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Causal Determinism


❶There is also a second way to develop the notion of control.


Definition of Determinism

Conscious reflection on our own behavior is seen as the best way of achieving goals and learning from mistakes. Mental illnesses appear to undermine the concept of freewill. For example, individuals with OCD lose control of their thoughts and actions and people with depression lose control over their emotions.

However there is also an intermediate position that goes back to the psychoanalytic psychology of Sigmund Freud. At first sight Freud seems to be a supporter of determinism in that he argued that our actions and our thoughts are controlled by the unconscious. However the very goal of therapy was to help the patient overcome that force. Indeed without the belief that people can change therapy itself makes no sense. This insight has been taken up by several neo-Freudians.

One of the most influential has been Erich Fromm As a result we give up our freedom and allow our lives to be governed by circumstance, other people, political ideology or irrational feelings. However determinism is not inevitable and in the very choice we all have to do good or evil Fromm sees the essence of human freedom. Psychologists who take the free will view suggest that determinism removes freedom and dignity, and devalues human behavior.

By creating general laws of behavior, deterministic psychology underestimates the uniqueness of human beings and their freedom to choose their own destiny. There are important implications for taking either side in this debate. Deterministic explanations for behavior reduce individual responsibility.

A person arrested for a violent attack for example might plead that they were not responsible for their behavior — it was due to their upbringing, a bang on the head they received earlier in life, recent relationship stresses, or a psychiatric problem.

In other words, their behavior was determined. The deterministic approach also has important implications for psychology as a science. Scientists are interested in discovering laws which can then be used to predict events.

This is very easy to see in physics, chemistry and biology. As a science, psychology attempts the same thing — to develop laws, but this time to predict behavior If we argue against determinism, we are in effect rejecting the scientific approach to explaining behavior. Clearly, a pure deterministic or free will approach does not seem appropriate when studying human behavior Most psychologists use the concept of free will to express the idea that behavior is not a passive reaction to forces, but that individuals actively respond to internal and external forces.

The term soft determinism is often used to describe this position, whereby people do have a choice, but their behavior is always subject to some form of biological or environmental pressure. Transmission of aggression through the imitation of aggressive models. You might've seen this one before. Paraphrasing in a cut-and-paste world. Some of our favourite British words.

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Explore the year a word first appeared. Definition of determinism 1 philosophy. Zhang, a charismatic entrepreneur, conveyed a curious admixture of economic determinism and capitalism that paired well with the communist and Chinese flags that flanked his desk. The brothers were presented to the public, and, indeed, at times, presented themselves, as a striking argument for biological determinism , a victory for those who believe in the primacy of nature over the push back of nurture.

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: Definitions of chaos may focus on either or both of these properties; Batterman argues that only ii provides an appropriate basis for defining chaotic systems.

A simple and very important example of a chaotic system in both randomness and SDIC terms is the Newtonian dynamics of a pool table with a convex obstacle or obstacles Sinai and others. Billiard table with convex obstacle. The usual idealizing assumptions are made: The ball's trajectory is determined by its initial position and direction of motion.

If we imagine a slightly different initial direction, the trajectory will at first be only slightly different. And collisions with the straight walls will not tend to increase very rapidly the difference between trajectories.

But collisions with the convex object will have the effect of amplifying the differences. After several collisions with the convex body or bodies, trajectories that started out very close to one another will have become wildly different—SDIC. In the example of the billiard table, we know that we are starting out with a Newtonian deterministic system—that is how the idealized example is defined. But chaotic dynamical systems come in a great variety of types: Mathematically, we may suppose all of these systems share SDIC.

But generally they will also display properties such as unpredictability, non-computability, Kolmogorov-random behavior, and so on—at least when looked at in the right way, or at the right level of detail. This leads to the following epistemic difficulty: In other words, once one appreciates the varieties of chaotic dynamical systems that exist, mathematically speaking, it starts to look difficult—maybe impossible—for us to ever decide whether apparently random behavior in nature arises from genuine stochasticity, or rather from deterministic chaos.

There is certainly an interesting problem area here for the epistemology of determinism, but it must be handled with care. It may well be true that there are some deterministic dynamical systems that, when viewed properly , display behavior indistinguishable from that of a genuinely stochastic process.

For example, using the billiard table above, if one divides its surface into quadrants and looks at which quadrant the ball is in at second intervals, the resulting sequence is no doubt highly random. But this does not mean that the same system, when viewed in a different way perhaps at a higher degree of precision does not cease to look random and instead betray its deterministic nature.

If we partition our billiard table into squares 2 centimeters a side and look at which quadrant the ball is in at. And finally, of course, if we simply look at the billiard table with our eyes, and see it as a billiard table , there is no obvious way at all to maintain that it may be a truly random process rather than a deterministic dynamical system.

See Winnie for a nice technical and philosophical discussion of these issues. Winnie explicates Ornstein's and others' results in some detail, and disputes Suppes' philosophical conclusions. It is natural to wonder whether chaotic behavior carries over into the realm of systems governed by quantum mechanics as well. Interestingly, it is much harder to find natural correlates of classical chaotic behavior in true quantum systems see Gutzwiller Some, at least, of the interpretive difficulties of quantum mechanics would have to be resolved before a meaningful assessment of chaos in quantum mechanics could be achieved.

The popularization of chaos theory in the relatively recent past perhaps made it seem self-evident that nature is full of genuinely chaotic systems. In fact, it is far from self-evident that such systems exist, other than in an approximate sense. Nevertheless, the mathematical exploration of chaos in dynamical systems helps us to understand some of the pitfalls that may attend our efforts to know whether our world is genuinely deterministic or not.

Is there nothing left that could sway our belief toward or against determinism? There is, of course: Metaphysical arguments on this issue are not currently very popular. But philosophical fashions change at least twice a century, and grand systemic metaphysics of the Leibnizian sort might one day come back into favor.

Conversely, the anti-systemic, anti-fundamentalist metaphysics propounded by Cartwright might also come to predominate.

As likely as not, for the foreseeable future metaphysical argument may be just as good a basis on which to discuss determinism's prospects as any arguments from mathematics or physics. John Earman's Primer on Determinism remains the richest storehouse of information on the truth or falsity of determinism in various physical theories, from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Here I will give only a brief discussion of some key issues, referring the reader to Earman and other resources for more detail. Figuring out whether well-established theories are deterministic or not or to what extent, if they fall only a bit short does not do much to help us know whether our world is really governed by deterministic laws; all our current best theories, including General Relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics, are too flawed and ill-understood to be mistaken for anything close to a Final Theory.

Nevertheless, as Earman stressed, the exploration is very valuable because of the way it enriches our understanding of the richness and complexity of determinism. Despite the common belief that classical mechanics the theory that inspired Laplace in his articulation of determinism is perfectly deterministic, in fact the theory is rife with possibilities for determinism to break down. One class of problems arises due to the absence of an upper bound on the velocities of moving objects.

Below we see the trajectory of an object that is accelerated unboundedly, its velocity becoming in effect infinite in a finite time. An object accelerates so as to reach spatial infinity in a finite time.

Never mind how the object gets accelerated in this way; there are mechanisms that are perfectly consistent with classical mechanics that can do the job.

In fact, Xia showed that such acceleration can be accomplished by gravitational forces from only 5 finite objects, without collisions. No mechanism is shown in these diagrams. But now recall that classical mechanics is time-symmetric: Clearly, a world with a space invader does fail to be deterministic. A second class of determinism-breaking models can be constructed on the basis of collision phenomena.

The first problem is that of multiple-particle collisions for which Newtonian particle mechanics simply does not have a prescription for what happens. Consider three identical point-particles approaching each other at degree angles and colliding simultaneously. That they bounce back along their approach trajectories is possible; but it is equally possible for them to bounce in other directions again with degree angles between their paths , so long as momentum conservation is respected.

Moreover, there is a burgeoning literature of physical or quasi-physical systems, usually set in the context of classical physics, that carry out supertasks see Earman and Norton and the entry on supertasks for a review. A failure of CM to dictate a well-defined result can then be seen as a failure of determinism.

In supertasks, one frequently encounters infinite numbers of particles, infinite or unbounded mass densities, and other dubious infinitary phenomena. Coupled with some of the other breakdowns of determinism in CM, one begins to get a sense that most, if not all, breakdowns of determinism rely on some combination of the following set of physically dubious mathematical notions: The trouble is, it is difficult to imagine any recognizable physics much less CM that eschews everything in the set.

A ball may spontaneously start sliding down this dome, with no violation of Newton's laws. Reproduced courtesy of John D. Norton and Philosopher's Imprint. Finally, an elegant example of apparent violation of determinism in classical physics has been created by John Norton As illustrated in Figure 4 , imagine a ball sitting at the apex of a frictionless dome whose equation is specified as a function of radial distance from the apex point.

This rest-state is our initial condition for the system; what should its future behavior be? Clearly one solution is for the ball to remain at rest at the apex indefinitely. But curiously, this is not the only solution under standard Newtonian laws. The ball may also start into motion sliding down the dome—at any moment in time, and in any radial direction. And it does not, unlike some supertask examples, require an infinity of particles.

Still, many philosophers are uncomfortable with the moral Norton draws from his dome example, and point out reasons for questioning the dome's status as a Newtonian system see e.

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Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature. The idea is ancient, but first became subject to clarification and mathematical analysis in the eighteenth century.

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Causal determinism synonyms, Causal determinism pronunciation, Causal determinism translation, English dictionary definition of Causal determinism. n. The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision, is the inevitable consequence of antecedent.

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A hard determinist might try to defend causal determinism by claiming that, although it doesn't hold on the micro level of subatomic particles, it does hold on the macro level of everyday objects, which is the only level that matters for us. Causal Determinism finds that every event has an antecedent cause in the infinite causal chain going back to Aristotle's Prime Mover. There is nothing uncaused or self-caused (causa sui).

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Video: Determinism: Definition & Examples This lesson goes over the philosophical concept of determinism, which argues that our lives are determined by . Determinism and Causation Examples Marc A. Burock Correspondence: [email protected] block space-time definition of determinism, and suggest that commonsense As above, according to Lewis’s old theory, there is no causal dependence between Suzy's throw and the shattering, since even if Suzy had not thrown her rock, the window would have.