The Decline and Fall of Causality

  • F. Waismann


I. The year 1927 is a landmark in the evolution of physics — the year which saw the obsequies of the notion of causality. To avoid misconceptions, it should not be thought that the concept fell a victim to the unbridled antipathy of certain physicists or their indulgence in fancies. The truth is that men of science came, very reluctantly and almost against their will, to recognize the impossibility of giving a coherent causal description of the happenings on the atomic scale, though some of them — curiously enough, amongst them Planck, Einstein, de Broglie, Schrodinger — could never bring themselves to accept wholeheartedly so drastic a renunciation of classical ideals.


Solar System Uncertainty Relation Seventeenth Century Uncertainty Principle Classical Physic 
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  1. 2.
    ‘The most direct, and in a sense the most important, problem which our conscious knowledge of nature should enable us to solve is the anticipation of future events, so that we may arrange our present affairs in accordance with such anticipations.’ H. Hertz, Introduction to the Principles of Mechanics (translated by D. E. Jones), London, 1899.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    T. E. Hulme, Speculations, London, 1924.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Schlick, ‘Die Kausalität in der gegenwärtigen Physik’, Ges. Aufsätze, Vienna, 1938.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    Doubts as to that were first raised by R. V. Mises (Probability, Statistics, and Truth) 2nd ed., London, 1957, and even before in an article in Die Natur-wissenschaften, 1922.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    For a similar example cf. M. Bom, Physics in My Generation, London, 1956.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    N. Bohr, Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, New York, 1958.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    G. Birkhoff and J. V. Neumann, ‘The Logic of Quantum Mechanics’ (Annals of Mathematics 37 (1936); C. F. v. Weizsäcker, ‘Komplementärität und Logik’ (Die Naturwissenschaften, 1955). Even Heisenberg has given his blessing to this enterprise.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Literary Executors of F. Waismann, and R. Harré 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Waismann
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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