Re: Great Truths and their Contraries

Damien Broderick (
Fri, 26 Nov 1999 12:26:47 -0800

At 07:51 PM 25/11/99 -0500, Robert M. Owen wrote:

>I don't really regard the heliocentricity of our Solar System as a "great"

Fair enough - but it was long regarded as one by certain powerful authorities and paradigm-enforcers.

What constitutes a great truth is certainly constrained by local opinion, so moving to a different locality can change it. But I do not think that sort of epistemological relativity can ever make it helpful to regard A and not-A as simultaneously true.

On the other hand, we often find that what we'd supposed to be a neat case of A is actually a blend of X, D and 42, so what we'd have supposed to be a simple existential opposition with not-A is far more complicated. But that would make Bohr's dictum something like `The contrary of a given attempt to resolve a great puzzle also sometimes has great effectiveness or apparent validity', which I'd readily ascribe to.

That might sound as if I counsel trading-in a pretty maxim for a clumsy paraphrase, but I don't think so. The difference has something to do with treating the central issue not as one of `a truth' but rather as `a puzzle'.

>On the other hand, "wave-particle duality" (Scroedinger & Heisenberg)
>and "The Principle of Complementarity" (Bohr) help make life interesting,
>don't you think?

I don't, actually, but of course I lack the mathematical expertise to make a grounded judgement. Certainly there are many theorists who regard this wishy-washy Yin/Yang model as a historical obstacle to clearer understanding of QT.

Damien Broderick