Determinism

Determinism

Overview
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and events, asserting that these hold without exception. The wide variety of deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse motives and considerations; some of which overlap considerably.
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Encyclopedia
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and events, asserting that these hold without exception. The wide variety of deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse motives and considerations; some of which overlap considerably. All should be considered in the light of their historical significance, together with certain alternative theories that philosophers have proposed. At the same time, some forms of determinism may be empirically testable, and this page mentions some relevant ideas from physics and the philosophy of physics
Philosophy of physics
In philosophy, the philosophy of physics studies the fundamental philosophical questions underlying modern physics, the study of matter and energy and how they interact. The philosophy of physics begins by reflecting on the basic metaphysical and epistemological questions posed by physics:...

. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism
Indeterminism
Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

 (otherwise called "Nondeterminism
Nondeterminism
Nondeterminism may refer to:* Nondeterministic programming * Nondeterministic algorithm * Non-deterministic Turing machine * Indeterminacy in computation * Indeterminism...

").

Determinism is often taken to mean simply Causal determinism: an idea known in physics as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that event
Event (philosophy)
In philosophy, events are objects in time or instantiations of properties in objects. However, a definite definition has not been reached, as multiple theories exist concerning events.-Kim’s Property-Exemplification Account of Events:...

s within a given paradigm
Paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...

 are bound by causality
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

 in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely, or at least to some large degree, determined by prior states. This can be distinguished from other varieties of determinism mentioned below. Other debates often concern the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe (or multiverse
Multiverse
The multiverse is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes that together comprise all of reality.Multiverse may also refer to:-In fiction:* Multiverse , the fictional multiverse used by DC Comics...

) is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems. Within numerous historical debates, many varieties and philosophical positions on the subject of determinism exist. This includes debates concerning human action and free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

, where opinions might be sorted as compatibilistic and incompatibilistic.

Determinism should not be confused with self-determination
Self-determination (philosophy)
Self-determination is the idea of a positive freedom, a freedom for actions that we originate, actions that are "up to us." Such acts constitute the essence of free will. This is Mortimer Adler's term, translating ideas from Aristotle and Aquinas...

 of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction
Prediction
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...

 be practically possible - only prediction in theory.

Varieties



Below are some of the more common viewpoints meant by, or confused with "Determinism".


Causal (or Nomological) determinism
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

 and related Predeterminism
Predeterminism
Predeterminism is the idea that every event is caused, not simply by the immediately prior events, but by a causal chain of events that goes back well before recent events...

 propose that there is an unbroken chain of prior occurrences stretching back to the origin of the universe. The relation between events may not be specified, nor the origin of that universe. Causal determinists believe that there is nothing uncaused or self-caused
Causa sui
Causa sui denotes something which is generated within itself. This concept was central to the works of Baruch Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernest Becker, where it relates to the purpose that objects can assign to themselves...

. Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 poses a serious challenge to this view (see 'Arguments' section below). Causal determinism is sometimes illustrated by the thought experiment
Thought experiment
A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment considers some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences...

 of Laplace's demon
Laplace's demon
In the history of science, Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of causal or scientific determinism by Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814...

. Historical determinism
Historical determinism
Historical determinism is the stance in explaining history or advocating a political position that events are historically predetermined by various forces. Since such explanation is the norm, it may be better understood in contrast to its negation, i.e...

 (a sort of path dependence
Path dependence
Path dependence explains how the set of decisions one faces for any given circumstance is limited by the decisions one has made in the past, even though past circumstances may no longer be relevant....

) can also be synonymous with causal determinism.

Necessitarianism
Necessitarianism
Necessitarianism is a metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be. It is the strongest member of a family of principles, including hard determinism, each of which deny free will, reasoning that human actions are predetermined by external or...

is very related to the causal determinism described above. It is a metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be. Leucippus
Leucippus
Leucippus or Leukippos was one of the earliest Greeks to develop the theory of atomism — the idea that everything is composed entirely of various imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms — which was elaborated in greater detail by his pupil and successor, Democritus...

 claimed there were no uncaused events, and that everything occurs for a reason and by necessity.

Fatalism
Fatalism
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

is normally distinguished from "determinism". Fatalism is the idea that everything is fated to happen, so that humans have no control over their future. Notice that fate has arbitrary power. Fate also need not follow any causal or otherwise deterministic law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s. Types of Fatalism include Theological determinism
Theological determinism
Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a monotheistic God. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam....

and the idea of predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

, where there is a God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 who determines all that humans will do. This may be accomplished either by knowing their actions in advance, via some form of omniscience
Omniscience
Omniscience omniscient point-of-view in writing) is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc. In Latin, omnis means "all" and sciens means "knowing"...

 or by decreeing their actions in advance.

Logical determinism or Determinateness is the notion that all propositions, whether about the past, present, or future, are either true or false
Law of excluded middle
In logic, the law of excluded middle is the third of the so-called three classic laws of thought. It states that for any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is....

. Note that one can support Causal Determinism without necessarily supporting Logical Determinism and vice versa (depending on one's views on the nature of time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, but also randomness
Randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

). The problem of free will is especially salient now with Logical Determinism: how can choices be free, given that propositions about the future already have a truth value in the present (i.e. it is already determined as either true or false)? This is referred to as the problem of future contingents.
Often synonymous with Logical Determinism are the ideas behind Spatio-temporal Determinism or Eternalism
Eternalism
The word eternalism has at least three meanings:* In philosophy, Eternalism is a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all points in time are equally "real", as opposed to the presentist idea that only the present is real.*Eternalism is a position in...

: the view of special relativity. J. J. C. Smart
J. J. C. Smart
John Jamieson Carswell "Jack" Smart AC is an Australian philosopher and academic who is currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia...

, a proponent of this view, uses the term "tenselessness" to describe the simultaneous existence of past, present, and future. In physics, the "block universe" of Hermann Minkowski
Hermann Minkowski
Hermann Minkowski was a German mathematician of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, who created and developed the geometry of numbers and who used geometrical methods to solve difficult problems in number theory, mathematical physics, and the theory of relativity.- Life and work :Hermann Minkowski was born...

 and Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 assumes that time is a fourth dimension (like the three spatial dimensions). In other words, all the other parts of time are real, like the city blocks up and down a street, although the order in which they appear depends on the driver (see Rietdijk–Putnam argument).

Adequate determinism is the idea that quantum indeterminacy
Quantum indeterminacy
Quantum indeterminacy is the apparent necessary incompleteness in the description of a physical system, that has become one of the characteristics of the standard description of quantum physics...

 can be ignored for most macroscopic events. This is because of quantum decoherence
Quantum decoherence
In quantum mechanics, quantum decoherence is the loss of coherence or ordering of the phase angles between the components of a system in a quantum superposition. A consequence of this dephasing leads to classical or probabilistically additive behavior...

. Random quantum events "average out" in the limit of large numbers
Expected value
In probability theory, the expected value of a random variable is the weighted average of all possible values that this random variable can take on...

 of particles (where the laws of quantum mechanics asymptotically approach the laws of classical mechanics). Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

 explains a similar idea: he says that the microscopic world of quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 is one of determined probabilities. That is, quantum effects rarely alter the predictions of classical mechanics
Classical mechanics
In physics, classical mechanics is one of the two major sub-fields of mechanics, which is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces...

, which are quite accurate (albeit still not perfectly certain
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

) at larger scales. Something as large as an animal cell
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

, then, would be "adequately determined" (even in light of quantum indeterminacy).

Determined by nature or nurture



Although some of the above forms of determinism concern human behaviors and cognition
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

, others frame themselves as an answer to the Nature or Nurture debate. They will suggest that one factor will entirely determine behavior. As scientific understanding has grown, however, the strongest versions of these theories have been widely rejected as a single cause fallacy.

In other words, the modern deterministic theories attempt to explain how the interaction of both nature and nurture is entirely predictable. The concept of heritability
Heritability
The Heritability of a population is the proportion of observable differences between individuals that is due to genetic differences. Factors including genetics, environment and random chance can all contribute to the variation between individuals in their observable characteristics...

 has been helpful to make this distinction.

Biological determinism
Biological determinism
Biological determination is the interpretation of humans and human life from a strictly biological point of view, and it is closely related to genetic determinism...

, sometimes called Genetic determinism
Genetic determinism
Genetic determinism is the belief that genes determine morphological and behavioral traits and do so with little or no influence from environmental factors....

, is the idea that each of our behaviors, beliefs, and desires are fixed by our genetic nature.

Behaviorism
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

is the idea that all behavior can be traced to specific causes—either environmental or reflexive. This Nurture-focused determinism was developed by John B. Watson
John B. Watson
John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it which was given at Columbia University in 1913...

 and B. F. Skinner
B. F. Skinner
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an American behaviorist, author, inventor, baseball enthusiast, social philosopher and poet...

.

Cultural determinism
Cultural determinism
Cultural determinism is the belief that the culture in which we are raised determines who we are at emotional and behavioral levels. This supports the theory that environmental influences dominate who we are instead of biologically inherited traits....

or social determinism
Social determinism
Social determinism is the hypothesis that social interactions and constructs alone determine individual behavior ....

is the nurture-focused theory that it is the culture in which we are raised that determines who we are.

Environmental determinism
Environmental determinism
Environmental determinism, also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture...

is also known as climatic or geographical determinism. It holds the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture. Supporters often also support Behavioral determinism
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

. Key proponents of this notion have included Ellen Churchill Semple, Ellsworth Huntington, Thomas Griffith Taylor
Thomas Griffith Taylor
Thomas Griffith "Grif" Taylor was a British / Australian geographer, anthropologist and world explorer. He was a survivor of Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica .-Early life:...

 and possibly Jared Diamond, although his status as an environmental determinist is debated.

Factor priority



Other 'deterministic' theories actually seek only to highlight the importance of a particular factor in predicting the future. These theories often use the factor as a sort of guide or constraint on the future. They need not suppose that complete knowledge of that one factor would allow us to make perfect predictions.

Psychological determinism
Psychological determinism
two forms of psychological determinism:* Orectic psychological determinism is the view that we must always act upon our greatest drive. This is often called psychological hedonism, and if the drive is specified for self-interest: psychological egoism....

can mean that humans must act according to reason, but it can also be synonymous with some sort of Psychological egoism
Psychological egoism
Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly,...

. The latter is the view that humans will always act according to their perceived best interest.

Linguistic determinism
Linguistic determinism
Linguistic determinism is the idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought. Determinism itself refers to the viewpoint that all events are caused by previous events, and linguistic determinism can be used broadly to refer to a number of specific views.For...

claims that our language determines (at least limits) the things we can think and say and thus know. The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis
Sapir–Whorf hypothesis
The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view...

 argues that individuals experience the world based on the grammatical structures they habitually use.

Economic determinism
Economic determinism
Economic determinism is the theory which attributes primacy to the economic structure over politics in the development of human history. It is usually associated with the theories of Karl Marx, although many Marxist thinkers have dismissed plain and unilateral economic determinism as a form of...

is the theory which attributes primacy to the economic structure over politics in the development of human history. It is associated with the dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

 of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

.

Technological determinism
Technological determinism
Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. The term is believed to have been coined by Thorstein Veblen , an American sociologist...

is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. Media determinism, a subset of technological determinism, is a philosophical and sociological position which posits the power of the media to impact society. Two leading media determinists are the Canadian scholars Harold Innis
Harold Innis
Harold Adams Innis was a Canadian professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on media, communication theory and Canadian economic history. The affiliated Innis College at the University of Toronto is named for him...

 and Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist...

.

Free will and determinism


Philosophers have argued that either Determinism is true or Indeterminism
Indeterminism
Indeterminism is the concept that events are not caused, or not caused deterministically by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance...

 is true, but also that 'Free will' either exists or it does not. This creates four possible positions.
Compatibilism
Compatibilism
Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent. It may, however, be more accurate to say that compatibilists define 'free will' in a way that allows it to co-exist with determinism...

 refers to the view that free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

 is, in some sense, compatible with Determinism. The three 'Incompatibilist' positions, on the other hand, deny this possibility. They instead suggest there is a dichotomy
Dichotomy
A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning it is a procedure in which a whole is divided into two parts...

 between determinism and free will (only one can be true).

To the Incompatibilists, one must choose either free will or Determinism, and maybe even reject both. The result is one of three positions:
  • Metaphysical Libertarianism
    Libertarianism (metaphysics)
    Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

     (free will, and no determinism) a position not to be confused with the more commonly cited Political Libertarianism
    Libertarianism
    Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

  • Hard Determinism
    Hard determinism
    Hard determinism, or Metaphysical determinism, defends the strongest version of Determinism: the world is a mechanism, and all events and choices have been determined by earlier conditions. Particularly, they accept Causal Determinism and Logical Determinism. Faced with the Standard argument...

     (Determinism, and no free will)
  • Hard Indeterminism (No Determinism, and no free will either).


Thus, although many Determinists are Compatibilists, calling someone a 'Determinist' is often done to denote the 'Hard Determinist' position.

The Standard argument against free will
Standard argument against free will
The dilemma of determinism is the claim that if determinism is true, our actions are controlled by preceding events and thus we are not free; and that if indeterminism is true, our actions are random and we are likewise not free; and that as determinism and indeterminism exhaust the logical...

, according to philosopher J. J. C. Smart
J. J. C. Smart
John Jamieson Carswell "Jack" Smart AC is an Australian philosopher and academic who is currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia...

 focuses on the implications of Determinism for 'free will'. He suggests that, if determinism is true, all our actions are predicted and we are not free; if determinism is false, our actions are random and still we do not seem free.

In his book, The Moral Landscape
The Moral Landscape
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values is a book by Sam Harris. In it, he promotes a science of morality and argues that many thinkers have long confused the relationship between morality, facts, and science. He aims to carve a third path between secularists who say morality is...

, author and neuroscientist Sam Harris
Sam Harris (author)
Sam Harris is an American author, and neuroscientist, as well as the co-founder and current CEO of Project Reason. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Stanford University, before receiving a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA...

 mentions some ways that determinism and modern scientific understanding might challenge the idea of a contra-causal free will. He offers one thought experiment where a mad scientist represents determinism. In Harris' example, the mad scientist uses a machine to control all the desires, and thus all the behaviour, of a particular human. Harris believes that it is no longer as tempting, in this case, to say the victim has "free will". Harris says nothing changes if the machine controls desires at random - the victim still seems to lack free will. Harris then argues that we are also the victims of such unpredictable desires (but due to the unconscious machinations of our brain, rather than those of a mad scientist). Based on this introspection, he writes "This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our experience is compatible with its utter abscence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?" adding that "Whether they are predictable or not, we do not cause our causes." That is, he believes there is compelling evidence of absence
Evidence of absence
Evidence of absence is evidence of any kind that suggests the non-existence or non-presence of something. A simple example of evidence of absence: checking one's pocket for spare change and finding nothing but being confident that one would have found it if it were there...

 of free will.

Research has found that reducing a person's belief in free will risks making them less helpful and more aggressive; this could occur because the individual's sense of Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.It has been defined as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain set of goals. It is believed that our personalized ideas of self-efficacy affect...

 suffers.

Determinism and mind


Some determinists argue that materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 does not present a complete understanding of the universe, because while it can describe determinate interactions among material things, it ignores the mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

s or souls of conscious beings.

A number of positions can be delineated:
  1. Immaterial souls are all that exist (Idealism
    Idealism
    In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

    ).
  2. Immaterial souls exist and exert a non-deterministic causal influence on bodies. (Traditional free-will, interactionist dualism).
  3. Immaterial souls exist, but are part of deterministic framework.
  4. Immaterial souls exist, but exert no causal influence, free or determined (epiphenomenalism
    Epiphenomenalism
    In philosophy of mind, epiphenomenalism, also known as Type-E Dualism, is a view that "mental" states do not have any influence on "physical" states.-Background:...

    , occasionalism
    Occasionalism
    Occasionalism is a philosophical theory about causation which says that created substances cannot be efficient causes of events. Instead, all events are taken to be caused directly by God...

    )
  5. Immaterial souls do not exist — there is no mind-body dichotomy
    Dichotomy
    A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning it is a procedure in which a whole is divided into two parts...

    , and there is a Materialistic
    Materialism
    In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

     explanation for intuitions to the contrary.


Another topic of debate is the implication that Determinism has on morality
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

. Hard determinism
Hard determinism
Hard determinism, or Metaphysical determinism, defends the strongest version of Determinism: the world is a mechanism, and all events and choices have been determined by earlier conditions. Particularly, they accept Causal Determinism and Logical Determinism. Faced with the Standard argument...

 (a belief in determinism, and not free will) is particularly criticized for seeming to make traditional moral judgments impossible. Some philosophers, however, find this an acceptable conclusion.

Philosopher and incompatibilist Peter van Inwagen introduces this thesis as such:

Argument that Free Will is Required for Moral Judgments
  1. The moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X implies that you should have done something else instead
  2. That you should have done something else instead implies that there was something else for you to do
  3. That there was something else for you to do implies that you could have done something else
  4. That you could have done something else implies that you have free will
  5. If you don’t have free will to have done other than X we cannot make the moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X.

History


Some of the main philosophers who have dealt with this issue are Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyám
Omar Khayyám
Omar Khayyám was aPersian polymath: philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology and theology....

, Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

, Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

, David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

, Baron d'Holbach
Baron d'Holbach
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a French-German author, philosopher, encyclopedist and a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment. He was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich in Edesheim, near Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate, but lived and worked mainly in Paris, where he kept a salon...

 (Paul Heinrich Dietrich), Pierre-Simon Laplace
Pierre-Simon Laplace
Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace was a French mathematician and astronomer whose work was pivotal to the development of mathematical astronomy and statistics. He summarized and extended the work of his predecessors in his five volume Mécanique Céleste...

, Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

, William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

, and, more recently, John Searle
John Searle
John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.-Biography:...

, Ted Honderich
Ted Honderich
Ted Honderich is a Canadian-born British philosopher, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London and Visiting Professor, University of Bath...

, and Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

.

Mecca Chiesa notes that the probabilistic or selectionistic determinism of B.F. Skinner comprised a wholly separate conception of determinism that was not mechanistic
Mechanism (philosophy)
Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes are like machines or artifacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other, and with their order imposed from without. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external...

 at all. Mechanistic determinism assumes that every event has an unbroken chain of prior occurrences, but a selectionistic or probabilistic model does not.

Eastern tradition



The idea that the entire universe is a deterministic system
Deterministic system (philosophy)
A deterministic system is a conceptual model of the philosophical doctrine of determinism applied to a system for understanding everything that has and will occur in the system, based on the physical outcomes of causality. In a deterministic system, every action, or cause, produces a reaction, or...

 has been articulated in both Eastern and non-Eastern religion, philosophy, and literature.

In I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

and Philosophical Taoism, the ebb and flow of favorable and unfavorable conditions suggests the path of least resistance is effortless (see wu wei
Wu wei
Wu wei is an important concept of Taoism , that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. Another perspective to this is that "Wu Wei" means...

).

In the philosophical schools of India, the concept of precise and continual effect of laws of Karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 on the existence of all sentient beings is analogous to western deterministic concept. Karma is the concept of "action" or "deed" in Indian religions. It is understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called saṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies. Karma is considered predetermined and deterministic in the universe, with the exception of a human, who through free will can influence the future. See Karma in Hinduism
Karma in Hinduism
Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul's reincarnated lives forming a cycle of rebirth...

.

Western tradition


The notion of determinism was introduced into the West through the adoption of the Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

. The Christian concept of predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

 led to the first Western debates over determinism, an issue that is known in theology as the paradox of free will
Argument from free will
The argument from free will contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible, and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory. The argument may focus on the incoherence of people having free will, or else God himself having free will...

. The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides said of the determinstic implications of an omniscient god: "Does God know or does He not know that a certain individual will be good or bad? If thou sayest 'He knows', then it necessarily follows that [that] man is compelled to act as God knew beforehand he would act, otherwise God's knowledge would be imperfect.…"

Determinism in the West is often associated with Newtonian physics, which depicts the physical matter of the universe as operating according to a set of fixed, knowable laws. The "billiard ball" hypothesis, a product of Newtonian physics, argues that once the initial conditions of the universe have been established, the rest of the history of the universe follows inevitably. If it were actually possible to have complete knowledge of physical matter and all of the laws governing that matter at any one time, then it would be theoretically possible to compute the time and place of every event that will ever occur (Laplace's demon
Laplace's demon
In the history of science, Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of causal or scientific determinism by Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814...

). In this sense, the basic particles of the universe operate in the same fashion as the rolling balls on a billiard table, moving and striking each other in predictable ways to produce predictable results.

Whether or not it is all-encompassing in so doing, Newtonian mechanics deals only with caused events, e.g.: If an object begins in a known position and is hit dead on by an object with some known velocity, then it will be pushed straight toward another predictable point. If it goes somewhere else, the Newtonians argue, one must question one's measurements of the original position of the object, the exact direction of the striking object, gravitational or other fields that were inadvertently ignored, etc. Then, they maintain, repeated experiments and improvements in accuracy will always bring one's observations closer to the theoretically predicted results. When dealing with situations on an ordinary human scale, Newtonian physics has been so enormously successful that it has no competition. But it fails spectacularly as velocities become some substantial fraction of the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

 and when interactions at the atomic scale are studied. Before the discovery of quantum
Introduction to quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics is the body of scientific principles that explains the behavior of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms and atomic particles....

 effects and other challenges to Newtonian physics, "uncertainty" was always a term that applied to the accuracy of human knowledge about causes and effects, and not to the causes and effects themselves.

Newtonian mechanics as well as any following physical theories are results of observations and experiments, and so they describe "how it all works" within a tolerance. However, old western scientists believed if there are any logical connections found between an observed cause and effect, there must be also some absolute natural laws behind. Belief in perfect natural laws driving everything, instead of just describing what we should expect, led to searching for a set of universal simple laws that rule the world. This movement significantly encouraged deterministic views in western philosophy.

Cause and effect


Since the early twentieth century when astronomer Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble
Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer who profoundly changed the understanding of the universe by confirming the existence of galaxies other than the Milky Way - our own galaxy...

 first hypothesized that redshift
Redshift
In physics , redshift happens when light seen coming from an object is proportionally increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum...

 shows the universe is expanding, prevailing scientific opinion has been that the current state of the universe is the result of a process described by the Big Bang
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

. Many theists and deists claim that it therefore has a finite age, pointing out that something cannot come from nothing (the definition of nothing, however, is problematic at the most arcane level of physics). The big bang does not describe from where the compressed universe came; instead it leaves the question open. Different astrophysicists hold different views about precisely how the universe originated (Cosmogony
Cosmogony
Cosmogony, or cosmogeny, is any scientific theory concerning the coming into existence or origin of the universe, or about how reality came to be. The word comes from the Greek κοσμογονία , from κόσμος "cosmos, the world", and the root of γίνομαι / γέγονα "to be born, come about"...

). The philosophical argument here would be that the big bang triggered every single action, and possibly mental thought, through the system of cause and effect.

Generative processes



Although it was once thought by scientists that any indeterminism in quantum mechanics occurred at too small a scale to influence biological or neurological systems, there is evidence that nervous system
Nervous system
The nervous system is an organ system containing a network of specialized cells called neurons that coordinate the actions of an animal and transmit signals between different parts of its body. In most animals the nervous system consists of two parts, central and peripheral. The central nervous...

s are indeterministic. It is unclear what implications this has for free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

 given various possible reactions to the standard problem
Standard argument against free will
The dilemma of determinism is the claim that if determinism is true, our actions are controlled by preceding events and thus we are not free; and that if indeterminism is true, our actions are random and we are likewise not free; and that as determinism and indeterminism exhaust the logical...

 in the first place. Certainly not all biologists grant determinism: Christof Koch argues against it, and in favour of libertarian free will
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

, by making arguments based on Generative processes (emergence)
Emergence
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems....

. Other proponents of emergentist or generative philosophy
Emergence
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems....

, cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

s and evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

, argue that determinism is true. They suggest instead that an illusion of free will is experienced due to the generation of infinite behaviour from the interaction of finite-deterministic set of rule
Rule
Rule, ruler, ruling usually refers to standards for activities. They may refer to:- Human activity :* Business rule, a rule pertaining to the structure or behavior internal to an organization* Game rules, rules that define how a game is played...

s and parameter
Parameter
Parameter from Ancient Greek παρά also “para” meaning “beside, subsidiary” and μέτρον also “metron” meaning “measure”, can be interpreted in mathematics, logic, linguistics, environmental science and other disciplines....

s. Thus the unpredictability of the emerging behaviour from deterministic processes leads to a perception of free will, even though free will as an ontological
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

 entity does not exist. Certain experiments looking at the Neuroscience of free will
Neuroscience of free will
Neuroscience of free will refers to recent neuroscientific investigations shedding light on the question of free will, which is a philosophical and scientific question as to whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions or decisions. As it has become possible to...

 can be said to support this possibility.

As an illustration, the strategy board-games chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

 and Go
Go (board game)
Go , is an ancient board game for two players that originated in China more than 2,000 years ago...

 have rigorous rules in which no information (such as cards' face-values) is hidden from either player and no random
Randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

 events (such as dice-rolling) happen within the game. Yet, chess and especially Go with its extremely simple deterministic rules, can still have an extremely large number of unpredictable moves. By this analogy, it is suggested, the experience of free will emerges from the interaction of finite rules and deterministic parameters that generate nearly infinite and practically unpredictable behaviour. In theory, if all these events were accounted for, and there were a known way to evaluate these events, the seemingly unpredictable behaviour would become predictable. Another hands-on example of generative processes is John Horton Conway
John Horton Conway
John Horton Conway is a prolific mathematician active in the theory of finite groups, knot theory, number theory, combinatorial game theory and coding theory...

's playable Game of Life
Conway's Game of Life
The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a cellular automaton devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970....

. Nassim Taleb is wary of such models, and coined the term "Ludic fallacy
Ludic fallacy
The ludic fallacy is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan. "Ludic" is from the Latin ludus, meaning "play, game, sport, pastime." It is summarized as "the misuse of games to model real-life situations." Taleb explains the fallacy as "basing studies of chance on the...

".

Mathematical models


Many mathematical models of physical systems are deterministic. This is true of most models involving differential equations (notably, those measuring rate of change over time). Mathematical models that are not deterministic because they involve randomness are called stochastic
Stochastic
Stochastic refers to systems whose behaviour is intrinsically non-deterministic. A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-deterministic, in that a system's subsequent state is determined both by the process's predictable actions and by a random element. However, according to M. Kac and E...

. Because of sensitive dependence on initial conditions, some deterministic models may appear to behave non-deterministically; in such cases, a deterministic interpretation of the model may not be useful due to numerical instability and a finite amount of precision
Accuracy and precision
In the fields of science, engineering, industry and statistics, the accuracy of a measurement system is the degree of closeness of measurements of a quantity to that quantity's actual value. The precision of a measurement system, also called reproducibility or repeatability, is the degree to which...

 in measurement. Such considerations can motivate the consideration of a stochastic model even though the underlying system is governed by deterministic equations.

Day to day physics


Since the beginning of the 20th century, quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 - the physics of the extremely small - has revealed previously concealed aspects of event
Phenomenon
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

s. Before that, Newtonian physics
Classical mechanics
In physics, classical mechanics is one of the two major sub-fields of mechanics, which is concerned with the set of physical laws describing the motion of bodies under the action of a system of forces...

 - the physics of every day life - dominated. Taken in isolation (rather than as an approximation
Approximation
An approximation is a representation of something that is not exact, but still close enough to be useful. Although approximation is most often applied to numbers, it is also frequently applied to such things as mathematical functions, shapes, and physical laws.Approximations may be used because...

 to quantum mechanics), Newtonian physics depicts a universe in which objects move in perfectly determined ways. At the scale where humans exist and interact with the universe, Newtonian mechanics remain useful, and make relatively accurate predictions (e.g. calculating the trajectory of a bullet). In theory, absolute knowledge
Universality (philosophy)
In philosophy, universalism is a doctrine or school claiming universal facts can be discovered and is therefore understood as being in opposition to relativism. In certain religions, universality is the quality ascribed to an entity whose existence is consistent throughout the universe...

 of the forces accelerating a bullet could produce an absolutely accurate prediction of its path. Modern quantum mechanics, however, casts reasonable doubt on this main thesis of determinism.

Relevant is the fact that certainty
Certainty
Certainty can be defined as either:# perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or# the mental state of being without doubtObjectively defined, certainty is total continuity and validity of all foundational inquiry, to the highest degree of precision. Something is certain only if no...

 is never absolute in practice (and not just because of David Hume's problem of induction
Problem of induction
The problem of induction is the philosophical question of whether inductive reasoning leads to knowledge. That is, what is the justification for either:...

). The equations of Newtonian mechanics can exhibit sensitive dependence on initial conditions. This is an example of the Butterfly effect
Butterfly effect
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state...

, which is one of the subjects of chaos theory
Chaos theory
Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...

. The idea is that something even as small as a butterfly could cause a chain reaction leading to a hurricane years later. Consequently, even a very small error in knowledge of initial conditions can result in arbitrarily large deviations from predicted behavior. Chaos theory thus explains why it may be practically impossible to predict real life, whether determinism is true or false. On the other hand, the issue may not be so much about human abilities to predict or attain certainty as much as it is the nature of reality itself. For that, a closer, scientific look at nature is necessary.

The quantum world


The quantum physics used at atomic scales works differently in many ways from Newtonian physics. Indeed, some findings are unintuitive and difficult to believe. Physicist Aaron D. O'Connell
Aaron D. O'Connell
Aaron Douglas O'Connell is an American experimental quantum physicist. While working under Andrew N. Cleland and John M. Martinis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he created the world's first quantum machine...

 explains that understanding our universe, at such small scales as atoms, requires a different logic than day to day life. O'Connell does not deny that it is all interconnected: the scale of human existence ultimately does emerge from the quantum scale. O'Connell argues that we must simply use different models and constructs when dealing with the quantum world. As a result, these branches of physics are sometimes misrepresented or misunderstood, making some claims seem more scientific than they are (e.g. The Secret (book)
The Secret (book)
The Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help book written by Rhonda Byrne. It is based on the earlier film of the same name that was released in DVD format in March 2006...

 or What The Bleep Do We Know!?
What the Bleep Do We Know!?
What the Bleep Do We Know!? is a 2004 film that combines documentary-style interviews, computer-animated graphics, and a narrative that describes the spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness...

). Quantum mechanics remain, however, the product of careful application of the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

, logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 and empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

. For instance, Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

's carefully formulated Uncertainty principle
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

 explains why the paths of objects can only be predicted in a probabilistic way (the reasoning is nuanced, involving, among other things, the observer effect
Observer effect
Observer effect may refer to:* Observer effect , the impact of observing a process while it is running* Observer effect , the impact of observing a physical system...

).


This is where statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics or statistical thermodynamicsThe terms statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics are used interchangeably...

 come into play, and where physicists begin to require rather unintuitive mental models: A particle's path simply cannot be exactly specified in its full quantum description. "Path" is a classical, practical attribute in our every day life, but one which quantum particles do not meaningfully possess. The probabilities discovered in quantum mechanics do nevertheless arise from measurement (of the perceived path of the particle). As Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

 explains, the result is not traditional determinism, but rather determined probabilities. In some cases, a quantum particle may indeed trace an exact path, and the probability of finding the particles in that path is one. In fact, as far as prediction goes, the quantum development is at least as predictable as the classical motion, but the key is that it describes wave functions that cannot be easily expressed in ordinary language. As far as the thesis of determinism is concerned, these probabilities, at least, are quite determined. These findings from quantum mechanics have found many applications, and allow us to build transistors and lasers. Put another way: personal computers, Blu-ray players and the internet all work because humankind discovered the determined probabilities of the quantum world. None of that should be taken to imply that other aspects of quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 are not still up for debate.

On the topic of predictable probabilities, the double-slit experiment
Double-slit experiment
The double-slit experiment, sometimes called Young's experiment, is a demonstration that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles...

s are a popular example. Photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s are fired one-by-one through a double-slit apparatus at a distant screen. Curiously, they do not arrive at any single point, nor even the two points lined up with the slits (the way you might expect of bullets fired by a fixed gun at a distant target). Instead, the light arrives in varying concentrations at widely separated points, and the distribution of its collisions with the target can be calculated reliably. In that sense the behavior of light in this apparatus is deterministic, but there is no way to predict where in the resulting interference pattern any individual photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

 will make its contribution (although, there may be ways to use weak measurement
Weak measurement
Weak measurements are a type of quantum measurement, where the measured system is very weakly coupled to the measuring device. After the measurement the measuring device pointer is shifted by what is called the "weak value". So that a pointer initially pointing at zero before the measurement would...

 to acquire more information without violating the Uncertainty principle
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

).

Some (including Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

) argue that our inability to predict any more than probabilities is simply due to ignorance. The idea is that, beyond the conditions and laws we can observe or deduce, there are also hidden factors or "hidden variables" that determine absolutely in which order photons reach the detector screen. They argue that the course of the universe is absolutely determined, but that humans are screened from knowledge of the determinative factors. So, they say, it only appears that things proceed in a merely probabilistically determinative way. In actuality, they proceed in an absolutely deterministic way. These matters continue to be subject to some dispute. A critical finding was that quantum mechanics can make statistical predictions which would be violated if local hidden variables really existed. There have been a number of experiments to verify such predictions, and so far they do not appear to be violated. This would suggest there are no hidden variables, although many physicists believe better experiments are needed to conclusively settle the issue (see also Bell test experiments
Bell test experiments
The Bell test experiments serve to investigate the validity of the entanglement effect in quantum mechanics by using some kind of Bell inequality...

). Furthermore, it is possible to augment quantum mechanics with non-local hidden variables to achieve a deterministic theory that is in agreement with experiment. An example is the Bohm interpretation
Bohm interpretation
The de Broglie–Bohm theory, also called the pilot-wave theory, Bohmian mechanics, and the causal interpretation, is an interpretation of quantum theory. In addition to a wavefunction on the space of all possible configurations, it also includes an actual configuration, even in situations where...

 of quantum mechanics.
This debate is relevant because it easy to imagine specific situations in which the arrival of an electron at a screen at a certain point and time would trigger one event, whereas its arrival at another point would trigger an entirely different event (e.g. see Schrödinger's cat
Schrödinger's cat
Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, usually described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that might be...

 - a thought experiment used as part of a deeper debate).

Thus, the world of quantum physics casts reasonable doubt on the traditional determinism that is so intuitive in classical, Newtonian physics. At the small scales, our reality does not seem to be absolutely determined. Yet this was precisely the subject of the famous Bohr–Einstein debates
Bohr–Einstein debates
The Bohr–Einstein debates were a series of public disputes about quantum mechanics between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, who were two of its founders. Their debates are remembered because of their importance to the philosophy of science. An account of them has been written by Bohr in an article...

 between Einstein and Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

. There is still no consensus. In the meantime, humans continue to benefit from the fact that reality obeys determined probabilities at the quantum scale. Such adequate determinism (see Varieties, above) is the reason that Stephen Hawking calls Libertarian free will
Libertarianism (metaphysics)
Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics. In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position, argues that free will is logically incompatible with a...

 "just an illusion". Compatibilistic free will (which is deterministic) may be the only kind of "free will" that can exist. However, Daniel Dennett, in his book Elbow Room, says that this means we have the only kind of free will "worth wanting". For even more discussion, see Free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

.

Other matters of quantum determinism



All uranium found on earth is thought to have been synthesized during a supernova
Supernova
A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. It is pronounced with the plural supernovae or supernovas. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months...

 explosion that occurred roughly 5 billion years ago. Even before the laws of quantum mechanics were developed to their present level, the radioactivity of such elements has posed a challenge to determinism due to its unpredictability. One gram of uranium-238
Uranium-238
Uranium-238 is the most common isotope of uranium found in nature. It is not fissile, but is a fertile material: it can capture a slow neutron and after two beta decays become fissile plutonium-239...

, a commonly occurring radioactive substance, contains some 2.5 x 1021 atoms. Each of these atoms are identical and indistinguishable according to all tests known to modern science. Yet about 12600 times a second, one of the atoms in that gram will decay, giving off an alpha particle
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

. The challenge for determinism is to explain why and when decay occurs, since it does not seem to depend on external stimulus. Indeed, no extant theory of physics makes testable predictions of exactly when any given atom will decay. At best scientists can discover determined probabilities in the form of the element's half life.

The time dependent Schrödinger equation
Schrödinger equation
The Schrödinger equation was formulated in 1926 by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Used in physics , it is an equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time....

 gives the first time derivative
Derivative
In calculus, a branch of mathematics, the derivative is a measure of how a function changes as its input changes. Loosely speaking, a derivative can be thought of as how much one quantity is changing in response to changes in some other quantity; for example, the derivative of the position of a...

 of the quantum state. That is, it explicitly and uniquely predicts the development of the wave function with time.

So if the wave function itself is reality (rather than probability of classical coordinates), quantum mechanics can be said to be deterministic. Since we have no practical way of knowing the exact magnitudes, and especially the phases, in a full quantum mechanical description of the causes of an observable event, this turns out to be philosophically similar to the "hidden variable" doctrine.

According to some, quantum mechanics is more strongly ordered than Classical Mechanics, because while Classical Mechanics is chaotic
Chaos theory
Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...

 (appears random, specifically due to minor details - perhaps at a smaller scale), quantum mechanics is not. For example, the classical problem of three bodies
Three-body problem
Three-body problem has two distinguishable meanings in physics and classical mechanics:# In its traditional sense the three-body problem is the problem of taking an initial set of data that specifies the positions, masses and velocities of three bodies for some particular point in time and then...

 under a force such as gravity is not integrable
Integrability conditions for differential systems
In mathematics, certain systems of partial differential equations are usefully formulated, from the point of view of their underlying geometric and algebraic structure, in terms of a system of differential forms. The idea is to take advantage of the way a differential form restricts to a...

, while the quantum mechanical three body problem is tractable and integrable, using the Faddeev Equations
Faddeev equations
The Faddeev equations, named after their inventor Ludvig Faddeev, are equations that describe, at once, all the possible exchanges/interactions in a system of three particles in a fully quantum mechanical formulation. They can be solved iteratively....

. This does not mean that quantum mechanics describes the world as more deterministic, unless one already considers the wave function to be the true reality. Even so, this does not get rid of the probabilities, because we can't do anything without using classical descriptions, but it assigns the probabilities to the classical approximation, rather than to the quantum reality.

Asserting that quantum mechanics is deterministic by treating the wave function itself as reality implies a single wave function for the entire universe
Universal wavefunction
The Universal Wavefunction or Universal Wave Function is a term introduced by Hugh Everett in his Princeton PhD thesis The Theory of the Universal Wave Function, and forms a core concept in the relative state interpretation or many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics...

, starting at the origin of the universe. Such a "wave function of everything" would carry the probabilities of not just the world we know, but every other possible world that could have evolved. For example, large voids in the distributions of galaxies
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

 are believed by many cosmologists to have originated in quantum fluctuations during the big bang. (See cosmic inflation
Cosmic inflation
In physical cosmology, cosmic inflation, cosmological inflation or just inflation is the theorized extremely rapid exponential expansion of the early universe by a factor of at least 1078 in volume, driven by a negative-pressure vacuum energy density. The inflationary epoch comprises the first part...

 and primordial fluctuations
Primordial fluctuations
Primordial fluctuations are density variations in the early universe which are considered the seeds of all structure in the universe. Currently, the most widely accepted explanation for their origin is in the context of cosmic inflation...

.) If so, the "wave function of everything" would carry the possibility that the region where our Milky Way galaxy is located could have been a void and the Earth never existed at all. (See large-scale structure of the cosmos.)

The idea of a first cause


Intrinsic to the debate concerning determinism is the issue of what caused the universe. The idea is that something that is in some sense 'outside' of the chain of determinism, and our usual understanding of causality, may have started the universe. Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, for instance, makes a Cosmological argument
Cosmological argument
The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God...

: it holds that the universe has been deterministic since creation, but ascribes the creation to a metaphysical God. God may have begun the process, the deist argues, but God has not influenced its progression. Scientists have also approached the idea of something in some sense "causing" the universe, by appealing to a multiverse
Multiverse
The multiverse is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes that together comprise all of reality.Multiverse may also refer to:-In fiction:* Multiverse , the fictional multiverse used by DC Comics...

 or related idea of Membranes
Membrane (M-Theory)
In theoretical physics, a membrane, brane, or p-brane is a spatially extended mathematical concept that appears in string theory and related theories...

. It remains debatable whether the problem has really been solved.

To be clear, most conception of determinism seem to face a puzzle when it comes to causality. Causality might be understood to mean that all events have prior causes. This suggests that there is no event (or group of events) that causes itself. There now seems to be only two possibilities - a dilemma: there is either (a) an infinite chain of causes which never "started" per se, and (b) something started causality as we understand it, but does not itself need to be caused. In other words: Did the universe or some event prior to it always exist? Or, if something needed to start the universe, what started that something - and how can we really prevent an infinite regress
Infinite regress
An infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, .....

 of causes?"

One way of this dilemma calls into question the idea of causality. It proposes making one exception: a creation event. A creation event is presumably not itself a "cause" in the sense of the word as used in the formulation of the original problem. These ideas were mentioned above, and attempt to terminate the regress just discussed. The idea of deism, for instance, is that some agency (or God) created space, time, and the entities found in the universe by means of some process that is analogous to causation (but again, is not causation as we know it).

Another possibility is that the "last event" loops back to the "first event" causing an infinite loop. If you were to call the Big Bang the first event, you would see the end of the Universe as the "last event". In theory, the end of the Universe would be the cause of the beginning of the Universe. You would be left with an infinite loop of time with no real beginning or end. This theory eliminates the need for a first cause, but does not explain why there should be a loop in time.

Immanuel Kant carried forth this idea of Leibniz in his idea of transcendental relations, and as a result, this had profound effects on later philosophical attempts to sort these issues out. His most influential immediate successor, a strong critic whose ideas were yet strongly influenced by Kant, was Edmund Husserl
Edmund Husserl
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the 20th century philosophical school of phenomenology. He broke with the positivist orientation of the science and philosophy of his day, yet he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic...

, the developer of the school of philosophy called phenomenology. But the central concern of that school was to elucidate not physics but the grounding of information that physicists and others regard as empirical
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

. In an indirect way, this train of investigation appears to have contributed much to the philosophy of science called logical positivism
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

 and particularly to the thought of members of the Vienna Circle
Vienna Circle
The Vienna Circle was an association of philosophers gathered around the University of Vienna in 1922, chaired by Moritz Schlick, also known as the Ernst Mach Society in honour of Ernst Mach...

, all of which have had much to say, at least indirectly, about ideas of determinism.

See also



  • Amor fati
    Amor fati
    Amor fati is a Latin phrase loosely translating to "love of fate" or "love of one's fate". It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one's life, including suffering and loss, as good...

  • Block time
    Block time
    Eternalism is a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all points in time are equally "real", as opposed to the presentist idea that only the present is real...

  • Calvinism
    Calvinism
    Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

  • Chaos theory
    Chaos theory
    Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the...

  • Digital physics
    Digital physics
    In physics and cosmology, digital physics is a collection of theoretical perspectives based on the premise that the universe is, at heart, describable by information, and is therefore computable...

  • Environmental determinism
    Environmental determinism
    Environmental determinism, also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture...

  • Fatalism
    Fatalism
    Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

  • Fractal
    Fractal
    A fractal has been defined as "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity...

  • False necessity
    False necessity
    False necessity, or "anti-necessitarian social theory," is a contemporary social theory that champions the plasticity of society and the unlimited potential for transformation. It is foremost a critique of necessitarian thought in conventional social theory, which holds that parts of the social...

  • Game theory
    Game theory
    Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

  • Genetic determinism
    Genetic determinism
    Genetic determinism is the belief that genes determine morphological and behavioral traits and do so with little or no influence from environmental factors....

  • Ilya Prigogine
    Ilya Prigogine
    Ilya, Viscount Prigogine was a Russian-born naturalized Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility.-Biography :...


  • Interpretation of quantum mechanics
    Interpretation of quantum mechanics
    An interpretation of quantum mechanics is a set of statements which attempt to explain how quantum mechanics informs our understanding of nature. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and thorough experimental testing, many of these experiments are open to different interpretations...

  • Neuroscience of free will
    Neuroscience of free will
    Neuroscience of free will refers to recent neuroscientific investigations shedding light on the question of free will, which is a philosophical and scientific question as to whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions or decisions. As it has become possible to...

  • Open theism
    Open theism
    Open theism is a recent theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas that are related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology...

  • Philosophical interpretation of classical physics
    Philosophical interpretation of classical physics
    Classical Newtonian physics has, formally, been replaced by quantum mechanics on the small scale and relativity on the large scale. Because most humans continue to think in terms of the kind of events we perceive in the human scale of daily life, it became necessary to provide a new philosophical...

  • Predestination
    Predestination
    Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

  • Radical behaviorism
    Radical behaviorism
    Radical behaviorism is a philosophy developed by B.F. Skinner that underlies the experimental analysis of behavior approach to psychology. The term radical behaviorism applies to a particular school that emerged during the reign of behaviorism...

  • Social determinism
    Social determinism
    Social determinism is the hypothesis that social interactions and constructs alone determine individual behavior ....

  • Theological determinism
    Theological determinism
    Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a monotheistic God. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam....

  • Technological determinism
    Technological determinism
    Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. The term is believed to have been coined by Thorstein Veblen , an American sociologist...

  • Voluntarism
    Voluntarism
    Voluntarism is a descriptive term for a school of thought that regards the will as superior to the intellect and to emotion. This description has been applied to various points of view, from different cultural eras, in the areas of metaphysics, psychology, sociology, and theology.The term...



External links