- What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?
- This is one of the many homespun but profound remarks through which Albert Einstein illuminated his preoccupation with the interrelationships that give our world its structure and that link 'us' with the 'world about us'.
- My theme in this lecture is the linkages and definitions implicit in Einstein's seminal question. I am going to explore in a way that will be naive but, I hope, carry no more prejudice than is central to the theme itself, the way in which we advance our 'objective' knowledge of the natural world about us; more particularly I shall explore limits to that knowledge and to its objectivity. And my thesis will be that, at a certain level, the objectivity with which man now thinks of himself as looking at nature from outside will dissolve and will be replaced by something that will involve man's nature in an essential way; the natural world will therefore no longer be outside man but will depend on him for its definition: the universe as artefact.
- Before I begin I will discuss kinds of limits to our knowledge of the natural world that I have in mind because that will set the stage for the argument As I see it there are four classes of limits to such knowledge and I shall deal with them roughly in order of their increasing profundity.
- The first kind of limit is essentially trivial and I should apologize for mentioning it were it not for the fact that it really is a most serious practical nuisance: the scales in space and time that we have available to us for our experiments.
Herbert Spencer Lecture
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