I was wondering if determinism is claiming that every single event is predetermined or not. I say every single event isn't, but maybe major events are. Major events as in events that can only take place after a bunch of minor events take place over a long period of time. For example: whether or not I receive a college degree is determined by a bunch events that take place over 4 years of time. Many different deviations would have to occur to ultimately decide whether or not this changes the fact that I will receive it in the near future.

Since some events rely on sub-events to take place, the bigger picture may not be tampered with. For example, clicking the submit post button would require a bunch of computational processes to take place before other users are able to see this post. So minor events add up to make major events occur.

Are my statements relevant with the notion of determinism?

  • One difficulty here is what you mean by "determinism." You would need to specify the determinism advocated by some particular thinker for us to really be able to answer this question. One term thrown about is "complete determinism" which means every event is specifically determined. In some versions, this would mean directly determined by God or logos (reason).
    – virmaior
    Jul 18, 2015 at 2:49
  • One thing to consider as you explore the answers is the definition of "an event." Often we find events that we believed were clear and distinct actually contain many pieces, each of which has different causes. This can lead to curious cases where the larger event has a difficult causality to asertain. This is not contrary to determinism, but does point to the challenges faced in exploring it as a philosophy
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 20, 2015 at 4:01
  • As a related topic, see my answer here philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/31834/1547 Jan 30, 2016 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


Determinism is usually defined as the view that the state of the universe at a time can be completely determined by its state at previous times and laws of nature. Every single event fall into the scope of determinism thus defined.

What you have in mind is perhaps a supervenience of big events on small events: small events determine big events. Supervenience is a dependence relation that can be invoked in questions of reduction and emergence (for example: the beauty of a statue supervenes on--is fully determined by-- its physical constitution) but it's not called determinism.


Determinism means that every attribute of the universe at every instant of time is the product of all past states. So yes, everything about the universe at any given point of time is the way it is for specific reasons.


There are different kinds of determinism.

The one most closely associated with physical theory is that implicit in Newtons theory: knowing the position and velocitiy of a particle at a certain time tells us exactly it's motion in the future.

It's also implicit in maxwells theory of light.

It's this kind of determinism that is called classical.

Another kind of determinism is to consider the motion of a particle described in Epicurean physics; here a particle does not move in a straight line, but in a kind of 'drunken walk' (the Epicurian term is the clinamen); if this motion is on the surface of a table, say; then we can say it's been determined to that extent.

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