By Jacques Derrida
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The Danish physicist Neils Bohr and his student Werner Heisenberg would eventually make quantum mechanics a theory of probability (a move that Einstein himself did not fully accept, as indicated by his famous remark that God did not play dice with the universe). The heart of the Bohr-Heisenberg position was that total certain knowledge could not be ascertained, because the act of measurement of atomic- and subatomic-level processes invariably alters some aspect of what is being measured. Copenhagen physics, as the position came to be known, contends that concepts like waves and particles are operational tools, and our knowledge of radiation can be defined only contextually.
In the imagist poetry of Amy Lowell, the work of Alfred Stieglitz and his comrades at Camera Work and his small gallery space, “291,” and the postimpressionism that came to prominence during the famed 1913 Armory Show, Americans had an array of cultural expression that deliberately and provocatively aimed at fracturing time and bending space. Artists felt no need to rely upon conventions that presented space as objective or time as universal. For those unschooled in the new aesthetics, the work looked strange and deformed.
As James summed up his fighting creed in Pragmatism (1907), a pragmatist “turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers. He turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. ”40 James identified the correspondence theory of truth as the pivot on which “fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins” hinge.