Henri Poincaré - Experience Quotes
4 Sourced Quotes
But, one will say, if raw experience can not legitimatize reasoning by recurrence, is it so of experiment aided by induction? We see successively that a theorem is true of the number 1, of the number 2, of the number 3 and so on; the law is evident, we say, and it has the same warranty as every physical law based on observations, whose number is very great but limited. But there is an essential difference. Induction applied to the physical sciences is always uncertain, because it rests on the belief in a general order of the universe, an order outside of us. Mathematical induction, that is, demonstration by recurrence, on the contrary, imposes itself necessarily, because it is only the affirmation of a property of the mind itself.
We can not... escape the conclusion that the rule of reasoning by recurrence is irreducible to the principle of contradiction.... Neither can this rule come to us from experience... This rule, inaccessible to analytic demonstration and to experience, is the veritable type of the synthetic a priori judgment. On the other hand, we can not think of seeing in it a convention, as in some of the postulates of geometry.... it is only the affirmation of the power of the mind which knows itself capable of conceiving the indefinite repetition of the same act when once this act is possible. The mind has a direct intuition of this power, and experience can only give occasion for using it and thereby becoming conscious of it.
A scientist worthy of the name, above all a mathematician, experiences in his work the same impression as an artist; his pleasure is as great and of the same nature. ...we work not only to obtain the positive results which, according to the profane, constitute our one and only affection, as to experience this aesthetic emotion and to convey it to others who are capable of experiencing it.
Is the position tenable, that certain phenomena, possible in Euclidean space, would be impossible in non-Euclidean space, so that experience, in establishing these phenomena, would directly contradict the non-Euclidean hypothesis? For my part I think no such question can be put. To my mind it is precisely equivalent to the following, whose absurdity is patent to all eyes: are there lengths expressible in meters and centimeters, but which can not be measured in fathoms, feet, and inches, so that experience, in ascertaining the existence of these lengths, would directly contradict the hypothesis that there are fathoms divided into six feet?