Lucretian swerve

Term

When a thinker introduces an arbitrary skyhook to explain something he or she does not yet understand.

Explanation

“In a world composed of atoms whose motions were predictable, Lucretius (channelling Democritus and Epicurus) could not explain the apparent human capacity of free will. In order to do so, he suggested, arbitrarily, that atoms must occasionally swerve unpredictably, because the gods make them do so. This failure of nerve on the part of the poet has been known since as the Lucretian swerve, but I intend to use the same phrase more generally for each occasion on which I catch a philosopher swerving to explain something he struggles to understand, and positing an arbitrary skyhook.” (14, The Evolution of Everything)

Sources

The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley

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