Ernst MachErnst Mach's greatest contribution to philosophy was perhaps a negative one, the deemphasis of theories like Ludwig Boltzmann's theory of atoms, in favor of positivistic summaries of experimental observations. He was a great influence on the logical positivism of Bertrand Russell and the young Ludwig Wittgenstein in the UK and the logical empiricism of the Vienna Circle of Moritz Schlick. Although Mach very likely was a thorough determinist like most thinkers in the nineteenth century, his inaugural address on accepting a post at the University of Vienna in 1895 was on the role of accidents in inventions - "On the Part Played by Accident in Invention and Discovery"
After the repeated survey of a field has afforded opportunity for the interposition of advantageous accidents, has rendered all the traits that suit with the word or the dominant thought more vivid, and has gradually relegated to the background all things that are inappropriate, making their future appearance impossible; then, from the teeming, swelling host of fancies which a free and high-flown imagination calls forth, suddenly that particular form arises to the light which harmonizes perfectly with the ruling idea, mood, or design. Then it is that that which has resulted slowly as the result of a gradual selection, appears as if it were the outcome of a deliberate act of creation. Thus are to be explained the statements of Newton, Mozart, Richard Wagner, and others, when they say that thoughts, melodies, and harmonies had poured in upon them, and that they had simply retained the right ones.Mach clearly sees creative inventions and discoveries as a two-stage process. First, a stream of accidental possibilities comes to us, evaluated as they pass, then from the "blooming, buzzing, confusion" (as William James calls it) comes a gradual selection that harmonizes perfectly. Creativity, like free will, is a two-stage process