dupe, on mourra comme à l’ordinaire.
Nature intends that at fixed periods men should succeed each other by the instrumentality of death. They are allowed to keep it at bay up to a certain point; but when that is passed, it will be of no use to make new discoveries in anatomy, or to penetrate more and more into the secrets of the structure of the human body; we shall never outwit nature, we shall die as usual.
In 'Dialogue 5: Dialogues De Morts Anciens', Nouveaux Dialogues des Morts (2nd Ed., 1683), Vol. 1, 154-155. As translated in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 113.
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La santé est le trésor le plus précieux et le plus facile à perdre; c'est cependant le plus mal gardé.
Health is the most valuable and most easily lost treasure; yet it is the most poorly kept.
Maxim No. 308 in Maximes, Réflexions et Pensées Diverses (1819), 242.
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La théorie des séries infinies en général est justqu’à présent très mal fondée. On applique aux séries infinies toutes les opérations, come si elles aient finies; mais cela est-il bien permis? Je crois que non. Où est-il démonstré qu/on ontient la différentielle dune série infinie en prenant la différentiaella de chaque terme. Rien n’est plus facile que de donner des exemples où cela n’est pas juste.
Until now the theory of infinite series in general has been very badly grounded. One applies all the operations to infinite series as if they were finite; but is that permissible? I think not. Where is it demonstrated that one obtains the differential of an infinite series by taking the differential of each term? Nothing is easier than to give instances where this is not so.
Quoted in Reinhold Remmert and Robert B. Burckel, Theory of Complex Functions: Readings in Mathematics (1991), 125.
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La théorie est l’hypothèse vérifiée, après qu’elle a été soumise au contrôle du raisonnement et de la critique expérimentale. La meilleure théorie est celle qui a été vérifiée par le plus grand nombre de faits. Mais une théorie, pour rester bonne, doit toujours se modifier avec les progrès de la science et demeurer constamment soumise à la vérification et à la critique des faits nouveaux qui apparaissent.
A theory is a verified hypothesis, after it has been submitted to the control of reason and experimental criticism. The soundest theory is one that has been verified by the greatest number of facts. But to remain valid, a theory must be continually altered to keep pace with the progress of science and must be constantly resubmitted to verification and criticism as new facts appear.
Original work in French, Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale (1865), 385. English translation by Henry Copley Green in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1927, 1957), 220.
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La vérité ne diffère de l'erreur qu'en deux points: elle est un peu plus difficile à prouver et beaucoup plus difficile à faire admettre. (Dec 1880)
Truth is different from error in two respects: it is a little harder to prove and more difficult to admit.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 193. Google translation by Webmaster.
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Les Leucocytes Et L'esprit De Sacrifice. — Il semble, d'après les recherches de De Bruyne (Phagocytose, 1895) et de ceux qui le citent, que les leucocytes des Lamellibranches — probablement lorsqu'ils ont phagocyté, qu'ils se sont chargés de résidus et de déchets, qu'ils ont, en un mot, accompli leur rôle et bien fait leur devoir — sortent du corps de l'animal et vont mourir dans le milieu ambiant. Ils se sacrifient. Après avoir si bien servi l'organisme par leur activité, ils le servent encore par leur mort en faisant place aux cellules nouvelles, plus jeunes.
N'est-ce pas la parfaite image du désintéressement le plus noble, et n'y a-t-il point là un exemple et un modèle? Il faut s'en inspirer: comme eux, nous sommes les unités d'un grand corps social; comme eux, nous pouvons le servir et envisager la mort avec sérénité, en subordonnant notre conscience individuelle à la conscience collective.
(30 Jan 1896)
Leukocytes and The Spirit Of Sacrifice. - It seems, according to research by De Bruyne (Phagocytosis, 1885) and those who quote it, that leukocytes of Lamellibranches [bivalves] - likely when they have phagocytized [ingested bacteria], as they become residues and waste, they have, in short, performed their role well and done their duty - leave the body of the animal and will die in the environment. They sacrifice themselves. Having so well served the body by their activities, they still serve in their death by making room for new younger cells.
Isn't this the perfect image of the noblest selflessness, and thereby presents an example and a model? It should be inspiring: like them, we are the units of a great social body, like them, we can serve and contemplate death with equanimity, subordinating our individual consciousness to collective consciousness.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 194. Google translation by Webmaster. Please give feedback if you can improve it.
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Les médecins les plus savans en théorie sont rarement les plus habile practiciens.
The doctors most learned in theory are seldom the most skilled practitioners.
Maxim No. 281 in Maximes, Réflexions et Pensées Diverses (1819), 236.
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L’analyse mathématique … dans l’étude de tous les phénomènes; elle les interprète par le même langage, comme pour attester l’unité et la simplicité du plan de l’univers, et rendre encore plus manifeste cet ordre immuable qui préside à toutes les causes naturelles.
Mathematical analysis … in the study of all phenomena, interprets them by the same language, as if to attest the unity and simplicity of the plan of the universe, and to make still more evident that unchangeable order which presides over all natural causes.
From Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), xv, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 8.
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L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser; une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu’il sait qu’il meurt et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui; l’univers n'en sait rien.
Man is a reed, the feeblest thing in nature. But a reed that can think. The whole universe need not fly to arms to kill him ; for a little heat or a drop of water can slay a man. But, even then, man would be nobler than his destroyer, for he would know he died, while the whole universe would know nothing of its victory.
Pensées. As given and translated in Hugh Percy Jones (ed.), Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations (1908), 292.
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L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature; mais c’est un roseau pensant.
Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but a thinking reed.
Pensées (1670), Section 1, aphorism 160. In H.F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal’s Pensées (1950), 83.
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Nous avons l’obligation aux Anciens de nous avoir épuisé la plus grande partie des idées fausses qu’on le pouvait faire
We are under obligation to the ancients for having exhausted all the false theories that could be formed.
In Digression sur les Anciens et les Modernes (1688), 165. Collected in Oeuvres Diverses (1727), Vol. 3, 139. English version as quoted in John Bagnell Bury, The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry Into Its Origin and Growth (1920), 104.
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N’oublions pas non plus qu’il ne saurait exister pour la science des vérités acquises.
Nor must we forget that in science there are no final truths.
Original French in Mythologiques, Vol. 1, Le Cru et le Cuit (1964), 15. As translated by John and Doreen Weightman, The Raw and the Cooked (1969, 1990), 7.
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Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout. Car il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir rout d'une chose; cette universalité est la plus belle. Si on pouvait avoir les deux, encore mieux.
Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything, For it is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing.
Pensées. Quoted in Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006), 249.
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Qu'une goutee de vin tombe dans un verre d'eau; quelle que soit la loi du movement interne du liquide, nous verrons bientôt se colorer d'une teinte rose uniforme et à partir de ce moment on aura beau agiter le vase, le vin et l'eau ne partaîtront plus pouvoir se séparer. Tout cela, Maxwell et Boltzmann l'ont expliqué, mais celui qui l'a vu plus nettement, dans un livre trop peu lu parce qu'il est difficile à lire, c'est Gibbs dans ses principes de la Mécanique Statistique.
Let a drop of wine fall into a glass of water; whatever be the law that governs the internal movement of the liquid, we will soon see it tint itself uniformly pink and from th at moment on, however we may agitate the vessel, it appears that the wine and water can separate no more. All this, Maxwell and Boltzmann have explained, but the one who saw it in the cleanest way, in a book that is too little read because it is difficult to read, is Gibbs, in his Principles of Statistical Mechanics.
La valeur de la science. In Anton Bovier, Statistical Mechanics of Disordered Systems (2006), 3.
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Surtout l’astronomie et l’anatomie sont les deux sciences qui nous offrent le plus sensiblement deux grands caractères du Créateur; l’une, son immensité, par les distances, la grandeur, et le nombre des corps célestes; l’autre, son intelligence infinie, par la méchanique des animaux.
Above all, astronomy and anatomy are the two sciences which present to our minds most significantly the two grand characteristics of the Creator; the one, His immensity, by the distances, size, and number of the heavenly bodies; the other, His infinite intelligence, by the mechanism of animate beings.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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Tout homme qui reçoit une éducation libérale compte aujourd'hui la chimie parmi les objets les plus indispensables de ses études.
Everyone who receives a liberal education today counts chemistry among the most essential parts of his studies.
Système des Connaissances Chimiques, et de Leurs Applications aux Phénomènes de la Nature et de l'Art (1800), Vol. 1, Preface, xviii. Translation by Webmaster.
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Tout le monde convient maintenant qu’une Physique d’où l'on banniroit tout ce qui peut avoir quelque rapport avec les mathématiques, pour se borner à un simple recueil d’observations & d’experiences, ne seroit qu’un amusement historique, plus propre à récréer un cercle de personnes oisives, qu’à occuper un esprit véritablement philosophique.
Everyone now agrees that a Physics where you banish all relationship with mathematics, to confine itself to a mere collection of experiences and observations, would be but an historical amusement, more fitting to entertain idle people, than to engage the mind of a true philosopher.
In Dictionnaire de Physique (1781), Vol. 8, 209. English version via Google Translate, tweaked by Webmaster. Also seen translated as—“Everyone now agrees that a physics lacking all connection with mathematics…would only be an historical amusement, fitter for entertaining the idle than for occupying the mind of a philosopher”—in John L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th centuries: A Study of Early Modern Physics (1979), 74. In the latter source, the subject quote immediately follows a different one by Franz Karl Achard. An editor misreading that paragraph is the likely reason the subject quote will be found in Oxford Dictionary of Science Quotations attributed to Achard. Webmaster checked the original footnoted source, and corrected the author of this entry to Paulian (16 May 2014).
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A DNA sequence for the genome of bacteriophage ΦX174 of approximately 5,375 nucleotides has been determined using the rapid and simple “plus and minus” method. The sequence identifies many of the features responsible for the production of the proteins of the nine known genes of the organism, including initiation and termination sites for the proteins and RNAs. Two pairs of genes are coded by the same region of DNA using different reading frames.
[Paper co-author]
Frederick Sanger, et al., 'Nucleotide Sequence of Bacteriophage ΦX174 DNA', Nature (1977), 265, 687.
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All anybody has to say to Edward [Teller] is, ‘We’ve got a problem here, we need you,’ and— zip! he’s into it. It’s helpfulness, plus maybe vanity, but mostly just curiosity.
Anonymous
As described by an unidentified friend, quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 62.
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And we daily in our experiments electrise bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. [These terms we may use till your Philosophers give us better.] To electrise plus or minus, no more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the Tube or Sphere, that are rubb’d, do, in the Instant of Friction, attract the Electrical Fire, and therefore take it from the Thin rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the Friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received, to any Body that has less.
Letter 25 May 1747. Quoted in I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton: An Enquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin’s Work in Electricity as an Example Thereof (1956), 439.
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As Bertrand Russell once wrote, two plus two is four even in the interior of the sun.
In When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations About This and That (2009), 124.
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Characteristically skeptical of the idea that living things would faithfully follow mathematical formulas, [Robert Harper] seized upon factors in corn which seemed to blend in the hybrid—rather than be represented by plus or minus signs, and put several seasons into throwing doubt upon the concept of immutable hypothetical units of inheritance concocted to account for selected results.
In 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234.
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Genetics as a whole is the great over-hyped science, and geneticists know that even if they don't say it. All that genetics really is is anatomy plus an enormous research group grant. It's what anatomists did in the fifteenth century-looking at the heart and seeing how it worked. Now, we are doing the same with DNA
Quoted by Sean O'Hagan, in 'End of sperm report', The Observer (14 Sep 2002).
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I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.
In Sir Winston Churchill: A Self-Portrait (1954), 38.
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If we denote excitation as an end-effect by the sign plus (+), and inhibition as end-effect by the sign minus (–), such a reflex as the scratch-reflex can be termed a reflex of double-sign, for it develops excitatory end-effect and then inhibitory end-effect even during the duration of the exciting stimulus.
The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1906), 83.
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It is usual to say that the two sources of experience are Observation and Experiment. When we merely note and record the phenomena which occur around us in the ordinary course of nature we are said to observe. When we change the course of nature by the intervention of our will and muscular powers, and thus produce unusual combinations and conditions of phenomena, we are said to experiment. [Sir John] Herschel has justly remarked that we might properly call these two modes of experience passive and active observation. In both cases we must certainly employ our senses to observe, and an experiment differs from a mere observation in the fact that we more or less influence the character of the events which we observe. Experiment is thus observation plus alteration of conditions.
Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874, 2nd ed., 1913), 400.
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Minus times Minus equals Plus:
The reason for this we need not discuss.
Anonymous
The poet W.H. Auden recalled being asked to learn this mnemonic in school around 1919. As stated in 'Auden on Poetry: A Conversation with Stanley Kunitz', The Atlantic (1981), 218, 100.
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Outside intelligences, exploring the solar system with true impartiality, would be quite likely to enter the sun in their records thus: Star X, spectral class G0, 4 planets plus debris.
Essay 16, 'By Jove!'. In View From a Height (1963), 227.
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Rules of Thumb
Thumb’s First Postulate: It is better to use a crude approximation and know the truth, plus or minus 10 percent, than demand an exact solution and know nothing at all.
Thumb’s Second Postulate: An easily understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex incomprehensible truth.
Anonymous
In Arthur Bloch, The Complete Murphy's Law: A Definitive Collection (1991), 126.
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The difficulties connected with my criterion of demarcation (D) are important, but must not be exaggerated. It is vague, since it is a methodological rule, and since the demarcation between science and nonscience is vague. But it is more than sharp enough to make a distinction between many physical theories on the one hand, and metaphysical theories, such as psychoanalysis, or Marxism (in its present form), on the other. This is, of course, one of my main theses; and nobody who has not understood it can be said to have understood my theory.
The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.
But the (so-called) socialist revolution came first in one of the technically backward countries. And instead of the means of production producing a new ideology, it was Lenin's and Stalin's ideology that Russia must push forward with its industrialization ('Socialism is dictatorship of the proletariat plus electrification') which promoted the new development of the means of production.
Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).
However, Marxism is no longer a science; for it broke the methodological rule that we must accept falsification, and it immunized itself against the most blatant refutations of its predictions. Ever since then, it can be described only as nonscience—as a metaphysical dream, if you like, married to a cruel reality.
Psychoanalysis is a very different case. It is an interesting psychological metaphysics (and no doubt there is some truth in it, as there is so often in metaphysical ideas), but it never was a science. There may be lots of people who are Freudian or Adlerian cases: Freud himself was clearly a Freudian case, and Adler an Adlerian case. But what prevents their theories from being scientific in the sense here described is, very simply, that they do not exclude any physically possible human behaviour. Whatever anybody may do is, in principle, explicable in Freudian or Adlerian terms. (Adler's break with Freud was more Adlerian than Freudian, but Freud never looked on it as a refutation of his theory.)
The point is very clear. Neither Freud nor Adler excludes any particular person's acting in any particular way, whatever the outward circumstances. Whether a man sacrificed his life to rescue a drowning, child (a case of sublimation) or whether he murdered the child by drowning him (a case of repression) could not possibly be predicted or excluded by Freud's theory; the theory was compatible with everything that could happen—even without any special immunization treatment.
Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 127-128.
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The moon makes her circuit of the heaven in twenty-eight days plus about an hour, and with her return to the sign from which she set forth, completes a lunar month.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 9, Chap 1, Sec. 5. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 258.
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There is only one law of Nature—the second law of thermodynamics—which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest. … It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation; and it is in connection with organisation that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), 67-68.
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To speak algebraically, Mr. M. is execrable, but Mr. C. is x plus 1 -ecrable.
In The Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1849), Vol. 3, 279. Poe used this remark to summarize his low opinion of the works of two fellow writers, after stating that if Cornelius Mathews were not “the very worst poet that ever existed on the face of the earth, it is only because he is not quite so bad as” William Ellery Channing.
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“But in the binary system,” Dale points out, handing back the squeezable glass, “the alternative to one isn’t minus one, it’s zero. That’s the beauty of it, mechanically.” “O.K. Gotcha. You’re asking me, What’s this minus one? I’ll tell you. It’s a plus one moving backward in time. This is all in the space-time foam, inside the Planck duration, don’t forget. The dust of points gives birth to time, and time gives birth to the dust of points. Elegant, huh? It has to be. It’s blind chance, plus pure math. They’re proving it, every day. Astronomy, particle physics, it’s all coming together. Relax into it, young fella. It feels great. Space-time foam.”
In Roger's Version: A Novel (1986), 304.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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