Determinism (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
A scientific perspective which specifies that events occur in completely predictable ways as a result of natural and physical laws.
Since ancient times, the origins of human behavior have been attributed to hidden or mystical forces. The Greek philosopher Democritus speculated, for example, that objects in our world consist of atoms; included among these "objects" was the soul, which was made of finer, smoother, and more spherical atoms than other physical objects. He rejected the concept of free will and claimed that all human behavior results from prior events. Some philosophers have advanced the argument that human behavior is deterministic, although most have resisted the idea that human beings merely react to external events and do not voluntarily select behaviors.
There is a clear dilemma in explaining human behavior through psychological principles. On the one hand, if psychology is a science of behavior, then there should be laws allowing the prediction of behavior, just as there are gravitational laws to predict the behavior of a falling object. On the other hand, objections have been raised by individuals who believe that humans control their own behaviors and possess free will. Part of the controversy relates to the concept of the mind and body as separate entities. In this view, the mind may not be subject to the same laws...
(The entire section is 763 words.)
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Determinism (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
The concept of determinism conveys the idea that everything that happens could not have happened in a different way than it actually did. Or alternatively, everything that happens, happens by necessity. However, as simple as this may sound, the concept of determinism is one of the most difficult and controversial concepts in Western philosophy.
Philosophers often distinguish different kinds of determinism. First, there is scientific determinism, which was inspired by classical physics. One interpretation entails that everything in the universe is governed by universal laws. Universal in this context means that the laws are the same everywhere in the universe and at all times, and that they apply to all events and objects. A second interpretation of scientific determinism holds that every event has a sufficient cause. These two interpretations of scientific determinism combined can yield an argument for Laplacian determinism: If every event has a sufficient cause, and if every event is governed by universal laws, then one could in principle predict exactly the subsequent evolution of the universe if one had knowledge of all the initial conditions of all objects in the universe combined with knowledge of all the laws of nature.
Note first that this interpretation denies the existence of chance or probabilistic laws. Since the second half of the twentieth century, however, more and more scientists argue that not all natural laws are deterministic, but that some of these laws may be inherently statistical in nature. This line of argument could constitute an argument for indeterminism, and is explored further by Karl Popper (1902994). Note furthermore that, though Laplacian determinism is an ontological view, it is mostly formulated in epistemic terms, relating to knowledge and predictive capabilities. Hence, as John Earman argues, one must keep in mind that scientific determinism is first of all a claim about how the world is constituted. As such one must distinguish this ontological claim from the epistemological claim to predictability, even though both often go together. That determinism does not always entail predictability is testified by chaotic systems, which display deterministic though unpredictable behavior.
If scientific determinism is taken seriously, it can result in a worldview that affirms the concept of metaphysical determinism. Metaphysical determinism conveys the idea that if everything in the universe is governed by universal laws, and if every event has a sufficient cause, then there is only one history possible. One can clarify this idea by using possible-world semantics. If a possible world starts off with exactly the same initial conditions as the actual world and with exactly the same universal laws, its evolution would look the same in every detail. As such, metaphysical determinism entails scientific determinism, but not necessarily vice versa, even though scientific determinism could be used to defend metaphysical determinism.
Both metaphysical and scientific determinism are threatened by the indeterminism of quantum mechanics, when interpreted as an ontological feature of the world. If at the quantum level there is genuine indeterminism, then, it might be argued, not everything has a sufficient cause, so that the histories of two possible worlds with exactly the same initial conditions, but with quantum indeterminism, might develop in completely different ways. However, scientists like David Bohm (1917992) have tried to restore determinism at the quantum level by invoking hidden variables, though this proposal is not uncontroversial. Furthermore, it must be kept in mind that quantum theory might not be the final theory, but might in the future be replaced by an alternative theory that forces its philosophical interpretation to affirm either determinism or indeterminism.
A third kind of determinism, closely related to scientific determinism, is mathematical determinism. Mathematical determinism is the "logical" complement of scientific determinism, and has become increasingly important in chaos theory. In mathematical determinism the initial conditions are numerical inputs, and a mathematical function takes the place of the universal law. Mathematical determinism now entails that, given an arbitrary value of the initial conditions, calculating the mathematical function will yield one and only one outcome. In other words, given an arbitrary value of the initial conditions and a mathematical function, there is only one outcome possible. In the case of mathematical chaotic systems, problems arise with specifying the initial value. Because knowledge of the initial conditions is limited, the outcome of a chaotic evolution cannot be predicted, yet as a mathematical system it is deterministic, which means that the outcome of the calculation, given the initial conditions, could not be other than it actually is.
A fourth kind of determinism is logical determinism. Logical determinism is about propositions, and entails that any proposition about the past, present, or future of the world is either true or false. As such, logical determinism is grounded in Aristotle's law of the excluded middle, which holds that a proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time. Developments in so-called "fuzzy logic" have challenged this kind of determinism.
Theological determinism constitutes a fifth kind of determinism. There are two types of theological determinism, both compatible with scientific and metaphysical determinism. In the first, God determines everything that happens, either in one all-determining single act at the initial creation of the universe or through continuous divine interactions with the world. Either way, the consequence is that everything that happens becomes God's action, and determinism is closely linked to divine action and God's omnipotence. According to the second type of theological determinism, God has perfect knowledge of everything in the universe because God is omniscient. And, as some say, because God is outside of time, God has the capacity of knowing past, present, and future in one instance. This means that God knows what will happen in the future. And because God's omniscience is perfect, what God knows about the future will inevitably happen, which means, consequently, that the future is already fixed.
All forms of determinism (except perhaps mathematical determinism) challenge the idea of free will. Or rather, they render the experience of free will an illusion. Theological determinism moreover raises big problems for the idea that God is perfectly good. For, if everything is God's action, the evil and suffering that happens is also due to God's actions. Or, alternatively, if God already knows what evil will happen, why does God not prevent it from happening? Some theologians have argued for divine self-limitation (kenosis) of God's omniscience and omnipotence to warrant human freedom.
See also CAUSALITY, PRIMARY AND SECONDARY; CHANCE; CHAOS THEORY; CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE; CONTINGENCY; DIVINE ACTION; FREEDOM; HEISENBERG'S UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE; INDETERMINISM; KENOSIS; OMNIPOTENCE; OPEN UNIVERSE; PHYSICS, CLASSICAL; PHYSICS, QUANTUM
Berofsky, Bernard. Determinism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 1971.
Earman, John. A Primer on Determinism. Dordrecht, Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1986.
Laplace, Pierre Simon Marquis de. A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, trans. from the 6th edition by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory. New York: Dover, 1952.
Polkinghorne, John, ed. The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans; London: SPCK, 2001.
Popper, Karl. The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism. London: Routledge 1982.
Weatherford, Roy. The Implications of Determinism. London and New York: Routledge 1991.
TAEDE A. SMEDES
Determinism (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The most general meaning of "determinism," one applicable in most contexts, is the condition of being determined. If we understand determinateness to be a qualification of an object, determinism sees this determinateness initially as identification of the object (by several processes) and then as a causal response to a request for an explanation of why. All scientific or theoretical research thus necessarily presupposes determinism, but not in the sense of merely naming or the other operations of contemporary language, since the conditions for the initial application of language are not determinant. The meaning customarily given to determinism is determination, through the principle of causality, of the objective conditions for a phenomenon to occur.
Initially, the concept of determinism (Determinismus) arose within German theological and moral thinking, where it served narrow requirements related to predestination and was used to provide dogmatic answers; it did not have an objective theoretical meaning as such. Then in nineteenth-century scientific positivism, the "condition of determination" became associated with an empirical or descriptive principle of causality based on the primacy of observation, and not on explanation in the strict sense. Subsequently, for experimental science, determinism came to be considered a condition for the conduct of science itself, that is, as the epistemological principle of scientific knowledge. In this way determinism became normative. For example, physiological determinism claims to decide between the normal and the pathological in medicine, as shown by Georges Canguilhem.
Determinism, without being explicitly referred to, has been the ideal of mechanics since the seventeenth century. Projected onto objects made to satisfy the demand for causality, determinism ended up requiring that all phenomena satisfy the principle of ontological objectivity assumed in nature. Quantum physics, however, led to a retrenchment of this principle of establishing the conditions of determination, at least on the microphysical scale. Chaos theory has accentuated this point of view. In the sphere of the psyche, when Sigmund Freud attempted to explain dreams by psychoanalysis, he assumed a notion of psychic determinism in his theory of intentionality. He thus shifted the doctrine of causality in the direction of a theory of intentionality that assumed the existence of a subjective causality beyond or alongside objective causality, as shown by Pierre-Henri Castel in his introduction to Freud's Interpretation of Dreams.
Determinism essentially informs all theoretical or scientific research. So how can we explain the fact that modern philosophical thought, at least since Kant and Fichte, is so strongly opposed to it? Natural determinism, after serving as the principle of Spinoza's immanent metaphysics, has come to dominate science. This domination reveals that the term has undergone both a confinement and an unwarranted extension in twentieth-century thinking. The confinement of the term to natural science constrains philosophers of freedom from examining the conditions that determine what they say. In the nonclassical sciences, confinement of the term to well-behaved natural sciences subjects intellectuals to indeterminacy complexes that seriously inhibit their theoretical inventiveness and subjects them to denigration. Freudian psychoanalysis, for example, is denigrated by positivist psychology and the various forms of psychological, organicist, and physicalist reductionism. As a result, Freudian psychoanalysis continues to search for an epistemological legitimacy based on theoretical models of the natural sciences, as was shown by Paul-Laurent Assoun. In physics, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg created a quantum physics that was indeterminate from the point of view of classical determinism (as formulated by Pierre Simon Laplace). Because they were under the ideological spell of the old determinism, they could not completely accept their own discoveries as good science. There were two reasons for this situation: first, the concept of determinism arose not in the minimalist causal sense given above but in a theological sense, and second, ever since classical mechanics, the degree of determination that scientific objectivism has achieved has delimited the meaning and norm of determinism. Because they exclude identity and assume the differential nature of the symbolic, the status of the psyche and, even more so, the structuralist approach to the subject as taken by Jacques Lacan show that objective legality and causality could not serve as paradigms for everything we talk about. This is especially so for the unconscious, which, although "structured like a language," is not structured as a determining cause.
A robust determinism must renounce naturalist metaphysics, which has continued to control its principles. A new philosophy of "determined" freedom can be developed without indeterminism. Freud's determined freedom led Jean-Paul Sartre, probably wrongly, to reject the Freudian unconscious and to confront a "natural determinism". All of Freud's efforts, contrary to Jung's, clearly attempted to establish a paradoxical materialism that went beyond philosophical idealism and the old materialisms, dialectic or otherwise.
See also: Instinct; Neurosis, choice of the; Psychic causality; Psychogenesis/organogenesis; Psychopathology of Everyday Life, The; Complementary series.
Assoun, Paul-Laurent. (1981). Introduction à l'épistémologie freudienne. Paris: Payot.
Castel, Pierre-Henri. (1998). Introductionà "L'interprétation du rêve" de Freud. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Canguilhem, Georges. (1989). The normal and the pathological (Carolyn R. Fawcett, Trans.). New York: Zone Books.
Kojève, Alexandre. (1990). L'idée du déterminisme dans la physique classique et dans la physique moderne. Paris: Hachette. (Original work published 1932.)
Koyré, Alexandre. (1957). From the closed world to the infinite universe. New York: Harper.
Lacan, Jacques. (1966).rits. Paris: Seuil.