determinism

DETERMINISM (from the Latin determino, meaning “define”) is a basic philosophical theory about general interdependence and interconditionality of phenomena and processes. This idea was explained for the first time in ancient natural philosophy (atomistic ideas, peripathetic school), 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 the existence of cause and effect as a rational consequence.

Laplace’s determinism is 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 the human being itself, taken as a biological and social creature) is completely caused by previous facts and events. He believed that the unidirectional and dynamic connections 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.

determinism

GEOGRAPHICAL DETERMINISM

As a particular form of strict deterministic theory, geographical determinism approves geographic environment as the principal determinant of social layout and cultural development. As early as at the middle of 4th century B.C.E., it had been designed as a specific direction of philosophic thought, with at least two extreme schools: one of climatic psychology and one of climatic ethnology. Later, climatic astrology originated.

The Enlightenment and modern ideology reconsidered these ideas in a framework of establishing general regularities in livelihood systems, social spheres, and political organization. During the 20th century, geographic determinism was associated mainly with theories trying to explain the unevenness of social and cultural development of separate countries and peoples exclusively by peculiarities of their natural habitat. Today, geographic space influences political decision making and is the subject of scientific modeling of geopolitics, which is regarded as a special discipline, formed on the border of anthropogeography, political geography, and political science.

MARXIST DETERMINISM

Marxist determinism emphasizes total objectivity, interdependence, and interconditionality of objects, facts, and phenomena of the real world. 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, connection of states in development and movement, and so on.

In such contexts, social 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.

Economic determinism stresses economic primacy in relation to other form of social practice. In its Marxist variant, the economy is regarded as a sphere of human activity that determines (or, at least, influences decisively) the character and essence of political and social processes. On this basis, society’s historical development could be conceptualized through the series of socioeconomic formations (primitive, slavery, feudal, capitalistic, and communist). In such a context, state, ideology, politics, and culture are regarded as expressions of economics, which, in its turn, reflects the interests of the dominative class and results from the mode of production. In a broader sense, economic determinism implies that political and social infrastructures are conditioned by the character of the economy.

STATISTIC AND SYSTEM DETERMINISM

The 20th century brought new insight to deterministic ideas thanks to the origin of statistic and probabilistic methods of scientific research. As a result, statistic regularities (instead of total and exhaustive causality) were revealed and conceptualized in the framework of a wide spectrum of probabilistic world theories.

Statistic determinism is widespread, mainly in the context of sociology, demography, and other social sciences. It presumes that in large sets of social phenomena, one can trace statistic regularity or the general tendency of development. In such a context, character of social connection is interpreted as possibilistic and regular at the same time.

System determinism (or determinism revealed in the framework of theory of system) implicates the integrity of elements forming the social system and acts as a some kind of basis of these elements’ peculiarities and their changes in time and space.

Both system and statistic determinism don’t deny the role of conscious and targeted human activity. They pay special attention to the mode by which the main purpose of such activity is formulated. Into the 21st century, deterministic ideas are withstanding indeterminism, which denies the existence of objective causal regularities.