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THE ARCHITECTURE OF MATTER by Toulmin, Stephen & Goodfield, June: Penguin Books, 1965

November 28, 2012

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“If the last absolute distinctions between the organic and the inorganic are fading, and grading, into differences of degree, that is another indication that our theories of matter may be reaching maturity. For a long time cosmology rested on a similar absolute distinction, between the sub-lunary and the super-lunary worlds: with the coming of the new seventeenth-century perspective this opposition lost its sharpness — the undoubted differences between the two worlds were easily explained within the wider theory. Such an absolute distinction frequently turns out to be a distinction we had not wholly understood: we felt obliged to insist on it, simply because we lacked an adequate theoretical perspective. So the very fading of the absolute distinctions, which were such a feature of classical physics and physiology, may yet turn out to be a most significant aspect of twentieth-century scientific thought. The uncrossable frontiers, between compounds and mixtures, atoms and radiation, matter and energy, the living and the inert, were intellectual expedients which mark the classical theories as partial and incomplete. And the most far-reaching outcome we can hope for from twentieth-century matter-theory — which includes both quantum mechanics and molecular biology, as well as half a dozen other specialties — is a common system of fundamental concepts, embracing material systems at every level.”

[op. cit., pp. 430-431]

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