BY about 1920, classical relativistic physics—the physics of Newton and Maxwell and Einstein—provided an account of the workings of matter and energy in space and time that was apparently accurate and comprehensive. Two outstanding features of this account were (1) that it was deterministic and (2) that it required locality of causation.
Looking first at determinism, classical physics postulated that the material universe develops or changes over time wholly in accordance with definite and unequivocal physical laws, so that for any inertial frame of reference (any frame of reference not itself subject to any acceleration) the state of the universe at any time is wholly and unequivocally determined by the state of the universe at prior times and the physical laws of nature. Or, to put essentially, the same idea in the language of relativity theory, independently of frames of reference: any event at any location in space-time is wholly determined by events within its past light cone and the physical laws of nature. 1
The last statement links with the second important feature of classical physics, locality of causation. In classical physics, anything that happens at any location in space-time is entirely unaffected by events with spacelike separation from it—that is, events occurring at locations in space-time other than within its past or future light cones. In fact, classical physics restricts locality of causation even more
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Publication information: Book title: The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Contributors: Robert Kane - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 85.
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