Determinism & Free Will

Types of Determinism




Religious Determinism

►God determines the course of events

►John Calvin

 Predestination

►God has already decided who will receive salvation. Individuals can just hope they have been chosen.

Scientific Determinism

► Physical Determinism

 Universe is governed by mechanical laws

 Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)


►Biological & Genetic Determinism

 Charles Darwin (1809-1882) argued that species evolve through selection or survival of the fittest.

 Modern genetics—a person is destined to have a certain makeup or get a certain disease

Social/Cultural Determinism

►Historical or Cultural Determinism

 Humans cannot control the culture or period of history into which they are born

 Hegel (1770-1831)

►World history is manifestation of “absolute mind” realizing itself

► Economic or Social Determinism

 Karl Marx (1818-1883)

►People are limited by class. The evolutionary economic class struggle will eventually lead to socialism, which is classless

Social-Cultural Determinism

►Psychological Determinism

 Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

►Humans are determined by unconscious drives that cultures distort or repress


 B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)

►Human behavior is governed by conditioning and environment, both physical and social

Types of Determinism


 All events are fixed and predetermined

 The future is always beyond our control

 Whatever will be, will be

►Hard Determinism

 Everything has an external cause

 No free will

Types of Determinism

►Soft Determinism

 Everything is caused, but some events are caused by humans’ free will

 Freedom is limited


►Some things are caused

►Certain amount of chance and freedom

►William James (1842-1910)

Free Will

►Free will is not as neatly packaged as determinism, but, essentially, philosophers in this camp believe that the individual’s choices determine his or her life.

►Some believe in a Judeo-Christian God, but many do not, but all acknowledge the burden of choice.

Soren Kierkegaard

 Truth is yours alone on the path you choose

 Purpose in life is to find your own personal truth

 Three stages

►Aesthetic Stage—sensuous enjoyment

 Good in childhood; becomes hedonistic paradox in adults

►Ethical Stage

 Following conventions and laws makes a person good

►Religious Stage—Leap of faith

 Leave standards of society behind and trust God

Jean-Paul Sartre ►Modern Existentialism

 There is no god, no absolute moral rules or values

 Individuals become the source of values

 Complete free will


 “Man is nothing but what he makes of himself.”

 “We are alone, with no excuses.”

 “Existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him.”