Adolphe Quételet was a Belgian astronomer, mathematician, and sociologist. He interpreted the "statistical" information being gathered by modern states, especially the work of the great French mathematician Joseph Fourier in Paris, as evidence that some phenomena like marriages were being determined by an unknown law. Decades earlier, Immanuel Kant had argued for such an interpretation. in his Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent. Kant called for study of the statistical regularities of social data on births, deaths, and marriages.In the 1820's, Fourier noticed that statistics on the number of births, deaths, marriages, suicides, and various crimes in the city of Paris had remarkably stable averages from year to year. The mean values in a "normal distribution" (one that follows the bell curve or "law of errors") of statistics took on the prestige of a social law. Quételet did more than anyone to claim these statistical regularities were evidence of determinism in human affairs.
No matter what conception may form of the freedom of the will in metaphysics, the phenomenal appearances of the will, i.e., human actions, are determined by general laws of nature like any other event of nature. History is concerned with telling about these events. History allows one to hope that when history considers in the large the play of the freedom of human will, it will be possible to discover the regular progressions thereof. Thus (it is to be hoped) that what appears to be complicated and accidental in individuals, may yet be understood as a steady, progressive, though slow, evolution of the original endowments of the entire species. Thus, given that the free will of humans has such a great influence on marriages, on the births that result from these, and on dying, it would seem that there is no rule to which these events are subject and according to which one could calculate their number in advance. And yet the relevant statistics compiled annually in large countries demonstrate that these events occur just as much in accordance with constant natural laws as do inconstancies in the weather, which cannot be determined individually in advance, but which, taken together, do not fail to maintain a consistent and uninterrupted process in the growth of the plants, the flow of the rivers, and other natural arrangements.
In 1835, Quételet published his book Sur l'homme et le développement de ses facultés, ou Essai de physique sociale,
Individuals might think marriage was their decision, but since the number of total marriages was relatively stable from year to year, Quételet claimed the individuals were determined to marry. Quételet used Auguste Comte's term "social physics, to describe his discovery of "laws of human nature," forcing Comte to rename his work "sociologie."
Quételet's argument for determinism in human events is quite illogical. It appears to go something like this:
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