Free Will or Determinism


IN recent years experimental work in physics has led to theoretical conceptions which suggest that the movements of atoms and electrons are just as indeterminate as human action. Yet it is doubtful if Prof. Max Planck's quantum theory will rule out determinism for those who prefer, for logical or other reasons, to hold to that view. It has not made Dr. M. Davidson or Prof. H. Levy relinquish a strictly mechanistic view of Nature. Prof. Levy, for example, argues that those who maintain that recent physical research has exposed a fundamental indeterminacy in Nature must explain away the determinism that has been established on the large scale. On the other hand, Sir Arthur Eddington asserts that "Classical physics foists a determinate scheme on us by a trick ; it smuggles the unknown future into the present, trusting that we shall not press an inquiry as to whether it has become any more knowable in that way". Perhaps the truth is that if one believes in free will for other reasons—the experience of volition, for example—one is thankful for the quantum theory as a crack in the fabric of the mechanistic view of Nature. Judicious leverage may, one hopes, make it wider. Hence the anxiety in some quarters to fill it with cement.

Free Will or Determinism

By Dr. M. Davidson. Pp. xv + 203. (London: Watts and Co., 1937.) 10s. 6d. net.

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H., J. Free Will or Determinism. Nature 140, 871 (1937).

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