What is Determinism: Definition and 124 Discussions

Determinism is the philosophical view that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse and sometimes overlapping motives and considerations. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism) or randomness. Determinism is often contrasted with free will, although some philosophers claim that the two are compatible.Determinism often is taken to mean causal determinism, which in physics is known as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states. This meaning can be distinguished from other varieties of determinism mentioned below.
Other debates often concern the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems (or multiverse). Numerous historical debates involve many philosophical positions and varieties of determinism. They include debates concerning determinism and free will, technically denoted as compatibilistic (allowing the two to coexist) and incompatibilistic (denying their coexistence is a possibility).
Determinism should not be confused with self-determination of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism is about interactions which affect our cognitive processes in our life. It is about the cause and the result of what we have done in our life. Cause and result are always bounded together in our cognitive processes. It assumes that if an observer has sufficient information about an object or human being, that such an observer might be able to predict every consequent move of that object or human being. Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction be practically possible.

View More On Wikipedia.org
  1. Username34

    Leibniz's idealism is often ridiculed but...

    If the universe is entirely deterministic, would that not necessarily connect the beginning to the end in such a way that they exchange each other? And as such, wouldn't it mean that we live in Leibnitz's best of all worlds practically speaking, simply because it can't be any different? ...
  2. Fractal matter

    Is fractal universe with determinism possible?

    I'd like to know your opinion. Do you think the universe could posses the following qualities altogether? 1) All quantum fields are effective fields 2) Gravity is an effective field 3) Local realism (possibly superdeterminism) 4) There is a preferred frame of reference It seems to me, that...
  3. N

    B Head or Tails: The Question of Determinism and Probability

    I have a question that is bothering me. It is commonly accepted that when playing heads or tails with a fair coin and a large number of tosses are made, the probabilities of getting heads or tails are equal to 50% for each toss. However, the principle of determinism, which states that under the...
  4. I

    I Determinism & General Relativity: A Physics Primer

    I know nothing about physics, to be clear. My friend was saying due to general relativity, the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time. Objects with a heavy mass (like a blackhole) can distort the fabric of space time and being near its gravitational pull means that you...
  5. riballoon

    B Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and determinism

    As I understand it the principle states that the more accurately you measure one factor of an object, for example speed, the less you can tell of any other factors, for example position. To me this seems we will every only be able to measure an approximation of reality and thus determinism...
  6. S

    I A thought experiment concerning determinism in quantum mechanics

    According to the uncertainty principle, when we measure a micro-object with a measuring device, we cannot predict what value the device will show. But if we knew exactly the wave function of this device, together with the wave function of the micro-object, could we exactly predict the result of...
  7. K

    I Determinism in a reversible polarizer experiment

    If light at a known polarization goes through a beam splitting polarizer that changes the light's polarization and then goes through the reverse orientation of that polarizer it will exit with the same polarization that it entered with. See the following picture: If the polarization state...
  8. entropy1

    I Deterministic wind down of the Universe under MWI or Copenhagen?

    Is it correct to say: Under the Many Worlds Interpretation: If we rerun the universe repeatedly from the same state S(0), it winds down the same way each time, which is determinism; Under the Copenhagen Interpretation: If we rerun the universe repeatedly from the same state S(0), it may well...
  9. P

    B Is an experiment planned to discern determinism and randomness in QM

    I can remember reading something about a future experiment which alledgely could decide if there is an underlying deterministic layer governing quantum phenomena or if pure, empty chance rules suppreme (which I can't imagine). It had something to do with arrival times but I can't imagine how...
  10. entropy1

    I Determinism and causality in QM - a case

    I hope my thread won't be closed (too soon) and some forummers can shed their light over my question. Let's suppose a deterministic universe. I assume all events have a cause, that everything is cause and effect. Then, given that the state of the universe at some instant is X, and this leads to...
  11. entropy1

    I Does determinism exclude retrocausality?

    Suppose the system under examination is fully deterministic. Does that imply that effects follow causes and not precede them? For instance, if in this system Alice would respond to event X with A, but, if instead of X event Y would have happened, with B, does that mean she has no choice between...
  12. jk22

    I Compatibility of Determinism & CTC in General Relativity

    GR makes use of the Riemann tensor itself using parellel transport along a closed curve. Now GR says the 4th dimension were time, hence the vector comes to the same time and place it begun on the loop. Now if determinism is admitted then at every time every quantity is defined uniquely at...
  13. SEYED2001

    I Is the Theory of Everything necessarily deterministic?

    Hi I am aware that QM isn't deterministic. Should a theory of everything be deterministic to be a theory of everything, and if yes, then how can it be when QM as a part of it is not deterministic? Thanks in advance Seyed
  14. U

    I Bell's superdeterminism compared to determinism

    It's being discussed in another thread but I really think clarification is in place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superdeterminism I've known about Bells quote for years but I never got what his point was. Why the need for a "super" inclusion to postulate that human beings are subject to...
  15. entropy1

    I Is QM Deterministic in MWI?

    Is QM causal? Specifically, is it time reversable? Does that equate determinism? Specifically, in the case of MWI? Edit: Is QM deterministic? Specifically, in the case of MWI? Is it time reversable?
  16. M

    I Quantum Correlations without Many Worlds or Determinism

    I'm trying to understand the comment by bhobba below from another thread. A related followup from RUTA is provided for reference. After reviewing these I still don't understand. If I think in terms of a single-world (not Everette) and assume Alice and Bob are free to adjust their SG...
  17. Auto-Didact

    Determinism: mathematical models

    Ever since Newton, determinism - i.e. the concept that the prior state of a system determines the next state of the system - has become an integral part of science, in particular of physics. This is particularly because Newton invented a mathematization of the concept of change: the calculus; in...
  18. S

    B Loss of information and Quantum Determinism

    Other than with black holes, are there any other natural ways that quantum information can be lost, and thus jeopardize quantum determinism?
  19. A

    I Reconciling Determinism and Superposition in Quantum Theory

    Hello all, This my first time posting to this forum and am doing so to try and reconsile an issue I saw with quantum theory and determinism in my intro philosophy class. To my understanding, being a ce/eveg major, is that the law of superposition in laymen's states that certain properties cannot...
  20. Lunct

    Is Brownian Motion actually random or does it follow determinism?

    If you have enough information could you not determine with certainty the movements of pollen particles in water? In other words, if you were able to measure the movements the particles, then repeat the exact same experiment, with all things controlled, would the particles move in the same way...
  21. M

    I Is Nature Non-Deterministic Due to Nonlocality in Quantum Mechanics?

    From what I understand, the most reasonable explanation of the violation of the Bell inequalities is that nature is non local. If we accept this, is there a reasonable argument that nature is not deterministic? I.e. could it be that the probabilistic predictions from QM are just averaging --...
  22. benorin

    B Is the Universe Deterministic?

    Note to the Quantum Physics moderator and physicists reading this: this is a cross-posting of a thread from the Probability Forum I'm just going to put a link to it here because I'd also like to get a physicist's perspective on the matter, the thread is about a book we are discussing but you...
  23. B

    I Determinism of Macroscopic World

    Hi, If the microscopic world is not deterministic, then naturally the macroscopic world should also be not deterministic because it is based on the microscopic world. The problem is that the macroscopic world is deterministic; the evidence of this is that a lot of our technology and...
  24. cliffhanley203

    B How might determinism affect probability?

    The probability, I was taught, for red to appear at roulette (on a European table, with a single green zero) is 18/37; and the probability for non-red to appear (black or green zero) is 19/37. If we live in a deterministic universe (I appreciate that that’s a big if for some, not so much for...
  25. Benhur

    I Deterministic chaos in linear systems

    I was reading a paper about deterministic chaos, where the author had commented that non-linear systems can be affected by this. My question is whether some linear systems can also have chaotic behavior. It is possible? Thank you
  26. entropy1

    I Can Quantum Mechanics Be Both Probabilistic and Deterministic?

    If we use a probabilistic model of QM, is there still room for determinism? If we don't have knowledge of the exact outcomes, can there still be underlying determinism in such a model? I am aware there are probabilistic and deterministic models available for QM. Does that mean QM could be...
  27. A

    B Black hole information paradox and determinism

    Hello, layman here, I have a simple question, could you please clear this up for me? Whenever I read about the information paradox, it always appears to me that it is automatically assumed that quantum fluctuations / virtual particle pairs are predictably random. Which leads to the loss of...
  28. zwierz

    Violation of Determinism in Newtonian Mechanics by J Norton

    http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/Goodies/Dome/ I think that most wonderful point in this story is that the person who writes such texts is Distinguished Professor of University of Pittsburgh. Nevertheless I believe that the question he stated up can confuse an undergraduate student and thus...
  29. A. Neumaier

    A Classical universe and experimental choices

    Is a classical universe (with a deterministic dynamics) compatible with assuming that experimental choices can be made arbitrarily? This question arises from the following statement of Bell: that I had cited (with a reference) in https://www.physicsforums.com/posts/5694545/, and commented...
  30. G

    I Why all the rejection of superdeterminism?

    Hi. As far as I understand, superdeterminism (i.e. the experimentators are not free to choose the measurement parameters) allows the formulation of a local realistic quantum theory. But apparently physicists don't like the thought of not being in charge. Anton Zeilinger: "[W]e always implicitly...
  31. E

    B Determinism: how important is determinism in physics?

    Determinism. Generally speaking how important is determinism in physics?
  32. ramzerimar

    I Laplace's Demon and determinism

    Not sure if this is the correct forum to post this thread, but here we go. I'm a layman in physics and mathematics, and recently, I was reading about the Laplace's Demon and how, according to classical mechanics, the future could be entirely determined if some entity (the Demon) could have...
  33. T

    A Does spacetime lose its determinism in third dimension?

    In a lecture from a course in QM, it was mentioned that Shroedinger's equation is deterministic in one and two dimensions. But in third dimension it gives unstable solutions, loosing it's determinism. It was mentioned that "in space of D dimensions Gauss theorem leads to the conclusion that...
  34. durant35

    I How does the concept of determinism apply to the branching of many worlds?

    I am having a hard time understanding the evolution of many worlds in the context of determinism. If each branch evolves deterministically what can be said about a branch that splits into two branches? I will try to give an example so the question can be understood better. For instance if my...
  35. G

    I Determinism, realism, hidden variables

    Hi. I'm still confused about those three concepts. They sound pretty much the same to me, but this does not comply with Wikipedia's table of comparison of QM interpretations, where pretty much all combinations seem to be present. Actually, is the "Wavefunction real?" column even about...
  36. secur

    A Quantum Determinism: Exploring the Black Hole Information Paradox

    My question is about so-called "Quantum Determinism". Consider two quotes from the Wikipedia article on "Black Hole Information Paradox": "A fundamental postulate of quantum mechanics is that complete information about a system is encoded in its wave function up to when the wave function...
  37. Raptor112

    A Liouville Master Equation for an Open Quantum System

    By reading Heinz-Peter Breuer: A Piece Wise Deterministic Process (where you have a deterministic time-evolution + a jump process and which is just a particular type of stochastic process) may be defined in terms of a Liouville master equation for its probability density : Where the first...
  38. Stephanus

    Determinism and Uncertainity Principle

    Dear PF Forum, Determinism. 1. Is there determinism? 2. Because we can't measure the electron position, it doesn't mean there's no determinism? Heisenberg uncertainity principle states, per wiki: But because we can't measure it, it doesn't mean that the universe itself is indeterministic...
  39. R

    A philosophical question regarding random numbers....

    A number can be random even if limitations are applied to the outcome - e.g. selecting a random integer between 1 and 5 restricts the outcome to one of 5 numbers, but the outcome is still random. The same would be true of between 1 and 2; although there are heavy restrictions, an unbiased...
  40. Hybrid

    The Two-State Vector Formalism

    Within Two-state vector formalism is the universe probabilistic or determined? I have read into this interpretation, but I cannot figure out which. Thanks guys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-state_vector_formalism http://www.tau.ac.il/~yakir/yahp/yh165.pdf...
  41. Hybrid

    I Many Worlds - Superdeterministic?

    Forgive me if this question has been asked previously on this board, but I cannot seem to find anything similar having searched around earlier. I suppose this blog entry written by the Physicist Robert Oerter linked below has accurately reflected how I feel about Many Worlds: "But now you see...
  42. S

    Clarifying the Meaning of "Random" in Quantum Physics

    This might be a silly question but when people say that something on the quantum level is completely "random," (except for general probability) does that mean, according to theory at least, if you were to go back in time and repeat an experiment exactly that the results could just as easily be...
  43. muscaria

    The difference between heat and work?

    I realize this question has arisen before in the following thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/difference-between-heat-and-work.461711/ but I felt there may be more room for discussion. I feel that the nature of the effect of heat on physical systems is a rather deep one. If the flow...
  44. A

    Explaining Probabilities in a deterministic world

    Let's assume we're living in a mechanical deterministic world. Now do you agree that any uncertainty is a result of lack of knowledge? We flip a symmetric coin. The equations of movement are deterministic, but the outcome is uncertain, with probability 50% tail or head. Thus, it's the initial...
  45. M

    Initial development of set theory and determinism in QM

    I am considering the following question and I want you to agree (but perhaps you don’t):Rutherford wrote a letter to Bohr, as an answer to a previous letter from Bohr containing one of the first of Bohr’s descriptions of the atomic model, saying that he understood the atom model Bohr advocated...
  46. Amaterasu21

    Momentum conservation, the double slit and Heisenberg

    One thing that's been troubling me lately is the idea that a quantum experiment can start with the same initial conditions, but the outcome is probabilistic, not deterministic, and how this fits in with the conservation of momentum. I was thinking about the classic double-slit experiment, in...
  47. Gravity

    Does Penrose's Andromeda paradox prove determinism?

    Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rietdijk–Putnam_argument
  48. P

    How strong are fluid experiments in restoring determinism?

    I am referring to this article:http://www.quantamagazine.org/20140624-fluid-tests-hint-at-concrete-quantum-reality/ Only a handful of phycisists (John Bell being one of them) took the Bohm-interpretation of QM seriously, given it had no scientific falsification, Are those views likely to change...
  49. bland

    Determinism in Coin Tosses: Does It Mean We Have Free Will?

    My personal belief if you will is that we have free will. Anyway my question relates to the so called deterministic behaviour of a coin toss as opposed to a quantum decay. I think that we all agree that quantum physics displays truly indeterminate random behaviour. However I have heard it...
  50. J

    QM and Determinism: Can We Predict the Future?

    "Determinism often is taken to mean causal determinism, which in physics is known as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states" -- from wiki Does...