Science and Reflection

This moment remains mysterious, as does every moment of its kind. It is not only the greatest thoughts that come as upon doves' feet; but at any given time it is the change in the presencing of everything that presences that comes thus—and before all else.

Theory makes secure at any given time a region of the real as its object-area. The area-character of objectness is shown in the fact that it specifically maps out in advance the possibilities for the posing of questions. Every new phenomenon emerging within an area of science is refined to such a point that it fits into the normative objective coherence of the theory. That normative coherence itself is thereby changed from time to time. But objectness as such remains unchanged in its fundamental characteristics. That which is represented in advance as the determining basis for a strategy and procedure is, in the strict sense of the word, the essence of what is called "end" or "purpose." When something is in itself determined by an end, then it is pure theory. It is determined by the objectness of what presences. Were objectness to be surrendered, the essence of science would be denied. This is the meaning, for example, of the assertion that modern atomic physics by no means invalidates the classical physics of Galileo and Newton but only narrows its realm of validity. But this narrowing is simultaneously a confirmation of the objectness normative for the theory of nature, in accordance with which nature presents itself for representation as a spatio-temporal coherence of motion calculable in some way or other in advance.

Because modern science is theory in the sense described, therefore in all its observing [Be-trachten] the manner of its striving-after [Trachtens], i.e., the manner of its entrapping-securing procedure, i.e., its method, has decisive superiority. An oft-cited statement of Max Planck reads: "That is real which can be measured." This means that the decision about what may pass in science, in this case in physics, for assured knowledge rests with the measurability supplied in the objectness of nature and, in keeping with that measurability, in the possibilities inherent in the measuring procedure. The statement of Max Planck is true, however, only because it articulates something that belongs to the essence of modern science, not merely to physical science.