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❶The usual idealizing assumptions are made:

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Hard Determinism


Some even connect it to the very possibility of logic and reason. And Hume himself believed strongly, if inconsistently, in necessity. Bertrand Russell said "The law of causation, according to which later events can theoretically be predicted by means of earlier events, has often been held to be a priori , a necessity of thought, a category without which science would not be possible.

But it does not. Indeterminism for some is simply an occasional event without a cause. We can have an adequate causality without strict determinism. Strict determinism means complete predictability in principle, if not in practice of events and only one possible future. Adequate determinism provides statistical predictability, which in normal situations for physical objects approaches statistical certainty.

An example of an event that is not strictly caused is one that depends on chance , like the flip of a coin. If the outcome is only probable, not certain, then the event can be said to have been caused by the coin flip, but the head or tails result itself was not predictable. So this causality, which recognizes prior events as causes, is undetermined and the result of chance alone. We call this "soft" causality. Events are caused by prior uncaused events, but not determined by events earlier in the causal chain, which has been broken by the uncaused cause.

Determinism is critical for the question of free will. Strict determinism implies just one possible future. Chance means that the future is unpredictable. Chance allows alternative futures and the question becomes how the one actual present is realized from these alternative possibilities. The departure required from strict determinism is very slight compared to the miraculous ideas associated with the " causa sui " self-caused cause of the ancients.

Even in a world that contains quantum uncertainty, macroscopic objects are determined to an extraordinary degree. But the macroscopic "laws of nature" are just statistical laws that " emerge " when large numbers of atoms or molecules get together. For large enough numbers, the probabilistic laws approach practical certainty. Determinism is an emergent property. Newton's laws of motion are deterministic enough to send men to the moon and back.

Our Cogito Model of the Macro Mind is large enough to ignore quantum uncertainty for the purpose of the reasoning will. The neural system is robust enough to insure that mental decisions are reliably transmitted to our limbs. We call this determinism, only ineffective for extremely small structures, "adequate determinism.

Belief in strict determinism, in the face of physical evidence for indeterminism, is only tenable today for dogmatic philosophy. We survey ten modern dogmas of determinism.

Phillipa Foot argued that because our actions are determined by our motives, our character and values, our feelings and desires, in no way leads to the conclusion that they are pre -determined from the beginning of the universe.

The presence of quantum uncertainty leads some philosophers to call the world indetermined. But indeterminism is somewhat misleading, with strong negative connotations, when most events are overwhelmingly " adequately determined. There is also no problem imagining a role for randomness in the brain in the form of quantum level noise. Noise can introduce random errors into stored memories. Noise could create random associations of ideas during memory recall.

This randomness may be driven by microscopic fluctuations that are amplified to the macroscopic level. If not, he should have: But even if our aim is only to predict a well-defined subsystem of the world, for a limited period of time, this may be impossible for any reasonable finite agent embedded in the world, as many studies of chaos sensitive dependence on initial conditions show.

Conversely, certain parts of the world could be highly predictable, in some senses, without the world being deterministic. When it comes to predictability of future events by humans or other finite agents in the world, then, predictability and determinism are simply not logically connected at all. In Laplace's story, a sufficiently bright demon who knew how things stood in the world years before my birth could predict every action, every emotion, every belief in the course of my life.

Were she then to watch me live through it, she might smile condescendingly, as one who watches a marionette dance to the tugs of strings that it knows nothing about. We can't stand the thought that we are in some sense marionettes. Nor does it matter whether any demon or even God can, or cares to, actually predict what we will do: Whether such alarm is actually warranted is a question well outside the scope of this article see Hoefer a , Ismael and the entries on free will and incompatibilist theories of freedom.

But a clear understanding of what determinism is, and how we might be able to decide its truth or falsity, is surely a useful starting point for any attempt to grapple with this issue. We return to the issue of freedom in section 6, Determinism and Human Action , below. Recall that we loosely defined causal determinism as follows, with terms in need of clarification italicized:. Why should we start so globally, speaking of the world , with all its myriad events, as deterministic?

One might have thought that a focus on individual events is more appropriate: Then if all—or even just most —events E that are our human actions are causally determined, the problem that matters to us, namely the challenge to free will, is in force. Nothing so global as states of the whole world need be invoked, nor even a complete determinism that claims all events to be causally determined.

For example, the start of a football game on TV on a normal Saturday afternoon may be sufficient ceteris paribus to launch Ted toward the fridge to grab a beer; but not if a million-ton asteroid is approaching his house at.

Bertrand Russell famously argued against the notion of cause along these lines and others in , and the situation has not changed. By trying to define causal determination in terms of a set of prior sufficient conditions, we inevitably fall into the mess of an open-ended list of negative conditions required to achieve the desired sufficiency.

Moreover, thinking about how such determination relates to free action, a further problem arises. If the ceteris paribus clause is open-ended, who is to say that it should not include the negation of a potential disruptor corresponding to my freely deciding not to go get the beer?

They are also too short. For the typical set of prior events that can intuitively, plausibly be thought to be a sufficient cause of a human action may be so close in time and space to the agent, as to not look like a threat to freedom so much as like enabling conditions.

So we have a number of good reasons for sticking to the formulations of determinism that arise most naturally out of physics. And this means that we are not looking at how a specific event of ordinary talk is determined by previous events; we are looking at how everything that happens is determined by what has gone before. The state of the world in only entails that Ted grabs a beer from the fridge by way of entailing the entire physical state of affairs at the later time.

The typical explication of determinism fastens on the state of the whole world at a particular time or instant , for a variety of reasons. We will briefly explain some of them. Why take the state of the whole world, rather than some perhaps very large region, as our starting point? One might, intuitively, think that it would be enough to give the complete state of things on Earth , say, or perhaps in the whole solar system, at t , to fix what happens thereafter for a time at least.

But notice that all sorts of influences from outside the solar system come in at the speed of light, and they may have important effects. So evidently, for Mary's actions and hence, all physical events generally to be fixed by the state of things a month ago, that state will have to be fixed over a much larger spatial region than just the solar system.

If no physical influences can go faster than light, then the state of things must be given over a spherical volume of space 1 light-month in radius. In the time of Laplace, of course, there was no known speed limit to the propagation of physical things such as light-rays. In such a world, evidently, one has to fix the state of things over the whole of the world at a time t , in order for events to be strictly determined, by the laws of nature, for any amount of time thereafter.

In all this, we have been presupposing the common-sense Newtonian framework of space and time, in which the world-at-a-time is an objective and meaningful notion.

Below when we discuss determinism in relativistic theories we will revisit this assumption. For a wide class of physical theories i. That is, a specification of the state of the world at a time t , along with the laws, determines not only how things go after t , but also how things go before t. Philosophers, while not exactly unaware of this symmetry, tend to ignore it when thinking of the bearing of determinism on the free will issue.

The reason for this is that we tend to think of the past and hence, states of the world in the past as done, over, fixed and beyond our control. Forward-looking determinism then entails that these past states—beyond our control, perhaps occurring long before humans even existed—determine everything we do in our lives.

It then seems a mere curious fact that it is equally true that the state of the world now determines everything that happened in the past. We have an ingrained habit of taking the direction of both causation and explanation as being past—-present, even when discussing physical theories free of any such asymmetry. We will return to this point shortly. Another point to notice here is that the notion of things being determined thereafter is usually taken in an unlimited sense—i.

But conceptually speaking, the world could be only imperfectly deterministic: For example, suppose that near-perfect determinism were regularly but infrequently interrupted by spontaneous particle creation events, which occur only once every thousand years in a thousand-light-year-radius volume of space.

This unrealistic example shows how determinism could be strictly false, and yet the world be deterministic enough for our concerns about free action to be unchanged. Part of understanding determinism—and especially, whether and why it is metaphysically important—is getting clear about the status of the presumed laws of nature. In the physical sciences, the assumption that there are fundamental, exceptionless laws of nature, and that they have some strong sort of modal force, usually goes unquestioned.

We can characterize the usual assumptions about laws in this way: They make things happen in certain ways , and by having this power, their existence lets us explain why things happen in certain ways. For a defense of this perspective on laws, see Maudlin Laws, we might say, are implicitly thought of as the cause of everything that happens. If the laws governing our world are deterministic, then in principle everything that happens can be explained as following from states of the world at earlier times.

In this respect also, we see that laws of nature are being implicitly treated as the causes of what happens: Interestingly, philosophers tend to acknowledge the apparent threat determinism poses to free will, even when they explicitly reject the view that laws are pushy explainers. Earman , for example, advocates a theory of laws of nature that takes them to be simply the best system of regularities that systematizes all the events in universal history.

Yet he ends his comprehensive Primer on Determinism with a discussion of the free will problem, taking it as a still-important and unresolved issue. Prima facie this is quite puzzling, for the BSA is founded on the idea that the laws of nature are ontologically derivative, not primary; it is the events of universal history, as brute facts, that make the laws be what they are, and not vice-versa.

Taking this idea seriously, the actions of every human agent in history are simply a part of the universe-wide pattern of events that determines what the laws are for this world. It is then hard to see how the most elegant summary of this pattern, the BSA laws, can be thought of as determiners of human actions. The determination or constraint relations, it would seem, can go one way or the other, not both. On second thought however it is not so surprising that broadly Humean philosophers such as Ayer, Earman, Lewis and others still see a potential problem for freedom posed by determinism.

For even if human actions are part of what makes the laws be what they are, this does not mean that we automatically have freedom of the kind we think we have, particularly freedom to have done otherwise given certain past states of affairs. It is one thing to say that everything occurring in and around my body, and everything everywhere else, conforms to Maxwell's equations and thus the Maxwell equations are genuine exceptionless regularities, and that because they in addition are simple and strong, they turn out to be laws.

It is quite another thing to add: One might try to defend this claim—unpalatable as it seems intuitively, to ascribe ourselves law-breaking power—but it does not follow directly from a Humean approach to laws of nature. Instead, on such views that deny laws most of their pushiness and explanatory force, questions about determinism and human freedom simply need to be approached afresh.

A second important genre of theories of laws of nature holds that the laws are in some sense necessary. For any such approach, laws are just the sort of pushy explainers that are assumed in the traditional language of physical scientists and free will theorists.

But a third and growing class of philosophers holds that universal, exceptionless, true laws of nature simply do not exist. For these philosophers, there is a simple consequence: As with the Humean view, this does not mean that concerns about human free action are automatically resolved; instead, they must be addressed afresh in the light of whatever account of physical nature without laws is put forward.

We can now put our—still vague—pieces together. Determinism requires a world that a has a well-defined state or description, at any given time, and b laws of nature that are true at all places and times. If we have all these, then if a and b together logically entail the state of the world at all other times or, at least, all times later than that given in a , the world is deterministic.

How could we ever decide whether our world is deterministic or not? Given that some philosophers and some physicists have held firm views—with many prominent examples on each side—one would think that it should be at least a clearly decidable question. Unfortunately, even this much is not clear, and the epistemology of determinism turns out to be a thorny and multi-faceted issue.

As we saw above, for determinism to be true there have to be some laws of nature. Most philosophers and scientists since the 17 th century have indeed thought that there are.

But in the face of more recent skepticism, how can it be proven that there are? And if this hurdle can be overcome, don't we have to know, with certainty, precisely what the laws of our world are , in order to tackle the question of determinism's truth or falsity? The first hurdle can perhaps be overcome by a combination of metaphysical argument and appeal to knowledge we already have of the physical world. Philosophers are currently pursuing this issue actively, in large part due to the efforts of the anti-laws minority.

The debate has been most recently framed by Cartwright in The Dappled World Cartwright in terms psychologically advantageous to her anti-laws cause. Those who believe in the existence of traditional, universal laws of nature are fundamentalists ; those who disbelieve are pluralists. This terminology seems to be becoming standard see Belot , so the first task in the epistemology of determinism is for fundamentalists to establish the reality of laws of nature see Hoefer b.

Even if the first hurdle can be overcome, the second, namely establishing precisely what the actual laws are, may seem daunting indeed. In a sense, what we are asking for is precisely what 19 th and 20 th century physicists sometimes set as their goal: Both a and b are highly debatable, but the point is that one can see how arguments in favor of these positions might be mounted. The same was true in the 19 th century, when theorists might have argued that a whatever the Final Theory is, it will involve only continuous fluids and solids governed by partial differential equations; and b all such theories are deterministic.

Here, b is almost certainly false; see Earman ,ch. Even if we now are not, we may in future be in a position to mount a credible argument for or against determinism on the grounds of features we think we know the Final Theory must have. Determinism could perhaps also receive direct support—confirmation in the sense of probability-raising, not proof—from experience and experiment.

And in broad terms, this is the case in many domains we are familiar with. Your computer starts up every time you turn it on, and if you have not changed any files, have no anti-virus software, re-set the date to the same time before shutting down, and so on … always in exactly the same way, with the same speed and resulting state until the hard drive fails.

These cases of repeated, reliable behavior obviously require some serious ceteris paribus clauses, are never perfectly identical, and always subject to catastrophic failure at some point. But we tend to think that for the small deviations, probably there are explanations for them in terms of different starting conditions or failed isolation, and for the catastrophic failures, definitely there are explanations in terms of different conditions.

Most of these bits of evidence for determinism no longer seem to cut much ice, however, because of faith in quantum mechanics and its indeterminism. Indeterminist physicists and philosophers are ready to acknowledge that macroscopic repeatability is usually obtainable, where phenomena are so large-scale that quantum stochasticity gets washed out.

But they would maintain that this repeatability is not to be found in experiments at the microscopic level, and also that at least some failures of repeatability in your hard drive, or coin-flipping experiments are genuinely due to quantum indeterminism, not just failures to isolate properly or establish identical initial conditions.

If quantum theories were unquestionably indeterministic, and deterministic theories guaranteed repeatability of a strong form, there could conceivably be further experimental input on the question of determinism's truth or falsity.

Unfortunately, the existence of Bohmian quantum theories casts strong doubt on the former point, while chaos theory casts strong doubt on the latter. More will be said about each of these complications below. If the world were governed by strictly deterministic laws, might it still look as though indeterminism reigns? This is one of the difficult questions that chaos theory raises for the epistemology of determinism. A deterministic chaotic system has, roughly speaking, two salient features: Although hard determinism generally refers to nomological determinism , [1] it can also be a position taken with respect to other forms of determinism that necessitate the future in its entirety.

In ancient Greece , Socrates initiated the rationalistic teaching that any agent is obliged to pursue the chief good conceived by his or her mind. Schopenhauer observed that everyone regards himself free a priori ; however, a posteriori he must discover that he had been obliged to make the decisions he actually made.

Meeting a challenge, agents make decisions in conformity to the inherited character, life history and current stimuli. The field of acute attention is limited, and motives partly remain unconscious.

From the first person's perspective we have an intuitive commitment that many options are available. However, if the total of the mental content is considered from the third person's perspective, only a single decision deemed by the agent as the most favorable at the moment turns out real. The validity of causation for any mental event becomes apparent taking into account their neurophysiological correlates.

Admitting downright mental causation of physiological impulses would mean surplus determination. The surmise that under identical conditions, alternative decisions and actions are possible is disproved by naturalists as an illusion.

This also means that the relation of necessity will be bi-directional. Just as the initial conditions of the universe presumably determine all future states, so too does the present necessitate the past. In other words, one could not change any one fact without affecting the entire timeline. Unlike "law fundamentalists", some philosophers are "law pluralists": Andreas Albrecht of Imperial College in London called it a "provocative" solution to one of the central problems facing physics.

Although he "wouldn't dare" go so far as to say he believes it, he noted that "it's actually quite difficult to construct a theory where everything we see is all there is". The feasibility of testing determinism is always challenged by what we know, or think we can know, about the idea of a final, all encompassing, theory of everything. Some physicists challenge the likelihood of determinism on the grounds that certain interpretations of quantum mechanics stipulate that the universe is fundamentally indeterministic , such as the Copenhagen interpretation ; whereas other interpretations are deterministic, for example, the De Broglie-Bohm Theory and the many-worlds interpretation.

Chaos theory describes how a deterministic system can exhibit perplexing behavior that is difficult to predict: Yet chaos theory is a wholly deterministic thesis; it merely demonstrates the potential for vastly different consequences from very similar initial conditions.

Properly understood, then, it enlightens and reinforces the deterministic claim. Hard determinists reject free will. Critics often suggest that, in so doing, the hard determinist also rejects ethics. The key to this argument rests on the idea that holding a person morally responsible requires for them to make a choice between two, or more, truly possible alternatives.

If choice is indeed impossible, then it would be incorrect to hold anyone morally responsible for his or her actions. If this argument holds, hard determinists are restricted to moral nihilism.


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Hard determinism (or metaphysical determinism) is a view on free will which holds that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will, and, therefore, that free will .

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Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of .

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Determinism: The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law. SECTION ONE. THE CASE FOR HARD-DETERMINISM. Most materialists will argue the position of hard-determinism. The argument is so straightforward that I may as well put it in bullet form. 1. Determinism is incompatible with free-will and moral responsibility. · The world, including man, is constituted by quanta in motion.

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Ultimately hard determinism argues that humans may feel free but it is nothing but a mere illusion, and some people would argue against this and believe that it is free of choice. Continuing on the pros of the hard determinist view, libertarianism brought up many new points to the argument. Determinism is true. Free will is an illusion. The distinction between “hard determinism” and “soft determinism” was first made by the American philosopher William James (). Both positions insist on the truth of determinism: that is, they both assert that every event, including.