Determinism

The general course of events is determined by structures deemed to be fundamental.

These may be the economic system, the system of religious belief, the state of technology, and so on. Determinism is normally attributed to thinkers in a critical spirit, rather than claimed by them to describe their own views. Not the same as fatalism(also see: necessitarianism).

For linguistic determinism, see: SAPIR-WHORF HYPOTHESIS.

Hard determinists say freewill is incompatible with determinism and is therefore illusory.

Soft determinists (including most determinists in practice) are compatibilists and can therefore accept free will. Important issues here are: whether it makes sense for actions to be caused; how actions are related to the corresponding desires, intentions, and so on; and what the conditions are under which responsibility arises.

A major problem for determinists is to say just what counts as ‘every event being caused’.

Logical determinism says that statements about tomorrow’s events must be true or false today, and therefore tomorrow’s events must be already fixed. This raises questions about the nature of truth, and about the law of excluded middle.

Whether something is caused is independent of whether it is predictable. Evidence for the prediction might be in principle unobtainable (since it might have to include the effects of the prediction itself), and even an indeterminist might feel insulted if his own virtuous action were called unpredictable.

Also see: historical materialism

Source:
Aristotle, De Interpretatione {On Interpretation), ch. 9; classic discussion of logical determinism;
Alan Bullock, Oliver Stallybrass, and Stephen Trombley, eds, The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, 2nd edn (London, 1988)

One thought on “Determinism

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