Rationalism and the Physical World

  • C. Lanczos
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 3)


The word ‘rationalism’ in scientific context has an ominous ring. One thinks perhaps of the scholastic philosopher who refused Galileo’s invitation to observe the sunspots through his telescope, since the sun could have no spots on rationalistic grounds. Or we are perhaps reminded of Aristotle himself, who demonstrated on the basis of rationalistic arguments that the free motion of a body can only be circular. The new experimental method, which came up during the Renaissance, defeated the dream of the ancients to come to terms with the inner meaning of natural phenomena through speculation and contemplation. But is the defeat final — are we sure that the ghost of old may not raise its head again in modified garb?


Basal Skeleton Queensland Museum Peripheral Skeleton Choanocyte Chamber Main Skeleton 
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  1. 1.
    Stodola Festschrift, Zürich 1929, p. 126.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In a characteristic passage (from a letter to the author) he comments on the present state of theoretical physics (the letter is from 1953) thus: “Even the most anointed heads have to admit that they grope around in the dark rather hopelessly. The wise men of the 19th century would have never dreamt that it will come to this. One knows so much and comprehends so little. The four-dimensionality with the + + + —belongs to the latter category.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company / Dordrecht-Holland 1967

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Lanczos
    • 1
  1. 1.Dublin Institute for Advanced StudiesIreland

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