Determinism ( " define " Latin determinare, " determine " ) is of the opinion that all - especially future - events are uniquely defined by preconditions. The antithesis ( indeterminism ) represents that there are events at all or in a particular area of reality that also could otherwise occur.

In today's natural philosophy usually is " determinism " specific to events of nature - or a specific region of the same - with respect. Supported a general determinism mostly by the assumption that strict, non- probabilistic laws of nature govern all natural processes. Whether, in turn, the best physical theories to support this assumption is controversial. If mental states are also natural conditions, a determinism seem to be problems for the reality of free will to create. Whether this opposition exists is as controversial as the respective consequences.

There is no uniform determinism, rather, different types can be distinguished thereof. Paul Edwards speaks of an ethical, logical, theological, physical and psychological determinism.


Historical Philosophical determinism

Several philosophers and historians have argued or disputed that there are laws that govern through historical processes and enable predictions. This could be counted, for example, the culture cycle theory or history Oswald Spengler morphology.

Climate determinism

Climate determinism is a term of the Historical Climatology describing interpretations and models that simplistic explain individual changes of social relations as a necessary response to climate change. Other environmental factors or social influences are just as hidden as the active role of humans in interaction with its environment. As examples of climate- deterministic positions are already known from the classical Greece Aristotle or as particularly striking representative of the early 20th century Ellsworth Huntington. Aristotle wanted to start with the air superiority of the Greeks over the barbarian nations, declare Huntington alone with the climate economic and health well-being of societies and citizens. A verkürzendes returning from, for example, threat of war to the current global warming is called as to deterministic view.

At the same authors point out that you should also not neglect the influence of climatic and environmental factors on social developments. You still see a need for research in the science of history.

Physical determinism

It is in the philosophy of physics remains controversial whether the impossibility of exact calculation of future events is only due a lack of our theories or perspective, or can be explained by the fact that reality itself is not determined.

Classical physics, especially classical mechanics used strict, non- probabilistic laws of physics. The physical systems described by these theories appear to be so determined. In simple terms this means that when full knowledge of any system state at a given time of a closed state of the physical system at any particular future time is calculated. A more sophisticated formulation is that a system state can be determined by increasing the expenditure for the measurement with arbitrary precision, and thus an arbitrarily accurate determination by calculation is also possible for earlier or later states.

The (classical ) thermodynamics deals with systems of many particles, whose state is also arbitrary in principle be determined precisely. Because of the practical infeasibility of measuring and calculating but they waived it and forwards only statistical laws here.

The formalism of quantum mechanics allows only probabilistic statements about future observations. In other words, the accuracy of a prediction with any increase in complexity of measurement not better than a certain value are made, which is determined by the uncertainty principle. Many artists, including in particular the representatives of the Copenhagen interpretation have, this explains the fact that the spatio-temporal behavior of a system is not fundamentally determined. However, one also (partly) be deterministic interpretations or modifications defends in which, although the spatio-temporal change of the system is arbitrarily determined precisely, but either the initial conditions is ( de Broglie -Bohm theory ) or not, in what universe is the observer is ( many-worlds interpretation). However, it must be emphasized that these different interpretations of the same mathematical formalism is based on providing the same prediction results.

The physicist Stephen Hawking uses the term " determinism " for all interpretations of quantum mechanics, even for the variants relevant designated as " indeterministic ". He justifies this choice of words so that as the possible false impression of randomness will be avoided. Even under the assumption of a fundamental randomness of nature, the probabilities for different possible futures and pasts by the laws of nature would be determined exactly rather than a specific future and the past just, that is determined.

Theological determinism and religious-philosophical problems

Both a possible unpredetermined of reality by the order of nature, as well as by divine predestination, create numerous problems in various religious and philosophical and doctrinal areas.

Many religions and their performers represent a free will of man; the theistic religions teach, their most common interpretations According, Moreover, the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent God. Some philosophers and theologians shows that it is in need of explanation, whether and how these three theses are compatible. In addition, it is discussed whether and how God's omnipotence is compatible with a complete determinism of the natural flow when omnipotence and the ability to intervene after the creation of God says. A classic solution is that God is not even subject to the time, but brings forth the world and time itself in eternity and in particular also those events which people appear as miracles or as exceptions to natural laws, even produces or has predetermined.

Nelson Pike said that foreknowledge and predestination hang in the event of an omniscient being who can not err, closer together. Anthony Kenny points out that simultaneity is a transitive relation. If God's work with every moment is the same, then all events are simultaneous. The former teaches him, according to Thomas Aquinas. Since the latter is absurd that such a conception of God must be given up.

In monotheistic theologies differently strong assumptions about the objective or human perceptive regularity divine activity and the extent of Bewirktwerden of individuals were represented by God. An extreme form is the thesis that at all only individual atoms to be ever created only to individual moments of time from God and there is neither a continuing substance nor stable natural laws - a so-called occasionalism, who was represented, inter alia, in some schools of the Arab Kalam and with a strong emphasis on the divine will (so-called voluntarism ) is associated, which are baseless against human rationality and the assistant of their stabilities and regularities. This occasionalism is obviously incompatible with a physical determinism.

The more God's work is understood as bringing forth or predestination of individual events, the need of explanation is the reconciliation of evil with the understanding of God's goodness.

More theological problem areas are the discussion of predestination ( predestination ) of individuals to their respective eschatological salvation or to the ability to think at all religious or acquire gifts of grace. (See the main article predestination ).

Problems in the philosophy of mind

The compatibility of determinism and free will is being debated in the philosophy of mind still controversial.

Many philosophers are of the opinion that in a deterministic reality, free will is an illusion (so-called incompatibilism ). The counter- argument is that even if the reality is deterministic, free will may be real (so-called compatibilism or soft determinism ). A Inkompatibilist, must therefore, if it considers freedom of the will for real, keep determinism is wrong. All four possible positions have been and are represented. A inkompatibilistische position is mostly justified by the defense of a reducibility of mental states to natural or physical states. Because when a mental state is identical to a state which will be described in terms of deterministic physical theories, then mental states, and in particular intentional decisions are determined. Such reductionism or non-existence of the spiritual ( eliminativism ) represent particular theorists who defend the principle that there is absolutely only natural objects, so-called naturalists.

It is often claimed that the randomness thermodynamic or quantum mechanical processes is irrelevant to the question of whether free will is possible. This is justified by the fact that our concept of freedom refers to a self-determined decision by reasons and not determined by random sequence of events.

The theological assumption of a predetermination of all events one by God ( theological determinism ) poses for some theorists problems for the reality of free will (see above).

Conceptual delimitation

The philosophical positions fatalism and predestination are characterized also by predestination. In detail, the specificity of determinism is the causality, so that the state of an isolated system at time t dt by its state at time t is determined. In fatalism and predestination is assumed that an open system whose future state is determined by the external intervention of fate and not by the current state. Fatalism and predestination differ from one another in turn, in that hypothetical gods are also subjected to the fate of the fatalism and predestination control in the fate of a hypothetical free will.


  • Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-1989)
  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
  • Max Planck (1858-1947)
  • John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
  • Pierre- Simon Laplace (1749-1827)
  • Paul Henri Thiry d' Holbach (1723-1789)
  • David Hume (1711-1776)
  • Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751)
  • John Locke (1632-1704)
  • Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)