the multiplier itself conveys...

< Previous | Next >

shaymaa Elreedy

Member
Arabic
Hi everybody,
«It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated so often that the multiplier itself conveys an idea not more definite than the savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud, sand, and shingle, accumulated to the thickness of many thousand feet, I have felt inclined to exclaim that causes, such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could never have ground down and produced such masses. »

This is a part of Darwin's observations on the scenery of Chile and its prominent features. But I can't understand the word «multiplier» in this context. can I find a proper explanation here?
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I suspect that Darwin was using it as a synonym for the word cause, shaymaa Elreedy. If some physical process or phenomenon causes something to happen over and over, it seems reasonable to call it a multiplier. It multiplies the frequency with which an effect appears in the world.
     

    shaymaa Elreedy

    Member
    Arabic
    I suspect that Darwin was using it as a synonym for the word cause, shaymaa Elreedy. If some physical process or phenomenon causes something to happen over and over, it seems reasonable to call it a multiplier. It multiplies the frequency with which an effect appears in the world.
    This was my first guess, but was in doubt, as I couldn't know why he should two words for the same meaning in one line.
    Thanks a lot for your valued help.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by a slow process, any effect which is
    produced by a cause repeated so often that the multiplier itself conveys an idea not more
    definite than the savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head.


    I think multiplier means pretty much what it means in a math context. It's the number of times bigger something is.

    Let's start from the end:

    conveys an idea not more definite than the savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head

    "Savage" means a person in a more primitive culture, in this case one where the field of mathematics is not highly developed and there are no words for very large numbers. He is not able to count the number of hairs on his head because there are no words for numbers that high and it is not something he has ever learned to do. It's a number far beyond his conception.

    And the same is true here:
    a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated so often that the multiplier itself

    The "multiplier" is the number of times it's happened, and in this case it is counted in years. And not just years, but thousands and hundreds of thousands of years, and even millions and tens of millions of years. That number is as inconceivable to us as the number hairs on his head is to a "savage". (Savage is not a word we would use nowadays.) These geologic processes have been repeating over and over and over so many more times than we can really comprehend. We can say "10 million years", but can we really comprehend how long 10 million years is?
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top