“Man cannot grasp either the concept of absolute nothingness or that of the genesis of something out of nothing. The very idea of creation transcends his comprehension. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…is a living image and has a clear and definite meaning for the faithful believer. But the philosophers in their endeavors…”–Mises

Chapter 5. Determinism and Its Critics
1. Determinism
WHATEVER the true nature of the universe and of
reality may be, man can learn about it only what the
logical structure of his mind makes comprehensible to
him. Reason, the sole instrument of human science and
philosophy, does not convey absolute knowledge and
final wisdom. It is vain to speculate about ultimate
things. What appears to man’s inquiry as an ultimate
given, defying further analysis and reduction to something
more fundamental, may or may not appear such
to a more perfect intellect. We do not know.
Man cannot grasp either the concept of absolute
nothingness or that of the genesis of something out
of nothing. The very idea of creation transcends his
comprehension. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
whom Pascal in his Memorial opposed to that of the
“philosophes et savants,” is a living image and has a
clear and definite meaning for the faithful believer. But
the philosophers in their endeavors to construct a concept
of Cod, his attributes, and his conduct of world
affairs, became involved in insoluble contradictions and
paradoxes. A God whose essence and ways of acting
mortal man could neatly circumscribe and define would
not resemble the God of the prophets, the saints, and
the mystics.

The logical structure of his mind enjoins upon man
determinism and the category of causality. As man sees
it, whatever happens in the universe is the necessary
evolution of forces, powers, and qualities which were
already present in the initial stage of the X out of which
all things stem. All things in the universe are interconnected,
and all changes are the effects of powers inherent
in things. No change occurs that would not be
the necessary consequence of the preceding state. All
facts are dependent upon and conditioned by their
causes. No deviation from the necessary course of affairs
is possible. Eternal law regulates everything.
In this sense determinism is the epistemological basis
of the human search for knowledge1
Man cannot even

conceive the image of an undetermined universe. In
such a world there could not be any awareness of material
things and their changes. It would appear a senseless
chaos. Nothing could be identified and distinguished
from anything else. Nothing could be expected
and predicted. In the midst of such an environment
man would be as helpless as if spoken to in an unknown
language. No action could be designed, still less put
into execution. Man is what he is because he lives in
a world of regularity and has the mental power to conceive
the relation of cause and effect.
Any epistemological speculation must lead toward
determinism. But the acceptance of determinism raises
some theoretical difficulties that have seemed to be in-

soluble. While no philosophy has disproved determinism,
there are some ideas that people have not been
able to bring into agreement with it. Passionate attacks
have been directed against it because people believed
that it must ultimately result in absurdity.

1.
“La science est d&erministe; elle Test a priori; elle postule le
determinisme, parce que sans lui elle ne pourrait etre.” Henri Poincare,
Derniirea pensies (Paris, Flammarion, 1913), p. 244.

Theory & History, pp. 73-75, Ludwig von Mises