However, if the minds or souls of conscious beings are considered as separate entities see the section on Philosophy of Mind , the position on Determinism becomes more complex. For instance, the immaterial souls may be considered part of a deterministic framework; or they could exert a non-deterministic causal influence on bodies and the world; or they could exert no causal influence , either free or determined. Another variation arises from the idea of Deism , which holds that the universe has been deterministic since Creation , but ascribes the Creation itself to a metaphysical God or first cause outside of the chain of determinism.
Some hold that if Determinism were true, it would negate human morals and ethics. Some, however, argue that, through an extended period of social development , a confluence of events could have formed to generate the very idea of morals and ethics in our minds a sort of chicken and egg situation.
In Buddhism , there is a theory called Dependent Origination or Dependent Arising , which is similar to the Western concept of Determinism. Roughly speaking, it states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect , and that every phenomenon is conditioned by, and depends on, every other phenomena.
According to the ancient Chinese "Yi Jing" or "I Ching" , the "Book of Changes" , a kind of divine will sets the fundamental rules for the working out of the probabilities on which the universe operates, although human wills are also a factor in the ways in which we can deal with the real world situations we encounter.
In the West, the Ancient Greek atomists Leucippus and Democritus were the first to anticipate Determinism when they theorized that all processes in the world were due to the mechanical interplay of atoms.
With the advent of Newtonian physics , in the 17th Century, which depicts the physical matter of the universe as operating according to a set of fixed, knowable laws , it began to appear that, once the initial conditions of the universe have been established, then the rest of the history of the universe follows inevitably , rather like billiard balls moving and striking each other in predictable ways to produce predictable results.
There are, for example, questions about the grounds of various asymmetries between the past and the future—why is our knowledge of the past better than our knowledge of the future?
There do not seem to be objective asymmetries like this in space. In one way of thinking about time, there is a privileged temporal direction marking the difference between the past, present, and future. Times change from past to present to future, giving rise to passage. Presentist A-theorists, like Prior , deny that the past or future have any concrete reality. Presentists typically think of the past and future as, at best, akin to abstract possible worlds—they are the way the world was or will be, just as possible worlds are ways the actual world could be.
Other A-theorists, like Sullivan , hold that the present is metaphysically privileged but deny that there is any ontological difference between the past, present, and future. More generally, A-theorists often incorporate strategies from modal metaphysics into their theories about the relation of the past and the future to the present. According to B-theories of time, the only fundamental distinction we should draw is that some events and times are earlier or later relative to others. According to the B-theorists, there is no objective passage of time, or at least not in the sense of time passing from future to present and from present to past.
B-theorists typically maintain that all past and future times are real in the same sense in which the present time is real—the present is in no sense metaphysically privileged. It is also true, and less often remarked on, that space raises philosophical questions that have no temporal analogues—or at least no obvious and uncontroversial analogues.
Why, for example, does space have three dimensions and not four or seven? On the face of it, time is essentially one-dimensional and space is not essentially three-dimensional.
It also seems that the metaphysical problems about space that have no temporal analogues depend on the fact that space, unlike time, has more than one dimension. For example, consider the problem of incongruent counterparts: So it seems there is an intuitive orientation to objects in space itself.
It is less clear whether the problems about time that have no spatial analogues are connected with the one-dimensionality of time. Finally, one can raise questions about whether space and time are real at all—and, if they are real, to what extent so to speak they are real.
Or was McTaggart's position the right one: If these problems about space and time belong to metaphysics only in the post-Medieval sense, they are nevertheless closely related to questions about first causes and universals.
First causes are generally thought by those who believe in them to be eternal and non-local. God, for example—both the impersonal God of Aristotle and the personal God of Medieval Christian, Jewish, and Muslim philosophy—is generally said to be eternal, and the personal God is said to be omnipresent. To say that God is eternal is to say either that he is everlasting or that he is somehow outside time.
And this raises the metaphysical question of whether it is possible for there to be a being—not a universal or an abstract object of some other sort, but an active substance—that is everlasting or non-temporal.
An omnipresent being is a being that does not occupy any region of space not even the whole of it, as the luminiferous ether of nineteenth-century physics would if it existed , and whose causal influence is nevertheless equally present in every region of space unlike universals, to which the concept of causality does not apply.
The doctrine of divine omnipresence raises the metaphysical question whether it is possible for there to be a being with this feature. But it is doubtful whether this is a position that is possible for a metaphysician who says that a white thing is a bundle composed of whiteness and various other universals.
All theories of universals, therefore, raise questions about how things in various ontological categories are related to space.
And all these questions have temporal analogues. Related to questions about the nature of space and time are questions about the nature of objects that take up space or persist through time, and these questions form yet another central theme in post-medieval metaphysics. Are some or all objects composed of proper parts? Can more that one object be located in exactly the same region? Do objects persist through change by having temporal parts? Much work on persistence and constitution has focused on efforts to address a closely knit family of puzzles—the puzzles of coincidence.
Consider a gold statue. Many metaphysicians contend that there is at least one material object that is spatially co-extensive with the statue, a lump of gold. This is easily shown, they say, by an appeal to Leibniz's Law the principle of the non-identity of discernibles. There is a statue here and there is a lump of gold here, and—if the causal story of the statue's coming to be is of the usual sort—the lump of gold existed before the statue.
And even if God has created the statue and perforce the lump ex nihilo and will at some point annihilate the statue and thereby annihilate the lump , they further argue, the statue and the lump, although they exist at exactly the same times, have different modal properties: Or so these metaphysicians conclude. But it has seemed to other metaphysicians that this conclusion is absurd, for it is absurd to suppose these others say that there could be spatially coincident physical objects that share all their momentary non-modal properties.
What, if anything, is the flaw in the argument for the non-identity of the statue and the lump? Tibbles is a cat. Suppose Tail is cut off—or, better, annihilated. Tibbles still exists, for a cat can survive the loss of its tail.
But what will be the relation between Tib and Tibbles? Can it be identity? No, that is ruled out by the non-identity of discernibles, for Tibbles will have become smaller and Tib will remain the same size. But then, once again, we seem to have a case of spatially coincident material objects that share their momentary non-modal properties.
Both these constitution problems turn on questions about the identities of spatially coincident objects—and, indeed, of objects that share all their proper parts. A third famous problem of material constitution—the problem of the Ship of Theseus—raises questions of a different sort. Baker is a defense of this thesis.
Others contend that all the relations between the objects that figure in both problems can be fully analyzed in terms of parthood and identity. For a more thorough overview of the solutions to these puzzles and different theories of constitution in play, see Rea ed. Of course, discussion of causes go back to Ancient Philosophy, featuring prominently in Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics. Aristotle classifies four such explanatory conditions—an object's form, matter, efficient cause, and teleology.
An object's efficient cause is the cause which explains change or motion in an object. With the rise of modern physics in the seventeenth century, interest in efficient causal relations became acute, and it remains so today. And when contemporary philosophers discuss problems of causation, they typically mean this sense.
One major issue in the metaphysics of causation concerns specifying the relata of causal relations. Consider a mundane claim: Does the causal relation hold between two events: Or does it hold between two sets of states of affairs?
Or does it hold between two substances, the iceberg and the ship? Must causal relations be triadic or otherwise poly-adic?
For example, one might think that we are always required to qualify a causal claim: And can absences feature in causal relations? For example, does it make sense to claim that a lack of lifeboats was the cause of a third class passenger's death?
We might further ask whether causal relations are objective and irreducible features of reality. Hume famously doubted this, theorizing that that our observations of causation were nothing more than observations of constant conjunction. For example, perhaps we think icebergs cause ships to sink only because we always observe ship-sinking events occurring after iceberg-hitting events and not because there is a real causal relation that holds between icebergs and foundering ships.
Contemporary metaphysicians have been attracted to other kinds of reductive treatments of causation. Some—like Stalnaker and Lewis—have argued that causal relations should be understood in terms of counterfactual dependencies Stalnaker and Lewis For example, an iceberg's striking the ship caused its sinking at time t if and only if in the nearest possible worlds where the iceberg did not strike the ship at time t , the ship did not sink.
Others have argued that causal relations should be understood in terms of instantiations of laws of nature. Davidson and Armstrong each defend this view albeit in different ways.
All of these theories expand on an idea from Hume's Treatise in attempting to reduce causation to different or more fundamental categories. For a more complete survey of recent theories of causation, see Paul and Hall Debates about causation and laws of nature further give rise to a related set of pressing philosophical questions—questions of freedom.
In the seventeenth century, celestial mechanics gave philosophers a certain picture of a way the world might be: The problem of free will can be stated as a dilemma. If determinism is true, there is only one physically possible future. But then how can anyone ever have acted otherwise? For, as Carl Ginet has said But if determinism does not hold, if there are alternative physically possible futures, then which one comes to pass must be a mere matter of chance.
Unless there is something wrong with one of these two arguments, the argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism or the argument for the incompatibility of free will and the falsity of determinism, free will is impossible.
The problem of free will may be identified with the problem of discovering whether free will is possible—and, if free will is possible, the problem of giving an account of free will that displays an error in one of or both these arguments. Van Inwagen defends the position that, although the modern problem of free will has its origin in philosophical reflections on the consequences of supposing the physical universe to be governed by deterministic laws, the problem cannot be evaded by embracing a metaphysic like dualism or idealism that supposes that agents are immaterial or non-physical.
If it is natural both to pair and to oppose time and space, it is also natural to pair and to oppose the mental and the physical. The modern identity theory holds that all mental events or states are a special sort of physical event or state.
The theory is parsimonious among its other virtues but we nevertheless exhibit a natural tendency to distinguish the mental and the physical. Perhaps the reason for this is epistemological: That the inference is logically invalid is as is so often the case no barrier to its being made. Whatever the reason may be, philosophers have generally but not universally supposed that the world of concrete particulars can be divided into two very different realms, the mental and the material.
If one takes this view of things, one faces philosophical problems that modern philosophy has assigned to metaphysics. Prominent among these is the problem of accounting for mental causation.
If thoughts and sensations belong to an immaterial or non-physical portion of reality—if, for example, they are changes in immaterial or non-physical substances—how can they have effects in the physical world?
How, for example, can a decision or act of will cause a movement of a human body? How, for that matter, can changes in the physical world have effects in the non-physical part of reality?
If one's feeling pain is a non-physical event, how can a physical injury to one's body cause one to feel pain? But the former has troubled them more, since modern physics is founded on principles that assert the conservation of various physical quantities.
If a non-physical event causes a change in the physical world—dualists are repeatedly asked—does that not imply that physical quantities like energy or momentum fail to be conserved in any physically closed causal system in which that change occurs?
And does that not imply that every voluntary movement of a human body involves a violation of the laws of physics—that is to say, a miracle? A wide range of metaphysical theories have been generated by the attempts of dualists to answer these questions.
Some have been less than successful for reasons that are not of much intrinsic philosophical interest. Broad, for example, proposed And this, he supposed, would not imply a violation of the principle of the conservation of energy. But it seems impossible to suppose that an agent could change the electrical resistance of a physical system without expending energy in the process, for to do this would necessitate changing the physical structure of the system, and that implies changing the positions of bits of matter on which forces are acting think of turning the knob on a rheostat or variable resistor: If this example has any philosophical interest it is this: The various dualistic theories of the mind treat the interaction problem in different ways.
Like occasionalism, it presupposes theism, and, unlike occasionalism, it entails either that free will does not exist or that free will is compatible with determinism. In addition to these dualistic theories, there are monistic theories, theories that dissolve the interaction problem by denying the existence of either the physical or the non-physical: Such a theory must, of course, find a place for the mental in a wholly physical world, and such a place exists only if mental events and states are certain special physical events and states.
There are at least three important metaphysical questions raised by these theories. Secondly, does physicalism imply that mental events and states cannot really be causes does physicalism imply a kind of epiphenomenalism? As is obvious from the discussion in Section 3 , the scope of metaphysics has expanded beyond the tidy boundaries Aristotle drew.
So how should we answer our original question? Is contemporary metaphysics just a compendium of philosophical problems that cannot be assigned to epistemology or logic or ethics or aesthetics or to any of the parts of philosophy that have relatively clear definitions? Or is there a common theme that unites work on these disparate problems and distinguishes contemporary metaphysics from other areas of inquiry?
These issues concerning the nature of metaphysics are further connected with issues about the epistemic status of various metaphysical theories. But many post-Medieval metaphysicians have refused to take this for granted. Some of them, in fact, have been willing to defend the thesis that the world is very different from, perhaps radically different from, the way people thought it was before they began to reason philosophically.
For example, in response to the puzzles of coincidence considered in Section 3. This entails that composite objects—tables, chairs, cats, and so on—do not exist, a somewhat startling view. And as we saw in Section 3. But no matter how we classify it, the surprising nature of many contemporary metaphysical claims puts additional pressure on practioners to explain just what they are up to.
They raise questions of the methodology of metaphysics. One attractive strategy for answering these questions emphasizes the continuity of metaphysics with science. On this conception, metaphysics is primarily or exclusively concerned with developing generalizations from our best-confirmed scientific theories.
These objects may not be universals in the classical sense. They may, for example, be sets. A typical recasting of this theory in the canonical notation of quantification is:. It would seem, therefore, that a nominalist cannot consistently affirm that theory. Quine's work on nominalism inspired a much broader program for approaching ontological questions. Still, many questions of the new and old metaphysics are not questions of ontology. For example, many participants in the debate over causation are not particularly worried about whether causes and effects exist.
Few involved in the debate over the mental and physical are interested in the question whether there are mental properties in some sense or other. Is there a unified methodology for metaphysics more broadly understood? Some think the task of the metaphysician is to identify and argue for explanatory relations of various kinds. For example, a philosopher might hold that tables and other composite objects exist, but think that facts about tables are completely grounded in facts about the arrangements of point particles or facts about the state of a wave function.
Schaffer proposes a similar view, but holds that metaphysical grounding relations hold not between facts but between entities.
On Schaffer's conception we can meaningfully ask whether a table is grounded in its parts or vice versa. We can even theorize as Schaffer does that the world as a whole is the ultimate ground for everything. For Sider, what unites good metaphysics as a discipline is that its theories are all framed in terms that pick out the fundamental structure of the world.
It should be emphasized that these ways of delimiting metaphysics do not presuppose that all of the topics we've considered as examples of metaphysics are substantive or important to the subject. Consider the debate about modality. Quine and Sider both argue from their respective theories about the nature of metaphysics that aspects of the debate over the correct metaphysical theory of modality are misguided. Others are skeptical of the debates about composition or persistence through time.
So theories about the nature of metaphysics might give us new resources for criticizing particular first-order debates that have historically been considered metaphysical, and it is common practice for metaphysicians to regard some debates as substantive while adopting a deflationist attitude about others.
It may also be that there is no internal unity to metaphysics. More strongly, perhaps there is no such thing as metaphysics—or at least nothing that deserves to be called a science or a study or a discipline. Perhaps, as some philosophers have proposed, no metaphysical statement or theory is either true or false. Or perhaps, as others have proposed, metaphysical theories have truth-values, but it is impossible to find out what they are.
The remainder of this entry will be a discussion of some recent arguments for the impossibility of metaphysics. We need not suppose that this ability is grounded in some non-trivial definition or account of metaphysics. At one time, an enemy of metaphysics might have been content to say that all metaphysical statements were false.
Let us briefly examine an example of the strong form of the thesis that metaphysics is impossible. The logical positivists maintained that the meaning of a non-analytic statement consisted entirely in the predictions it made about possible experience. They maintained, further, that metaphysical statements which were obviously not put forward as analytic truths made no predictions about experience.
Does this thesis make any predictions about possible experiences? Could some observation show that it was true? Could some experiment show that it was false? It would seem not. It would seem that everything in the world would look the same—like this—whether this thesis was true or false. Will the positivist reply that the offset sentence is analytic? And, therefore, if the statement is true it is meaningless; or, what is the same thing, if it is meaningful, it is false.
Insofar as it is possible to find a coherent line of argument in the writings of any anti-realist, it is hard to see why they, like the logical positivists, are not open to a charge of self-referential incoherency. Indeed, there is much to be said for the conclusion that all forms of the strong thesis fall prey to self-referential incoherency. Put very abstractly, the case against proponents of the strong thesis may be put like this. But it invariably turns out that various sentences that are essential components of McZed's case against metaphysics themselves fail to pass her test.
A test-case for this very schematic and abstract refutation of all refutations of metaphysics is the very sophisticated and subtle critique of metaphysics it purports to apply only to the kind of metaphysics exemplified by the seventeenth-century rationalists and current analytical metaphysics presented in van Fraassen It is a defensible position that van Fraassen's case against metaphysics depends essentially on certain theses that, although they are not themselves metaphysical theses, are nevertheless open to many of the criticisms he brings against metaphysical theses.
The weak form of the thesis that metaphysics is impossible is this: This idea is at least as old as Kant, but a version of it that is much more modest than Kant's and much easier to understand has been carefully presented in McGinn For a different defense of the weak thesis, see Thomasson The Problems of Metaphysics: The Methodology of Metaphysics 5. If we assume this, we should be committed to something in the neighborhood of the following theses: The following theses are all paradigmatically metaphysical: No post-Medieval philosopher would say anything like this: This feature of the contemporary conception of metaphysics is nicely illustrated by a statement of Sartre's: We may call this topic 2.
At one time, those who denied the existence of universals were fond of saying things like: Universals and other abstract objects. It should be noted that Aristotle criticized Plato for supposing that the protai ousiai were ante res universals. Events, processes, or changes. Stuffs, such as flesh or iron or butter.
The Methodology of Metaphysics As is obvious from the discussion in Section 3 , the scope of metaphysics has expanded beyond the tidy boundaries Aristotle drew. A typical recasting of this theory in the canonical notation of quantification is: But many philosophers asked how does the logical positivist's central thesis The meaning of a statement consists entirely in the predictions it makes about possible experience fare by its own standards?
Bibliography Armstrong, David, , Universals: Baker, Lynne Rudder, , Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View , Cambridge: Ginet, Carl, , On Action , Cambridge: Laurence, Stephen and Cynthia Macdonald eds. McGinn, Colin, , Problems in Philosophy: The Limits of Inquiry , Oxford: A User's Guide , Oxford: A Reader , Lanham, MD: Chalmers, David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman eds. Academic Tools How to cite this entry. Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
Open access to the SEP is made possible by a world-wide funding initiative. Mirror Sites View this site from another server:
Hard determinism (or metaphysical determinism) is a view on free will which holds that determinism is true, and that it is incompatible with free will, and, therefore, that free will does not exist.
This means, has anybody given a metaphysical argument for the necessary truth of determinism? I searched for examples, but did not find anything. The argument doesn't have to be convincing, it's enough that it is not obviously flawed.
As a metaphysical proposition about ultimate reality, Causal Determinism can only be tested for validity or invalidity (as opposed to truth or falsehood) based on its internal consistency — and even that depends upon assuming that there is an ultimate reality and that the rules of logic are consistent with that reality. Environmental Determinism (or Climatic or Geographical Determinism) is the view that the physical environment, rather than social conditions, determines culture. Biological Determinism is the idea that all behavior, belief and desire is fixed by our genetic endowment and make-up and cannot be changed.
Metaphysical determinism Posted on May 20, August 27, by John S. Wilkins There is a hypothesis called the Sapir- Whorf Thesis (also known as linguistic relativity) in language that one can only think what one’s language permits you to think, and indeed forces you to think. It is not easy to say what metaphysics is. Ancient and Medieval philosophers might have said that metaphysics was, like chemistry or astrology, to be defined by its subject-matter: metaphysics was the “science” that studied “being as such” or “the first causes of things” or “things that do not change”.