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  • Created by: aishnn
  • Created on: 10-04-14 23:29

DETERMINISM:  The belief that a determinate set of conditions can only produce one possible outcome, given fixed laws of nature. It is a view about causality. Everything that happens or occurs has a cause [universal causation] and only one effect is possible [causal necessity]

1)     Universal causation: Every event – everything that happens or occurs – has a cause. Cause and effect. E.g. suppose there is water on the kitchen floor example. Universal causation is a commitment to science. Laws of nature are universal, so every physical event falls under the laws of nature.

2)     Causal necessity: Given the total set of conditions under which the cause occurs, only one effect is possible. The idea of regularity leads to the stronger thought that, given this cause in exactly this situation [frozen water pipe burst but not wet floor] only one outcome is possible. The situation determines a unique effect.

If all causation is deterministic, then wherever we find causation we find determinism. Motivation –being moved – can feel like a psychological force which is a causal idea; motivation makes things happen. We use statements such as ‘if he were to want to drink, he would go to the kitchen.’ Expressing a kind of regularity involved in causation. People’s choices and actions are regular and we rely on this regularity all the time.

v  Determinism threatens free will; our actions are events, they have causes. No action is possible other than what we actually do. If we can’t do any other action, then we don’t have free will.

Important difference between action and natural causation; what we do and what just happens. E.g. crop circles. Some people explain them in terms of natural forces such as whirlwinds or a peculiar magnetic phenomenon. Unlike natural events, actions don’t just happen. Deliberately pushing someone over and accidentally knocking them over because you trip. Your body moves in a particular way and has the same effect. What differentiates it between action and natural causation is whether it was intended or unintended.

Physical laws: Physical determinism claims that determinism applies to all physical events. So every event involving our bodies will be determined. Bodily movements are caused by events in the brain.

Ø  E.g. if I help an old lady across the road, immediately before I do this, my brain is in a particular state the chemicals and neural connections are all a particular way. The neurons fire, my muscles move.

According to determinism, given the determinate set of conditions of my brain and the laws of nature, those bodily movements were the only possible outcome. The state of my brain that caused my bodily movement of helping the lady is causally determined by the state of my brain (and other aspects of the physical world) immediately before the decision. And that earlier state of my brain is determined by still earlier states of my brain and the world, and so on. So helping the lady was…


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