What Is Determinism?
Determinism states that there are laws of nature which govern everything that happens, and all actions are the result of these scientific laws. Every choice we make was determined by the situation before and this goes on as far back as you want to go.
Freedom of choice is just an illusion and so personal responsibility is a meaningless concept, as are blame and punishment.
This makes it difficult to make sense of the concept of people being held morally and legally responsible only for actions carried out freely and deliberately.
However, we do feel a sense of responsibility even if we didn't choose the action; e.g. a driver that kills a child that ran out in front of the car would blame himself for the death, even if he couldn't have prevented it.
Hard determinists: accept determinism and reject freedom and moral responsibility;
Libertarians: reject determinism and accept freedom and moral responsibility;
Soft determinists or compatibilists: reject the previous views that freewill and determinism are incompatible and argue freedom actually requires determinism.
This states everything in the universe has a prior cause. This means all our decisions and opinions can be best understood when translated into the neutral language of natural science.
This view can be seen in Greek tragedies when people are the helpless victims of fate.
Determinism can be seen in some versions of Christian predestination: the total irrelevance of our actions in life as God has already decided who will be saved.
Predestination was formulated by theologians such as Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin, and is based on the idea that God determines what happens in history and man has very limited understanding of his purpose and plans. The idea is based on revelation, and sits side by side with teachings about freedom and responsibility. Augustine believes people need the help of God's grace to do good, and this is a free gift from God, regardless of individual merit. God alone determines who will receive the grace that assures salvation.
However, the further idea that while some are destined to heaven, others are destined to eternal damnation was rejected.
The belief, formulated by John Calvin, says that as man is a complete sinner who's incapable of coming to God, then predestination must occur or nobody could be saved. God's in total control and people can't do anything to achieve salvation. According to Calvin, not everyone is created with the same destiny: 'eternal life for some, and eternal damnation for others'.
^ This idea suggests that people have no freewill as far as ethical decisions go. It states God makes his choice about who to save independently of any qualities of the individual - God doesn't look into a person and recognise something good; nor does he look into the future to see who would choose him, but simply decides who would be saved because…