By Charles Osgood
Osgood on talking: find out how to imagine in your toes with no Falling in your Face
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Extra info for Osgood on Speaking: How to Think on Your Feet Without Falling on Your Face
We discover more and more phenomena, completely different in appearance, but related by the similarity of their causes. Our system of explanation preserves the continuity or relatedness of the causes; it comprises 12 CHAPTER 1 only symbols of such character that a transition from one to a related one corresponds to the step from one occurrence in nature to another one which has a similar cause. The situation reminds one indeed of the process which mathematicians call mapping. In choosing this process to illustrate the meaning of physical explanation I am fully conscious of the inadequacy of the use of pictures to represent abstract facts.
Again let us look to the kinetic theory for elucidation. To be more specific, let us consider a gas. Under certain controllable conditions it rises in temperature, that is, a change occurs that can be measured. " If the gas be enclosed in a vessel, another phenomenon may be observed and measured at the same time: that of increase in pressure. There is distinctly no similarity in the outward appearance of these two effects; they seem perfectly incoherent. Yet they have the same cause. The explanatory symbols, by their very reason for existence, must preserve the relatedness of the two events which nature obscures.
It may be remarked parenthetically that this same principle yields numerical and geometrical laws if both sets are coexistent. With more particular reference to physics the principle of causation may thus be stated: No matter at what time an experiment be performed, its result is the same if the original conditions are identical. Perfect identity of causal conditions can never be achieved. Hence, if the principle of consistency be regarded as an a posteriori datum it can be established only as an ideal absfraction from an approximating, ever recurring experience.