Determinism is a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. Different versions of this theory depend upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and events, asserting that these hold without exception. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse motives and considerations, some of which overlap. They can be understood in relation to their historical significance and alternative theories. Some forms of determinism can be tested empirically with ideas stemming from physics and the philosophy of physics. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism). Determinism is often contrasted with free will.
Determinism is often taken to mean simply causal determinism: an idea known in physics as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely 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) 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, where opinions might be sorted as compatibilistic and incompatibilistic.
Determinism should not be confused with self-determination of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction be practically possible – only prediction in theory.
Famous quotes containing the word determinism:
“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 (18421910)
“Man is a masterpiece of creation if for no other reason than that, all the weight of evidence for determinism notwithstanding, he believes he has free will.”
—G.C. (Georg Christoph)