The concept of neo-determinism was put forward by Taylor in the 1920s. He argued that the limits of agricultural settlement in Australia had been set by factors in the physical environment such as the distribution of rainfall.
Taylor’s view was most unpopular in Australia at that time, but it has been generally accepted since then.
In his book on Australia, Taylor reaffirmed his basic position. He believed that the best economic programme for a country to follow has in large part been determined by nature, and it is geographer’s duty to interpret this programme.
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Man is able to accelerate, slow or stop the progress of a country’s development. He is like the traffic controller in a large city, who alters the rate, not the direction of progress; and perhaps the phrase ‘Stop-and-Go Determinism’ expresses succinctly the writer’s geographical philosophy.
Man follows nature’s programme only if he is wise, presuming he can act foolishly, which admits the possibilities contention that within broad limits set by environment man can choose, at the very least.
Taylor concedes him the choice between wise and foolish. But wisdom and folly are human concepts. The natural environment knows nothing of them. In nature there is only the ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’. Finer categories are man-made.
The possibility admit that the opportunities offered by any environment are not all equal. Some demand little from man, others continual struggle; some yield large, other meager returns.
The ratio between effort and return can be looked upon as the price nature exacts from man for the particular choice he makes. But recognition of this inequality of opportunities gives no clue as to which nature prefers, and the wise man should take.
Once the possibility of alternative action is conceded, and then it is difficult to see ‘Stop-and-Go Determinism’ claim that man is not a free agent, that his liberty is curtailed, all agree.
In no environment are the possibilities limitless and for every choice a price must be paid, proponents of possibilism admits this, but within these limits freedom to choose exists.
Man makes his choice, and man himself judges its relative wisdom or folly by reference to goals he himself has established.
Limits to man’s freedom beyond those generally recognized by possibilists are, according to Taylor’s definition, those imposed by man’s conception of wisdom.
There is nothing indeed that contradicts the assertion of Febvre that there are no necessities but everywhere possibilities and man as a master of these possibilities is the judge of their use. Thus, man chooses but only from the range which nature presents him.