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)


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.


Classical Physic Central Force Complementary Aspect Physical Causality Universal Gravitation 
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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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