It seems that determinism has gained tremendously in terms of being accepted as a general theory of everything by a large number of people. Books like The Selfish Gene and Guns, Germs, and Steel have done a lot to push the cause forward to the public imagination.

I however am deeply sceptical about its validity and in some cases even its use, mainly in the areas of social theory and history.

Can anyone suggest any good resources (books, articles etc.) that counters this view, especially in the real of history?

  • Maybe interesting Harm de Blij's books, like e.g. The Power of Place : Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape (2008) : he is a geographer. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 9 '18 at 14:29
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    "Geographic determinism", as you use it, confuses two different things. The 19th century idea of geography being largely determinative of human culture and history is disavowed by neo-"determinists" like Diamond. What they do assert is much harder to deny, that climate, terrain, etc., have some influence on human practices. A major critique is Neo-Environmental Determinism by Guss and Meyer. – Conifold May 9 '18 at 22:35
  • @Conifold Thanks but it does not offer what I need. The article you attached does not disavows GD, it simply states that history is more complicated than that. The other seems to largely agree. I am looking at something that shows how culture and environment are form such a feedback loop that one cannot privilege the other without committing a scientific error. – Mike M May 10 '18 at 14:42
  • That is one of Guss-Meyer's points, e.g. "Poverty greatly increases vulnerability to extreme natural events and is plausibly much more the cause of the disparity in impact than its effect", p.69. They also describe many other problems with geographic determinism beyond its base/superstructure scheme, such as circular reasoning, neglected confounders, selective correlating, etc. Their critique is quite severe. And they have extensive references to multiple other critics, including Blaut, the "most incisive critic of neo-determinism". – Conifold May 11 '18 at 20:43
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    This sounds closest to Aristotle's distinction between material and final causes, which he motivated by the process of art creation. – Conifold May 17 '18 at 17:51

Perhaps I'm not reading your question in the correct context, but one theory against determinism would be "human action".

So basically it's Free Will vs. Determinism

Do changes in the material conditions of life determine change? OR Does human action create and change the material conditions of life?

This might be more in the realm of anthropology than philosophy. Is this what you were looking for?

  • Yes, this is more or less it. What resources would you suggest? – Mike M May 12 '18 at 7:45

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