Percy Bridgman, An Appreciation

So Prof. Bridgman (Dept of Physics, Harvard) seemed to be saying:

"Look, the results we're getting from all our efforts, and all our accumulated knowledge, don't appear that impressive. They are flawed, especially as they concern our dealings with others of our kind, other human beings. Perhaps we should look at how we employ our minds, hearts and voices to navigate and explore the topography of human life on earth? Who can be convinced at this late date that we have used our tools (mind/heart/voice) to their greatest advantage?"

But as soon as he starts out he is hemmed in by two -- in his view -- unavoidable and ineluctable features of human experience. The first is expressed in an individualism so stark the likes of it probably have never before been made the starting point of a philosophy. He places so much emphasis on the role of the individual that he has been charged with outright solipsism (which is defined by WordNet as "the philosophical theory that the self is all that you know to exist"), a charge he would like to deny but which, at least according to the limited proportion of his writings that I have seen, he never quite defeats.


Posted Tuesday night, January 4th, 2022
From: Bob Bernstein  <elided>
To: "Holton, Gerald" <elided>
Subject: Go Webb         
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2021 02:12:06
User-Agent: Alpine 2.23.2 (DEB 509 2020-10-04)

Early Christmas Day I watched the picture-perfect launch of the James Webb Telescope from French Guiana. When I motioned to my wife to come in and look at my computer screen, I was so on the brink of tears that I could only motion to her to look at NASA's stream of images.

NoW it's early Monday morning and I am daydreaming that I am standing in that remote country watching the launch in person, and have next to me, as a companion, Percy Bridgman. I want to say him, "THERE'S your "ascription of physical reality!"


Posted early Wednesday morning, January 5th, 2022
Posted terribly early Saturday morning, January 15th, 2022