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Camus and Science – The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) Higgs, Bosun, CERN


Camus 1913 - 1960


With the excitement and furore surrounding the CERN experiments and the Higgs Bosun particle, this seemed an apt thought – written almost 70 years ago.

Camus and Science – The Myth of Sisyphus  (1942)


“And here are trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel its taste.  These scents of grass at night, certain evenings when the heart relaxes – how shall I negate this world whose strength and power I feel?  Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that this world is mine.  You describe it to me and you teach me to classify it.  You enumerate its laws and in my thirst for knowledge I admit they are true.  You take apart its mechanism and my hope increases.  At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous and multi-coloured universe can be reduced to the atom and that the atom itself can be reduced to the electron.  All this is good and I ask you to continue.  But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which the electrons gravitate around a nucleus.  You explain this world to me with an image.  I realise then that you have been reduced to poetry:  I shall never know. Have I the time to become indignant?  You have already changed theories.  So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art.  What need had I of these efforts?  The soft lines of these hills and the hand of evening on this troubled heart teach me much more.  I have returned to my beginning.  I realise that if through science I can seize phenomena and enumerate them, I cannot for all that comprehend the world.   Were I to trace its entire relief with my finger, I should not know any more.  And you give me a choice between a description that is sure but that teaches me nothing, and hypotheses that claim to teach me but that are not sure……”









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