Monday, September 24, 2012


He began by saying that everybody thought of Space as an empty homogeneous medium.

“Never mind at present what the ultimate constituents of that medium are.  We take it as a finished product, and we think of it as mere extension, something without any quality at all.  That is the view of civilized man.  You will find all the philosophers taking it for granted.  Yes, but every living thing does not take that view.  An animal, for instance.  It feels a kind of quality in Space.  It can find its way over new country, because it perceives certain landmarks, not necessarily material, but perceptible, or if you like intelligible.  Take an Australian savage.  He has the same power, and I believe, for the same reason.  He is conscious of intelligible landmarks.”


You mean what people call a sense of direction,” I put in.

Yes, but what in Heaven’s name is a sense of direction?  The phrase explains nothing.  However incoherent the mind of the animal or the savage may be, it is there somewhere, working on some data.  I’ve been all through the psychological and anthropological side of the business, and after you eliminate clues from sight and hearing and smell and half-conscious memory there remains a solid lump of the inexplicable.”

From:  John Buchan, "Space" (1912)

Dr. Feelgood: Don't You Just Know It (1976) (Link)

1 comment:

  1. I haven't; my sense of direction deserves no respect. Jane does also, by the way. Now that you'll respect it more, I think you should try to discern what it means. This Buchan story is fantastic and I believe is available to read online. Although it has certain "shilling shocker" aspects, it is pretty coherent in its turn-of-the-century cosmology/physics theory spinning, but more important, it is very moving and surprisingly subtle. It's very clear that animals and people who live closer to nature understand all kinds of things differently than we do. Curtis