Difference Between Determinism and Indeterminism

Difference Between Determinism and Indeterminism

Some say that every action is preceded by a cause, and is succeeded by some other action. Others say that it is not necessary for every action to be preceded by some cause, and can happen without any fixed pattern. These are two distinct and opposite phenomena, which are known as 'determinism' and 'indeterminism', respectively. In this article, Buzzle explores the differences between indeterminism and determinism.
ScienceStruck Staff
Is Free Will Actually Free?
The advocates of determinism opine that, determinism and free will cannot sync together, and hence, determinism is totally devoid of free will, or, it is non-existing altogether.
Cause and Effect theory is of paramount significance in order to understand the events which take place all around us, irrespective of the impact they render. Now, let us try and gather some meaningful insight about this theory. So, in the simplest of terms, the basic definition of the 'Cause and Effect' theory could be summarized as, a relation between two chain of events, such that one is the resultant of the other.
To cite an instance, consider the following-

a) Rain occurs by evaporation of water from the water bodies.
Here, rain is the effect, and evaporation is the cause.

b) Smoking causes cancer.
Here, smoking is the cause, and cancer is the effect.

c) All work and no play makes Jack a fat boy!
Here, no play is the cause, and fat is the effect.

So, by now, most of us are convinced that all phenomena are determined by the theory of 'cause and effect'. Think again!

This theory certainly has its limitations. Remind yourself about the famous paradox that startled us, at least for once in our lifetime; the paradox of the chicken and egg. Haven't you ever wondered as to which one came first? Whether it is the egg which resulted into a chicken or is it the hen which laid the egg? Paradox, unexplained.

Here comes the dead end from where the cause and effect theory can lead us no further, and this the point where we have two different concepts which help us understand the riddles of events and the probable cause(s), if any. These are called Determinism and Indeterminism. They are distinct concepts, and are the antithesis of each other.
Determinism vs. Indeterminism

All events are influenced by a set of causes that propelled the event to take place. These causes are a set of laws that pertain to nature, and are thus called the 'Laws of Nature', over which man has no control. These events also cover human actions, choices, and decisions. In essence, determinism rules out the chances or the possibility of free will or free pattern that may govern a set of events.As opposed to determinism, indeterminism supposes that all events are not brought into effect by predetermined factors. Some events take place in spontaneity; just randomly. These events are characterized as the ones which happen by chance. It advocates that some human actions, choices, and decisions are never influenced by existing factors, but are brought to pass without any causal circumstance.


As opposed to determinism, indeterminism supposes that all events are not brought into effect by predetermined factors. Some events take place in spontaneity; just randomly. These events are characterized as the ones which happen by chance. It advocates that some human actions, choices, and decisions are never influenced by existing factors, but are brought to pass without any causal circumstance.
In Psychology
Determinism in Psychology:

Psychology states that all human actions are in actuality, a result of the factors which are the causes, present in the human mind, and which in turn facilitate decisions. This is brought to pass by the influence of both, the environment in which the person belonged to, and also the genetics that he carried - which is nothing but the traits that he carried from his forefathers.

If a child exhibits violent behavior, the reason could be that he has carried over the genes from his parents or forefathers. it could be that either of his parents or his forefathers were violent in nature (genetics). The other reason could be that the child is exposed to violent programs on television, which he is simply imitating (environment).

Determinism in psychology can be observed in two facets - Oretic and Rational. According to the theory of oretic determinism, human actions are driven by the strongest desire or drive, though there could be present multiple desires in varying intensities existing simultaneously in the mind. Rational determinism postulates that every action is committed bearing in mind the strongest reason which has the strongest logic, or rationale, or reason.

Indeterminism in Psychology:

Indeterminism, in the parlance of psychology, holds that though human actions may be remotely influenced of minimal pre-existing notions in the (subconscious) mind, yet, the resultant decision (effect) is solely a reflection of one's own decision and free will. It holds free will at the helm. It is taken to be superior to everything; which includes one's notions, teachings that one has received, advice, and even motives. It goes by the principle that human behavior is unpredictable, and the actions of humans are determined by his/her own need of doing certain things in a certain way.

Two kids who go to school are never taught at their respective homes to fight against each other. But when they are in school, and have their eyes on the same ball that is lying on the ground. They could end up sharing it between themselves, or on the contrary, could end up fighting. Their action was determined by their own will to share or fight.
In Philosophy
Determinism in Philosophy:

Determinism in philosophy suggests that all events are actually the reflection of a previously occurred line of events. There is no suggestion of the absence of human influence in the occurrence of the events, but human actions are not the sole facilitators of the actions that happen in the way they happen. It goes by the simple philosophy that man can't predict or foresee the future. Hence he is no way able to decide the happenings of the events.

The Laws of Nature form the biggest testimony to this theory. Since inception, there are certain laws that govern all the happenings of the Earth or the Universe, per se.

Indeterminism in Philosophy:

Indeterminism negates this postulate, and says that there are no reasons which decide the happenings in the Universe. It totally adheres to the concept of chance, uncertainty, and spontaneity.

Aristotle and many other scientists put forth the argument that, accidents are not planned, they are not patterned to happen (unless deliberate). The factors which trigger them are not causes, because they are not designed to happen. They are mere accidents, which happened by chance. No one can predict the occurrence of an accident before it takes place.
In Literature
Literature doesn't beg to differ from the other branches of study in defining determinism and indeterminism. It beholds that determinism is pre-destined and uncontrolled. Indeterminism is impromptu, and not a conscious act. The following examples of both the concepts will aid us in better understanding.

Example of Determinism in Literature:

The stories which have left an indelible mark in our minds, such that of Macbeth and Oedipus Rex, hint at the essence of determinism, such that, the events in life are eventful because they were destined to be such. Macbeth never deemed to become the King, unless he came across the strange prophecy of the three witches who blatantly affirmed that one day Macbeth would definitely wear the King's crown. However hard Macbeth tried to shun the conspicuous thought, he was gradually giving in to it, and fueled by his malicious wife, ultimately chose to betray the King and instead wear the crown.

Take another instance of Oedipus Rex, where Oedipus tried with all his might to falsify the prophesy of the priestess, but instead was entangled in the circumstances in such a way that he ended up murdering his own father, and also married his own mother, unknowingly. His aversion to bring to pass the prophesy didn't help him at all, and he ended up being just a victim of the prophesy.

Example of Indeterminism in Literature:

Hamlet is a calculated narration of the revenge that Hamlet takes on his uncle Claudius, for killing his father and marrying his mother. Hamlet plots and plans to bring Claudius to dust, and thus, accomplished his planned revenge.

This is not all. How can we forget the Iliad; revenge is the purpose, and all actions are maneuvered to attain revenge.
This was all about the contradicting phenomena of determinism and indeterminism. Life would have been simply a series of predictions and monotony, had there not been contradictory eventualities. The debate about the purpose of contradictory phenomena and their mutual existence is never-ending. But the fact still remains that, they are there, and they affect the Iniverse in myriad ways.