X-Message-Number: 12084
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: about the possibility of progress, for Thomas Mazanec
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 14:40:51 +1000 (EST)

Hi everyone!

For myself I do not see any sign of an inability to progress further (in 
general). For what it's worth, I have a reason for believing that such
progress will never NEED to stop: at present we construct theories to
describe some aspects of how the world (or people) behave. But theories
are no more than symbolic constructs; the real issue is just how we 
attach those symbols to things in the world. And since the world itself
will always fail to fit our symbolic constructions (because of the nature
of symbols, not the nature of the world), we'll find ourselves constantly
looking for new ones.

I will say, though, that past history strongly suggests that we cannot
assume that a DRIVE to make our theories fit the world will always persist
or persist at the same level. Human beings have already passed through
several periods in which the drive to do science was very low or even
absent. And one thing that seems to happen whenever that drive is low is
that most people, even most investigators, think they've totally solved
all the scientific questions, and no more such work is needed. (Think of 
Ptolemaic Theory, or the early Middle Ages of Europe. For that matter,
think of large periods of Chinese history).

And whether or not our ability to advance has ended at any given time
remains basically an unknown. The only way to show that it has is to try
to advance. Perhaps the effort fails because it is impossible, or perhaps
we failed to see what was needed or gave up too soon.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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