D O C . 1 7 0 O N O V E R D E T E R M I N A T I O N 1 6 3
170. “Does Field Theory Offer Possibilities for the
Solution of the Quantum Problem?”[1]
[Einstein 1924d]
Completed before 6 December 1923
Presented 13 December 1923
Published 15 January 1924
In: Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin). Physikalisch-mathematische
Klasse. Sitzungsberichte (1923): 359–364.
§1. Generalities.
The great successes that quantum theory has shown after an evolution of not
even one quarter of a century should not delude us about the fact that a logical foun-
dation for this theory is still lacking. We know, furthermore, that these sought-after
foundations cannot simply be an extension of classical mechanics and electrody-
namics; for, the equipartition theorem for energy which follows from classical me-
chanics as well as the laws of
energetic properties of radiation that follow
from classical electrodynamics are in irreconcilable contradiction with the facts.
One only needs to recall the degeneration of specific heats at low temperatures and
the secondary processes that occur in the absorption and scattering (Compton ef-
fect) of short-wave radiation.
In view of the facts summarized by the rules of quanta, one could despair of ever
gaining mastery of the problems by a consistent development of existing theories.
The gist of the theoretical developments up to now, which are characterized by the
keywords mechanics, Maxwell-Lorentz electrodynamics, and relativity theory, is
that they operate with differential equations, which definitely determine an event
in a four-dimensional space-time continuum, if a space-like section of it is known.
Determining definitely the temporal extension of events using partial differential
equations is the method by which we do justice to the law of
In view
of the existing difficulties, it has been doubted whether the actual processes could
be described by differential
Furthermore, the possibility of smoothly
implementing the law of causality on the grounds of the four-dimensional contin-
uum of space and time is doubtful. All these doubts are epistemologically permis-
sible and in view of the existing profound difficulties well
before we seriously include such remote possibilities in our considerations, we
[p. 359]
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