: a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws <explained behavior by the combination of an environmental and a genetic determinism>
In philosophy, the doctrine that all events, including human decisions, are completely determined by previously existing causes. The traditional free will problem arises from the question, Is moral responsibility consistent with the truth of determinism? Among those who believe it is not consistent, some, maintaining the truth of determinism, have concluded that no one is morally responsible for what he does (and therefore that punishment for criminal actions is unjustified); others, maintaining the reality of moral responsibility, have concluded that determinism is false. Those who believe that moral responsibility is consistent with determinism are known as compatibilists (seecompatibilism). Pierre-Simon Laplace is responsible for the classical formulation of determinism in the 18th century. For Laplace, the present state of the universe is the effect of its previous state and the cause of the state that follows it. If a mind, at any given moment, could know all the laws and all the forces operating in nature and the respective positions and momenta of all its components, it could thereby know with certainty the future and the past of every entity.