I was pondering for a while on determinism and had a hard time explaining how we living things are seemingly able to change our surroundings by force of will. Inanimate object can change their environment but their actions are defined purely by the laws of physics (for instance, flowing lava burns the ground but that's just what physical law determines it must do).

Living seem to do things differently, but tonight it hit me that they cannot. There can be nothing that comes out of living or non-living things in of themselves, otherwise these things (actions) would be appearing out of nowhere. Therefore the conclusion is that living or nonliving things are all just forces of nature. Our behavior might be more complicated than water running or rocks falling but it's all the same. From the frame of physical determinism, there cannot be any action that comes out of me that I would be the source of. So I must be a force of nature.

What argument could be made against this, assuming physicalist determinism?

  • It's not clear what you're asking. Are you asking what arguments have been made against your statement from within the frame of determinism, or by any school of thought? If the latter, you might need to both re-word your question and narrow it down to a particular school you're interested in. As it stands, absolutely any argument "could" be made against your statement, so you'll need to define the parameters of the arguments you're anticipating before anyone can really respond.
    – user22791
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 7:47
  • @Isaacson Hi Isacson only determinism... Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 10:32

4 Answers 4


Recall that forces are just mathematical structures that we have created as a convenience to help explain the behavior of the world around us; they do not define the behaviour of the world around us, but merely define the behaviour of a model which we apply to the world around us.

Hence you are not "a force of nature", but there are useful models within which you are represented as a "force of nature".


The argument against this from within determinism is known as Compatibilism. It's not strictly saying that our actions are not determined by physical laws alone, but that the fact they do not seem to us to be is significant. So, in your example, what makes a person's impact on the environment different from that of lava, is that we are aware of the other possible options, notwithstanding the fact that physical factors within our brains determine which of those possibilities we are going to choose.


Yes,You are a unique vital force living in this nature. When your body destroys after death, you will not get destroyed, but you will get into another body(not necessarily to be a human body) by the arrangement of nature.

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  • How is it different to electron habing a need for positive charge? Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 11:52

It is very unlikely that you are "just a force of nature." The reason being, is that you have needs. Your needs are the "driving force" that causes you to "make/take actions". Therefore, there are actions that come out of you, and you are the source.

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