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Abandoning ‘the logic of the rainbow’, the West has put all its faith in the senses.  Sensation has become the basis of knowledge and it is towards sensation that all the activity of the logical, reasoning faculty is directed.  A precarious edifice has been raised which is now beginning to tremble, and nothing can be done to prevent its fall.  The act of observation has passed into magnitudes that are purely intellectual, incompatible with the scale of man.  However, some worried, conscientious men have, finally, been obliged to try to address the problem of light.  Perhaps it is less of a problem in the field of the arts than it is in those fields in which observation is the characteristic activity of men more exclusively intellectual than the painters. 

The painters may be in a very degenerate state.  They may be convinced that the justification of their craft lies in the schematic representation of some spectacle at the level of the senses, external to themselves, interpreted in a particular way as a result of certain circumstances of a contingent, sentimental nature.  But they are still craftsmen, making objects with their hands.  If they are worried about themselves and about what they do; if they express doubts about the real, esemplastic value of the schematic representations that seemed to be the foundation stone of their art - then they are on the way of regeneration through the twin means of reflection and of the worker’s act.  Reason once again assumes its place in the nature of things, passing before experience, preparing the way for it.  This experience, in which man occupies the central place, at once becomes a poetic act, an act of creation that has been imposed on man so that he may become conscious of his humanity and of his divinity.  The painter may suffer all the turbulence of those struggles in which things apparently contradictory confront each other;  but it is still quite clear that, by the mere fact that he acts and reasons at the same time, he will finish, sooner or later, by emerging out of his confusion, out of the contradictions, the heresies. 

In the field in which pure intellectualism reigns, regeneration is more difficult.  Instead of remaining, to the limits of their ability, makers of objects through the use of their hands, the pure intellectuals have become observers and commentators.  Working on the basis of hypotheses that seem reasonable so long as one does not question the foundations on which they are raised, they continued to extend theories derived from observation of what is accessible to the senses to such a degree that they are now completely lost.  They have been misled all the more easily because the acrobatic tricks which could be performed through the practical applications to which these theories gave rise seemed to support them with a great mass of apparently unquestionable proofs.  But among these intellectuals there are still some who question the real meaning of what they have gained from their hypotheses and theories.  This questioning is accompanied by a feeling of anguish with regard to their own nature and that of the men around them.  The need ‘for light’ becomes urgent the moment when, from one cut to another, from one blow of the chisel to another, the intellect has come to the hypothesis that light is the very essence of material reality - of that which can be observed as well as of that which can be surmised theoretically. 

At that point, the problems begin to multiply, strangely.  The contradictions with what are called ‘the classical premisses of the experimental method’ begin to seem insurmountable.  The attitude adopted by Renaissance man - external, waiting for something to happen - is no longer able to provide a convincing explanation of the reality that has been glimpsed.  In short, we are coming to a more or less openly admitted disavowal of the position of the humanist.  When the problem of light is addressed seriously in the realm of the pure intellect, it will oblige a total re-assessment of that notion of man which understands him as existing separately from the phenomena around him.  We will be forced to adopt a new idea of what reality is. Or, rather, we will have to return to a traditional idea of reality that will, once again, have become irresistible. 

Where are we with regard to this problem nowadays?  What is happening among the physicists? 

Light can be reduced, so it seems at least, to particles and to waves.  Once there were physicists who would only admit the existence of the particles.  Today the two theories are run together into one.  That is a wonderfully important development.  But the problem presents itself immediately.  For particle and wave contradict each other, as do the state of rest and the state of movement when they are treated together as one single state.  Is it really a solution to draw a distinction between MATTER and ENERGY and to present this distinction as a matter of course, as a postulate?  Is that the way to unravel the contradiction which cannot fail to appear between what is inert - matter - and what is in a state of agitation - energy?   to replace the mechanical determinism of Laplace with an indeterminate theory of probability?  confidence in the regularity of the laws of the Universe with uncertainty raised to the status of a law, a generalised indeterminism?  and finally to arrive at a denial of the reality of the Universe and of everything that lives in it, as they are experienced by the senses?  A strange fate for materialistic science, that it finishes by evaporating into the unfathomable mysteries of metaphysics.