Determinism

Determinism

BERNARD BEROFSKY
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 349
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x10j9
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  • Book Info
    Determinism
    Book Description:

    Bernard Berofsky formulates a concept of determinism in terms that will be constructive for the continuing libertarian-determinist debate. His discussion will interest those who want a deeper understanding of this metaphysical doctrine, and anyone whose fundamental concern is with the nature of human responsibility and the possible threats to it posed by determinism.

    Originally published in 1971.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6729-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Anyone who seeks illumination from philosophy on the age-old free will issue confronts an unfortunate division of labor among philosophers. He may read books on free will and moral responsibility; but these books never contain a systematic, in-depth treatment of the doctrine of determinism, a doctrine that must be understood, most would concede, if we are to come to grips with the problems of human freedom.¹ Many works, in fact, relate free will to determinism and say virtually nothing about the latter. On the whole, only philosophers of science have engaged in the sober and detailed inquiry essential to formulating...

  5. Part 1 Accounts of Determinism
    • I. FOREKNOWLEDGE
      (pp. 9-27)

      Although many events are never known to occur until they actually happen, a person might believe that, in some sense, these eventscould have been foreknown.A determinist, some have said, is one who believes that all events can be foreknown.¹

      This definition is adequate, of course, only insofar as an adequate analysis of knowledge-statements is at hand. There is, however, a great deal of disagreement about such an analysis. Are knowledge-statements descriptive or performatory? Do they entail belief-statements? How much and what kind of evidence must a person possess before he may be said to know something?

      One may...

    • II. PREDICTABILITY
      (pp. 28-34)

      A more common proposal for the definiens of determinism is predictability or predictability in principle.¹

      One key difference between foreknowledge and predictability is the following:Amay predict thatp,even if he does not know thatp.IfAsays, “I know thatp,” one can demand that he support the assertion of “p”²; but support is not necessary in order to predict thatp.To be sure, ordinary language is not entirely firm on this point. One may say, “No one can predict how it will turn out,” meaning, of course, that no one can have sufficient information...

    • III. EXPLANATION
      (pp. 35-41)

      Determinism has occasionally been construed as the view that all events can be explained.¹ By now, however, it must be evident that the difficulties unique to the view that this definition is adequate must be added to the familiar problems raised by the presence of a modal term in this definition.

      The inclination to link determinism and explanation is due in many cases to the prior acceptance of the deductive nomological (covering law) theory of explanation,² for the model of explanation advanced by the advocates of this theory looks very much like a traditional model of a deterministic account. An...

    • IV. CAUSALITY
      (pp. 42-126)

      Determinists and others have frequently maintained that determinism is identical with the doctrine of universal causation, i.e., the doctrine that all events have causes.¹ Now, if a particular debatable proposition is correct, we may include the doctrine that all events have causes as one of the formulations of determinism under the concept of law, and reserve discussion of these formulations until we examine laws. The proposition is: To say that an event is caused is to say that it is subsumable under laws of a certain type.

      Let us call this theory the generality theory of causation. It is distinguishable...

  6. Part 2 A Definition of Determinism
    • V. THE STRUCTURE OF A DEFINITION
      (pp. 129-178)

      We know now that determinism should be defined in terms of the concept of law. Let us temporarily put aside the many questions about this concept and ask what the definition will look like. We may see the problems if we begin with the simple statement: All events are governed by law.

      First of all, the scope of the definition put this way would be too narrow. All events involve the presence of some change. But determinists want to say that states in which no changes occur are as determined as states in which changes do operate. For example, the...

    • VI. THE REGULARITY THEORY: TRANSLATABILITY
      (pp. 179-220)

      The issues surrounding the question of the nature of laws are so large that only some can be dealt with here. I shall ignore some problems entirely and take stands on issues without adequate warrant. But I shall say something about matters that appear to be crucial for an understanding of determinism and its implications.

      One central issue, the debate between necessitarians and regularity theorists, is entirely pertinent. If necessitarians are right, then laws are necessary truths. And if laws are necessary truths and determinism is true, it seems to follow that everything that happens happens necessarily—including human actions...

    • VII. THE REGULARITY THEORY: ADEQUACY
      (pp. 221-252)

      Given the establishment of the thesis of translatability, a necessitarian may still insist that certain facts require the supposition that laws are necessary truths.

      The most interesting fact alleged to require a necessitarian interpretation is simply that a truth-functional interpretation of laws, no matter how complicated, evidently fails to capture at least part of what is meant by the claim thatBmust nomically followA.There does not appear to be any contradiction in saying that “AllAisB”satisfies all the conditions for laws stated in the previous chapter; but it is not the case that all...

    • VIII. DETERMINISTIC ACCOUNTS
      (pp. 253-267)

      Given someR-sentence that follows from laws plus a statedescription sentence, additional conditions must be imposed in order for this account to be considered deterministic. We distinguish causal laws from other kinds of laws and we might, therefore, naturally suppose that the laws in a deterministic account be or contain causal laws. But the concept of a causal law is defined in various ways.

      Sometimes, a causal law is thought of as a law which enables us to compute the state variables for all future times if they are given for the present.¹ We pointed out earlier that this condition...

    • IX. DETERMINISM DEFINED
      (pp. 268-270)

      The results of Part II may now be summarized in a definition of determinism and a definition of a deterministic account.

      We have already proposed a definition of determinism (above, p. 178):

      (x) [xis an R-sentence (3y) (3z) (y is a state description-sentence (y is a law-sentence. -|(y-z) 3 x)]

      AnR-sentence is true, contingent, singular, and temporal. It must not contain a causal, evaluative, or basic dispositional predicate. Any logical consequence of either anR-sentence or any conjunction ofR-sentences is anR-sentence. If the predicate of theR-sentence is a determinable whose determinates admit as values any...

  7. Part 3 The Truth of Determinism
    • X. THE ALLEGED TRIVIALITY OF DETERMINISM
      (pp. 273-281)

      Views on determinism’s truth-value are as varied as the possibilities. Determinism has been said to be neither true nor false; necessarily true; necessarily false; contingently true; or contingently false.

      Arguments for the necessary truth of determinism are not usually impressive. Given the definition of determinism, its denial certainly seems conceivable or imaginable. But indeterminism has been deemed inconceivable on the grounds that it violates the principle of sufficient reason or a similar principle. If indeterminism could be true, then in two different cases under identical circumstances, two different events might occur. Thus, there is no sufficient reason for whichever event...

    • XI. DETERMINISM AND FALSIFICATION
      (pp. 282-290)

      The charge that determinism is neither true nor false is based on the premise that it is not falsifiable. (The debatable assumption that only sentences capable of falsification possess truth-values will not be discussed here; I believe it can be shown that determinism is falsifiable insomeimportant sense.) Proponents of this view often make the further claim that determinism ought, therefore, to be construed as a methodological postulate or rule of procedure.

      If determinism is falsifiable, alleged deterministic accounts must be falsifiable. Let us use the term “theory” for the lawlike sentence or sentences that can appear in many...

    • XII. DETERMINISTIC THEORIES AND THE OBSERVABLE WORLD
      (pp. 291-297)

      The possible truth-statuses for determinism have been reduced to three: contingent truth, contingent falsity, and necessary falsity. An interesting argument for determinism’s falsity arises from a consideration of the relationship between theories or sets of laws that appear in deterministic accounts and the observational data that confirm or disconfirm these theories.

      Since a deterministic account may contain only true sentences, the theories and laws in deterministic accounts must be true. Indeed, according to our view, a sentence is not a law if it is not true. But sentences are considered laws and theories are considered acceptable even if there is...

    • XIII. PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERMINISM
      (pp. 298-324)

      Are deterministic theories in psychology possible? If not, why not? If so, can we state the general form they will take? Or perhaps there can be deterministic accounts for some, but not all, psychologicalR-sentences?

      Most arguments for the necessary falsity of determinism conclude that determinism must fail in psychology.¹ If these arguments fail, then the fact that the unrestricted character of determinism described in the preceding chapter implies its probable falsity is not that important. For if there can be deterministic theories for all “important” psychologicalR-sentences, the implications for human freedom must be dealt with.

      Actions and decisions...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 325-330)