Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Truth and clarity

According to Niels Bohr 'Truth and clarity are complementary'; or, according to a different version of the same sentiment, when Bohr was asked what was the complementary variable of Wirklichkeit, he replied with the word 'Klarheit'. I'm not sure this statement has been properly understood. It is usually taken, I suppose, as a kind of occam's razor: things are truest that are clearest, clarity presupposes truth and vice versa. But that's really not the same thing at all: a photon's wave-ness and particle-ness are complementary, yet particles and waves are very different things ... as if Bohrs were actually saying 'truth is to clarity as a hail of machine-gun bullets is to Radio 4'. And that seems to me closer to the nature of things. Because, after all, truth is empirically very often not clear: not 'common sense', not 'obvious'. Truth is sometimes dark and obscure.

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