philosophical belief that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes
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Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.
- Unlike the Hindu concept of karma, however, karma in Buddhism is not deterministic since there is in Buddhism no idea of a God who is the controller of karma; rather Buddhism takes karma as moral power, emphasizing the possibility of final release from the round of transmigration through a free decision of the will. Accordingly, on the one hand, we are bound by our own karma which shares in and inseparably linked to karma operating in the universe.
- Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.
- There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behavior, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the ‘decision’ by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster-than-light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already ‘knows’ what that measurement, and its outcome, will be.
- John Stewart Bell as quoted in The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics, by Paul C. W. Davies and Julian R. Brown, 1986/1993, pp. 45-46
- It must be admitted that the new theoretical conception owes its origin not to any flight of fancy but to the compelling force of the facts of experience. All attempts to represent the particle and wave features displayed in the phenomena of light and matter, by direct course to a space-time model, have so far ended in failure. And Heisenberg has convincing shown, from an empirical point of view, any decision as to a rigorously deterministic structure of nature is definitely ruled out, because of the atomistic structure of our experimental apparatus. Thus it is probably out of the question that any future knowledge can compel physics again to relinquish our present statistical theoretical foundation in favor of a deterministic one which would deal directly with physical reality.
- Albert Einstein, (May 24, 1940)"Considerations Concerning the Fundaments of Theoretical Physics". Science 91 (2369): 487–492. (quote from pp. 491–492)
- We must not think of the problem in terms of a choice between being determined and being free. We must look at it dialectically, and say that man is indeed determined, but that it is open to him to overcome necessity, and that this act is freedom. Freedom is not static but dynamic; not a vested interest, but a prize continually to be won. The moment man stops and resigns himself, he becomes subject to determinism. He is most enslaved when he thinks he is comfortably settled in freedom.
- Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (1964), p. xxxiii
- The statement that "the future is predetermined" seems to us to belong to the language of common sense because we are, from our religious—Judeo-Christian—tradition, accustomed to the idea of an omniscient Intelligence in whose mind this predetermination takes place. To the pagans, since their gods were imagined as more human, this predetermination took place, not in the minds of the gods, but in the mind of "Fate" above the gods...
If science does not care to include an omniscient Intelligence in its conceptual scheme... it can only mean that it is determined by law.
- Philipp Frank, Philosophy of Science: The Link Between Science and Philosophy (1957) pp. 261-262.
- Newtonian laws of motion allow a prediction of the future based on knowledge of the present because these laws are of the form
- Philipp Frank, Philosophy of Science: The Link Between Science and Philosophy (1957) pp. 266-267.
- The atomic theory was not generally accepted in the time of Democritus, largely because of its deterministic character, for it allows no chance, choice, or free will.
- Old-fashioned determinism was what we may call hard determinism. It did not shrink from such words as fatality, bondage of the will, necessitation, and the like. Nowadays, we have a soft determinism which abhors harsh words, and, repudiating fatality, necessity, and even predetermination, says that its real name is freedom; for freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom
- William James, The Dilemma of Determinism (1884), republished in The Will to Believe, Dover, (1956), p. 149.
- The stronghold of the determinist argument is the antipathy to the idea of chance...This notion of alternative possibility, this admission that any one of several things may come to pass is, after all, only a roundabout name for chance.
- William James, The Dilemma of Determinism (1884), p.153.
- The curve described by a single molecule of air or vapor is regulated in a manner just as certain as the planetary orbits; the only difference between them that which comes from our ignorance.
- We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its anterior state and as the cause of the one which is to follow. Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis—it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes. The human mind offers, in the perfection which it has been able to give to astronomy, a feeble idea of this intelligence. Its discoveries in mechanics and geometry, added to that of universal gravity, have enabled it to comprehend in the same analytical expressions the past and future states of the system of the world. Applying the same method to some other objects of its knowledge, it has succeeded in referring to general laws observed phenomena and in foreseeing those which given circumstances ought to produce. All these efforts in the search for truth tend to lead it back continually to the vast intelligence which we have just mentioned, but from which it will always remain infinitely removed.
- The worldview of the classical sciences conceptualized nature as a giant machine composed of intricate but replaceable machine-like parts. The new systems sciences look at nature as an organism endowed with irreplaceable elements and an innate but non-deterministic purpose for choice, for flow, for spontaneity.
- Ervin László (1996) The systems view of the world: A holistic vision for our time p. 10-11.
- This is a funny question: we all know what it means to do something. But the problem is, if the act wasn't determined in advance, by your desires, beliefs, and personality, among other things, it seems to be something that just happened, without any explanation. And in that case, how was it your doing?
- Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (1987), Ch. 6. Free Will
- If determinism is true for everything that happens, it was already determined before you were born that you would choose cake. Your choice was determined by the situation immediately before, and that situation was determined by the situation before it, and so on as far back as you want to go.
Even if determinism isn't true for everything that happens -- even if some things just happen without being determined by causes that were there in advance -- it would still be very significant if everything we did were determined before we did it. However free you might feel when choosing between fruit and cake, or between two candidates in an election, you would really be able to make only one choice in those circumstances-though if the circumstances or your desires had been different, you would have chosen differently.
- Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (1987), Ch. 6. Free Will
- And so too in this moment: for want of will, for want of clarity, for want of love, we could lose this moment, this war, this choice. We stand at a fork in the road, and one road leads down into darkness and the other up into light. Choose, choose, choose, choose, choose wisely.
We stand in the supermarket aisle and read ingredients. These cookies have partially hydrogenated vegetable oil; these do not. Plus they are made with organic flour. This stock has a P/E of 15. This browser has better security. This job is nearer to my house. This one loves me best.
But perhaps this cry of “choose” is like the hooting of an owl. Perhaps choice is limited to the Planck radius, and damping effects make of our macroscopic world a clockwork machine. Perhaps God guides the nail from the shoe, dropping the horse, grounding the king, losing the battle, because God wants the war lost. Perhaps this is all overdetermined by historical inevitability. Perhaps the date of your death is written already in the pages of the Book of the Norns, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or no.
Perhaps this history is the only history, perhaps it is a series of equations with definite solutions, perhaps it commands our obedience. And this is to say that it is sacred, that there are secret numbers behind apparent choices, that if we could see the world finally, we would not see choices but only things. And then when we wrote alternate history, we would only write: No.
- It is difficult to overestimate the importance of determinism in the behavioral sciences. Discovering the determinants of socialization, learning, group dynamics, abnormality, and effective management is the goal in most behavioral science disciplines. What if, for example, the determinants of depression were discovered? Although some behavioral scientists might claim that they already know what determines depression, current knowledge is more an educated guess than an exact understanding. What if we knew precisely the determinants of depression? Knowledge of this sort would surely provide a clear-cut comprehension of the phenomenon as well as suggest a surefire treatment of its harmful effects. In other words, we would know the cause of depression.
- Brent D. Slife & Richard N. Williams, (1995). What’s behind the research? Discovering hidden assumptions in the behavioral sciences, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, ch.4, p.94.
- Men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined.
- Spinoza, Ethics, Part 3, Prop. 2, Note (Dover 1955 p. 134)
- Biological determinism works as a phenomenon that normalizes same-sex desire while leaving heterosexism in place and disenfranchising certain queer people from fully participating in an accurate articulation of their experiences in political and popular discourse.
- Shannon Weber "What's Wrong With Becoming Queer Biological Determinism as Discursive Queer Hegemony"; as quoted in Ages of the X-Men: Essays on the Children of the Atom in Changing Times, p.170.
- If man were not free, then he could not conceive of causality at all, and could not form any concept of it. Insight into lawfulness is already freedom from it.
- Otto Weininger, Collected Aphorisms