To Think, to Do, to Believe
Abstract of the lecture
"Science is like a boat, which we rebuild plank by plank while staying afloat in it. The philosopher and the scientist are in the same boat." Neurath
Is life any different, in all its varieties of impulse and understanding? Morals, arts and politics, ethics and social systems, religions and economic systems, share the same plight. Planks are always rotting in warm, quiet waters or failing catastrophically in storms. Failure to keep up with the rebuilding will stunt human lives, bring companies, nations, cultures and civilizations to ruin, and leave sciences and philosophies dull and irrelevant. The problem is to save hard-won understanding despite the constant changes. Mathematical theorems and haiku enrich our humanity over millennia, and questions that were posed long before they were written down still perplex and challenge us.
It is often noted that the rate of scientific and technical development accelerates. Each new technique and level of understanding enriches others, and the rich network expands in scale and complexity at a headlong pace, maintained by links across time and space. Less noted is the parallel growth of human culture in a broader sense because its growth seems to be dominated by the completion of success sive themes and impulses and by confusions during the growth and consolidations of new ones. More and more of those mature cultural complexes are preserved into later eras to influence later works and those with different roots. All is not lost to short human memories and the vagaries of history as a human network reaches farther around the world and backward into time. Architecture and art have long had opportunities to survive, then literature and music, and now we enrich our lives with performances from the past. Some thing is always lost; no human mind can hold the riches of all ages. Wisdom and knowledge and experience, of thoughts and acts and beliefs from the infancy and childhood of all humanity, are increasingly woven into our contemporary souls. The future grows from them, and the seaworthiness of our boat depends on our keeping them in balance and integrated as we build and rebuild each day, each year, each generation.