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Determinism is the belief that every action is the sum of causes and that given those causes it is impossible that the event could not occur It was a belief held in varying degrees by Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679 David Hume 1711-1776 and John Stuart Mill 1806-1873 The central tenets of determinism can be understood from the following example If I invite a friend who is vegetarian round to dinner and give them a choice between a meat dish and a vegetarian dish and they choose the latter was their choice a free choice or determined one In one sense it was a free choice as no-one forced them to choose a vegetarian dish Yet in another given the immediate facts they were never going to choose a meat dish If they had done so it would have been because they had changed their views about vegetarianism However had I known this I could have predicted they might have gone for the meat dish Either way their behaviour although exhibiting freedom of choice was determined by other causes Even if they were not vegetarian and had a choice between both dishes they would still not be making a completely free choice If they chose meat it may have been because their taste buds were motivated by thoughts of eating meat which may also have been stimulated by a cookery programe they had seen some time ago and this led them to pick that dish Or it may be that they had not eaten meat for a while and missed it Either way their choice is being determined by a range of other causes which if we had access to would theoretically allow us to predict what they would choose to eat for dinner Now we need to make clear here the distinction between fatalism and determinism Fatalists say that whatever happens is bound to happen no matter what one does but determinists argue that things
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