The value of statistical laws in physics and social sciences

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The deterministic conception of nature implies in itself a real cause of weakness in the irremediable contradiction that it faces with the most certain data of our consciousness. G. SOREL attempted to compose this disagreement with the distinction between artificial nature and natural nature (this last acausal), but in this way he denied the unity of science. On the other hand, the formal analogy between the statistical laws of physics and the ones of social sciences credited the opinion that human facts also undergo a rigid determinism. It is therefore important that quantum mechanics principles have brought to recognize the statistical character of basic laws of elementary processes, in addition to a certain absence of objectiveness in the description of phenomena. This conclusion has made essential the analogy between physics and social sciences, between which it turned out an identity of value and method.

This article of ETTORE MAJORANA —the great theoretical physicist of Naples University who went missing on 25 March 1938— was originally written for a sociology journal. It was not published perhaps due to the reticence that the author had in interacting with others. Reticence that convinced him to put important papers inside a drawer too often. This article has been conserved by the dedicated care of his brother and it is presented here not only for the intrinsic interest of the topic but above all because it shows us one aspect of the rich personality of MAJORANA which so much impressed people who knew him, a thinker with a sharp realistic sense and with an extremely critical but not skeptical mind. He takes here a clear position concerning the debated problem of the statistical value of the basic physics law. This aspect was considered by several scholars as a defect similar to a charge of indeterminism in the evolution of nature; it is indeed for MAJORANA a reason to claim the intrinsic importance of the statistical method. Up to now this method has been applied only to social sciences and in the new interpretation of physics laws it fully recovers its original meaning. GIOVANNI GENTILE jr, 1942.
Translated from “Scientia”, vol. 36, 1942, pp. 58–66, by R. N. Mantegna in “Quantitative Finance” 5 (2005) 133–140. Reproduced by kind permission of Taylor and Francis Ltd. (