Determinism, from the Latin determino or define, is a basic philosophic theory about general interdependence and interconditionality of phenomena and processes. The idea was pronounced for the first time in ancient natural philosophy, in particular, in notions about primary origins and elements. Later, it was developed by Persian poet Omar Khayyam, Italian naturalist G. Bruno, and others who believed in existence of cause-and-effect rational consequence.
Laplace’s determinism was the first attempt to generalize and theoretically interpret general deterministic ideas, proposed by Pierre-Simon Marquise de Laplace, the 18th-century naturalist and philosopher. According to his variant of determinism (sometimes called “strict” or “mechanistic” determinism), everything in the contemporary world (and human beings ourselves, taken as biological and social creatures) is caused completely by previous facts and events. He believed that unidirectional and dynamic connection of any phenomenon’s states could be described with the help of laws of physics and mechanics. According to Laplace, the universe is utterly rational, and complete knowledge of any given situation permits us to experience with certainty the future and the past of any unit.
Further development of such kind of deterministic theory is connected with conceptualization of causality notion (Spinosa’s ideas about inner causality, Leibniz monadology, Darwinian evolutionary theory, Hegel dialectic theory).
Geographic determinism as particular form of strict deterministic theory approves geographic environment as principal determinant of social layout and cultural development. As early as at the middle of 4th century BCE, it had been designed as peculiar direction of philosophic thought (Hippocrates, Phoukidid, Xenofont) with at least two extreme schools: one of climatic psychology (Hippocrates, Aristotle) and one of climatic ethnology (Hippocrates, Polibius).
Enlightenment and modern ideology had given us the chance to reconsider these ideas in framework of establishment of general regularities of livelihood systems, social sphere, ideology, and political organization development in historical retrospection (Ch. Montesquieu, L. Mechnikov, H. Sample, E. Huntington).
During the 20th century, geographic determinism notion was concerned mainly with theories trying to explain the unevenness of social and cultural development of separate countries and peoples exclusively by peculiarities of their natural habitats.
Today, the influence of geographic space on political decision making is the subject of scientific modeling of geopolitics, regarded as a special discipline bordering anthropogeography, political geography, and political science.
Marxist determinism emphasizes total objectiveness, interdependence, and interconditionality of objects, facts and phenomena of the real world, which is based on the matter inner regular development. Apart from causal interrelations, Marxist determinism presumes the existence of a wide spectrum of interconnections of different kinds, such as spatial and chronological correlation, functional dependence, symmetry connection, system elements interaction, mutual determination of part and the whole, and connection of states in development and movement. In such contexts, social life regularities define the mainstream of historical process, but do not determine the whole diversity of individual and group activity. So, freedom in purpose formulation is ascribed to the human being and to the social group as well.
In its Marxist variant, economy is regarded as a sphere of human activity that determines or at least influences character and the essence of political and social processes. On this basis, we could conceptualize historical development through the series of socioeconomic formations (primitive, slavery, feudal, capitalistic, and communist). In such a context, state, ideology, politics, and culture are regarded as expression of economic basis, which, in its turn, reflects interests of dominative class and results from the mode of production.
Statistic and system determinism in the 20th century has brought new insight into deterministic ideas, thanks to statistic and probabilistic methods of scientific research. Statistic regularities had been revealed and conceptualized in the framework of a wide spectrum of probabilistic world theories. Statistic determinism is widespread in the context of sociology, demography, and other social sciences. It presumes that, in large sets of social phenomena, we can trace statistic regularity or the general tendency of development. In such a context, we interpret character of social connection as possibilistic and regular at the same time.
Determinism’s oppositions: Deterministic ideas are withstanding indeterminism, which denies existence of objective causal regularities. Its origin at the first quarter of 20th century was stimulated by development of statistic methods of scientific prognosis. Another determinist’s opposition is teleology, according to which all process flow is predestined by action of nonmaterial (ideal) purpose-defining principle.
- Darwall, S. (Ed.). (2003). Deontology. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Krause, S. J. (1964). Essays on determinism in American literature. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press.
- Von Wright, G. H. (1974). Causality and determinism. New York: Columbia University Press.