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The Evolution of the Idea of Causality [1942d]

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 21)

Abstract

Physicists generally have the reputation of being peaceful people, little inclined to reveal in the forum of the republic of letters the hesitations and doubts which assail them in their patient attempts to analyze the phenomena of inanimate nature. But, from time to time, it does happen that they throw this republic into the greatest ferment. On the basis of some seemingly minute difficulty which they, nevertheless, consider decisive, they raise the most serious problems. Then they do not hesitate to question the unlimited validity of our most fundamental concepts without the slightest regard for the innumerable philosophical dissertations which had made these concepts the unshakeable a priori forms or categories of our understanding. Thus, because they cannot succeed in comprehending the stability of atomic structures and analyzing the transformations occurring therein, they propose, scandalizing their good sound colleagues, to declare that stability incomprehensible, those transformations unanalyzable, and our usual concept of causality itself inapplicable to these phenomena. But what brings the scandal to its peak is that they turn out to be right. However disconcerting the thing may seem to metaphysical intellects, this renunciation of classical causality in the domain of atoms, far from denying us access to this domain, in fact permits us to order its laws rationally in a sufficiently enlarged logical framework.

Keywords

Classical Physic Central Force Complementary Aspect Physical Causality Universal Gravitation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Huygens, C., Discours de la cause de la Pesanteur (1690) [an appendix to his Traité de la lumière; cf. Oeuvres XXI, p. 471 — Ed.].Google Scholar
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    Leibniz, G., ‘Third paper against Clarke’, §17(1716) [Eng. edition: H. G. Alexander, ed., The Leibniz—Clarke Correspondence (University Press, Manchester, 1956), p. 30 — Ed.].Google Scholar
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    Laplace, P. S., Essai philosophique sur les probabilités (1814) (Truscott and Emory translation (Dover ed., New York, 1951), p. 4 — Ed.].Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cf. especially an essay by Albert Einstein in James Clerk Maxwell, a Commemoration Volume (Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, England, 1931 ), pp. 66–73.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bohr, N., Drei Aufsätze über Spektren und Atombau, 1, Aufsatz (1913), p. 19. [Eng. edition: The Theory of Spectra and Atomic Constitution Three Essays (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1922), p. 19. As Rosenfeld points out in Note 54 to [1936b] the English translation is defective at this point and we have translated from the German text. — Ed.]Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Spinoza, Ethics, transl. by R. H. M. Elwes. Part III. Prop. II. Note — Ed]Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Translated by Max Müller, cited by S. Radhakrishnan in his Indian Philosophy, volume 1 (London 1948). pp. 100–101 — Ed]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel

There are no affiliations available

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