There is, in fact, no such thing as the form of the “real” world; physics is one pattern which may be found in it and “appearance,” or the pattern of things with their qualities and characters, is another. One construction may indeed preclude the other; but to maintain that the consistency and universality of the one brands the other as false is a mistake. The fact that physical analysis does not rest in a final establishment of irreducible “qualities” does not refute the belief that there are red, blue, and green things, wet or oily or dry substances, fragrant flowers, and shiny surfaces in the real world. These concepts of the “material mode” are not approximations to “physical” notions at all. Physical concepts owe their origin and development to the application of mathematics to the world of “things,” and mathematics never—even in the beginning—dealt with qualities of objects. It measured their proportions, but never treated its concepts—triangularity, circularity, etc.—as qualities of . which so-and-so much could become an ingredient of certain objects. Even though an elliptical race-track may approximate a circle, it is not to be improved by the addition of more circularity. On the other hand, wine which is not sweet enough requires more sweetening, paint which is not bright enough is given an ingredient of more white or more color. The world of physics is essentially the real world construed by mathematical abstractions, and the world of sense is the real world construed by the abstractions which the sense-organs immediately furnish. To suppose that the “material mode” is a primitive and groping attempt at physical conception is a fatal error in epistemology, because it cuts off all interest in the developments of which sensuous conception is capable and the intellectual uses to which it might be put. [85]

References

Langer, Suzanne K. Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (1941). New York: Mentor/American Library, 1951.


Last modified 14 July 2019