Quantum Mechanics<sup>1</sup>


in The Freedom of the Will

Published in print September 1970 | ISBN: 9780198243434
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680687 | DOI:
Quantum Mechanics1

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Quantum mechanics suggests a metaphysics less materialist than that of Locke and Newton, and is itself less mechanistic than Newtonian mechanics. But it has become less materialist in its implications by reason of a natural development of the traditional programme, and is less mechanistic just because it attempts to face the problems of epistemology that Newton shirked. The importance of quantum mechanics for the freedom of the will is twofold: it requires us to form a concept of a physical system radically different from that of Newton and Locke, in which particles such as atoms and molecules obey certain laws, and it is possible to know the state of a physical system completely at one time; and it may establish a principle of physical indeterminism relevant to the behaviour of the human body. Quantum mechanics throws all the old assumptions into doubt, and makes us realise that classical materialism obtains its simple and clear-cut ontology at the cost of ignoring problems of epistemology altogether.

Keywords: quantum mechanics; materialism; Locke; Newton; epistemology

Chapter.  2775 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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