Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The new theory

     The new theory was not derived from experience.
     Viktor could see this quite clearly. It had a-
     risen in absolute freedom; it had sprung from
     his own head. The logic of this theory, its chain
     of reasoning, was quite unconnected to the exper-
     iments conducted by Markov in the laboratory. The
     theory had sprung from the free play of thought.

It was this free play of thought - which seemed quite detached from the world of experience - that had made it possible to explain the wealth of experimental data, both old and new. The experiments had merely been a jolt that had forced him to start thinking. They had not determined the content of his thoughts. All this was quite extra-ordinary. His head had been full of mathematical relationships, differ-ential equations, the laws of higher algebra, number and probability theory .. 

It was not mathematics that reflected the world; the world itself was a projection of differential equations, a reflection of mathematics.             

And his head had also been full of readings from different instruments, of dotted lines on photographic paper that showed the trajectories of particles and the fission of nuclei.

                                                                                                                              And there had even been room in his head for the rustling of leaves, the light of the moon, millet porridge with milk, the sound of flames in the stove, snatches of tunes, the barking of dogs, the Roman Senate, Soviet Information Bureau bulletins, a hatred of slavery, and a love of melon seeds.

                All this was what had given 
                birth to his theory; it had 
                arisen from the depths where 
                there are no mathematics, no 
                physics, no laboratory data, 
                no experience of life, no 
                consciousness, only the 
                inflammable peat of the 

Vasily Grossman
1905 - 1964
Life and Fate
Éditions l'Age d'Hommes, 1980©
Translation, Robert Chandler, 1985
New York Review Books, 2006©

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