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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

How Many Tables?

Posted by Bill Benzon on 12/01/11 at 10:39 AM

Graham Harman has a recent post in which he wonders about tables:

Because of something I had to write I was going over A.S. Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World (or over the Introduction, anyway, which was the relevant part for my purposes). This Introduction is famous for its discussion of the “two tables”: the scientific table that is mostly empty space and made up of rushing subatomic particles, and the table of everyday life (which Eddington confusingly names the “substantial” table, but never mind that).

I find that I have no sympathy for either of those two tables. The real table is the third table that is neither scientific nor everyday.

Under Eddington’s schema, both tables are dissolved into nearby sets of relations– either into their tiny little components detectable by the sciences, or into their effects on humans.

I’ve not read Eddington’s introduction, but only the single page that shows up in the Google Books preview. But that leads me to suspect that the situation is worse the Harman’s suggested.

The scientific table seems to be the quantum-mechanical table of sub-atomic charged particles, where those particle are not little itty bitty grains of sand, but even smaller; they’re something else. I suspect that Eddington’s “substantial” table is a conflation of all those various appearances (sensual objects in Harman’s terminology) the table presents to human perception and action with the classical table as defined in various respects by Descartes, Gallileo and Newton. It’s the table of classical mechanics. If we count all those appearances as one table, that gives us three tables, two scientific tables (quantum and classical) and one everyday table (appearances). Harman’s real table is a fourth. It, presumably, is what holds those other tables together or, if you will, it is what spawns them.


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