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Nially_Bob's avatar

Do you believe there are or have been occurrances in this world that are/were inevitable?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3841 points ) April 12th, 2009

Amongst my studies of philosophy determinism, be it theological or otherwise, has always been particularly fascinating to me. It being true would imply that the concept of ‘random happenings’ is but an illusion which I, of mere human mind and body, personally find difficult to comprehend. The world that surrounds us can seem so uncontrollable; lacking pattern or sophistication, yet when analysed this complex chaos is often converted into simplistic scripture and algorithm with relative ease. Was ‘WWII’ unavoidable? What if Adolf Hitler were accepted into art school and consequently chose to lead his life differently? Was this also plausible? Were there googolplexes of events and actions which, when combined and bonded, could only reach one conclusion? That Adolf would be the driving force behind an event of such magnitude.
Ladies, gentlemen, and otherwise, I request your thoughts on this curious thesis. Are there or have there been occurrances in this world that are/were inevitable?

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23 Answers

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Tangent_J's avatar

I think most things seem random at the time, because I feel most people can’t see beyond their own small piece of the world. But when we look back with our 20/20 hindsight, the connections and inevitabilities are clear. I think those connections don’t show themselves until it is too late (be it for good or bad).

Zen's avatar

What the mods removed was that I’d said that this question was inevitable. Not mean-spirited, but rather that everything has been asked and explored, but it is nice to come back to certain questions from time to time.

I don’t, however, like questions that include: Was ‘WWII’ unavoidable? What if Adolf Hitler were accepted into art school and consequently chose to lead his life differently?

I have a problem with it, even if you are a philosophy student.

Just my opinion.

Willing to debate or discuss.

upholstry's avatar

I find this question very interesting, but I can’t really give you an answer.

One flaw in the formation of your question is in the assumption that a world leader, Hitler, Stalin, Bush, Obama, etc, are driving forces behind their respective movements. There are so many people behind their rise to power and who give their power legitimacy through their support, that it makes me wonder, if it had not been them, whether someone else would have taken their place.

As for determinism, it’s easy to see the movements of large crowds to be deterministic, but it’s more difficult to assume that the decisions of single people were ‘in the cards’. For example, the decision of the 2000 election came down to the Supreme Court and we now know how much of history rested on that decision.

20th century philosophers often ask whether a question even makes sense to ask (Wittgenstein?). I wonder if ‘what if A had happened instead of B’ even makes sense.

Qingu's avatar

It’s interesting that the animal eye has evolved independently 40 different times.

Was it “inevitable” that the eye would evolve? It seems like the universe is structured in such a way that the progression of evolution seems to filter towards eyes. I imagine human history works the same way. Someone would have eventually discovered fire and invented the wheel and plumbing and computers. The universe is structured such that these ideas are advantageous and reality will tend towards their development.

—That said, strictly speaking, I think everything is inevitable, since its all just fermions and bosons doing what they must do. Our brains and our thoughts and actions are all made of fermions and bosons. Free will strikes me as very similar to our sensation of touching things. Physically, we don’t actually make contact with anything we touch—solid objects are mostly empty space, and the feeling of “touch” is actually electromagnetic repulsion. But on another level of reality, our brains simulate that electromagnetic repulsion as the sensory experience of touch. Similarly, our brains simulate the electrochemical processes inside themselves as choice, consciousness, or free will. It’s not really an illusion, so much as another layer of reality. Touch and free will/consciousness are emergent entities—they emerge from the sum of their parts, much like a “flock” emerges from a group of birds.

upholstry's avatar

Schrodinger’s Cat is something else to look at when thinking of determinism on a very small scale.

bea2345's avatar

It is only with hindsight that we see the connections that make happenings inevitable. Foresight is being able to see some, and even most of the important connections and thus being able to influence what happens. This only works up to a point. Schrodinger’s cat may be dead, but if it belongs to the Professor’s only, and much loved, daughter, she is likely to behave as if the cat is still alive and insist that Kitty be taken out of the box. Her reality is different from that of the experimenter, but it is equally legitimate. An external event, not anticipated, can bring an abrupt end to the experiment.

ninjacolin's avatar

determinism? sounds crazy to me!

Nially_Bob's avatar

@Zen I cannot understand why a moderator would choose to delete such a comment (unless you mentioned something regarding you sleeping with my mother being pre-determined). I am aware this question has been asked multiple times, myself having participated in the debate and discussion that follows on many occasions but as I stated at the beginning of my sub-text I have always found determinism to be a particularly fascinating branch of philosophy and so am constantly attracted to the belief that there may be something I have overlooked in my revision of it. I suppose in many ways you are correct, the events that have led to my attaining a fascination in this subject has likely causes this question being asked to be pre-determined.
What issue do you take with my WWII related example? I am not a philosophy student but thought it to be a rather fitting illustration given the context. I know that Hitler was not the sole cause of WWII (so perhaps the term ‘driving force’ was best put aside) but I do believe him to have been one of the primary means by which said war was ‘fuelled’.
@upholstry If you would kindly read my reply to Zen above I have explained my position on the ‘Hitler example’. It would seem I could have utilised a more apt example and shall take this into consideration in the future.
Why would “what if A happened instead of B” make no sense may I inquire?
I have always found Schrodinger’s cat to be a very useful and flexible illustration of philosophy (amongst other studies). A basic idea applied to a great deal of ideologies, the mark of an intelligent creature no?
@Tangent_J @bea2345 Agreed, it is generally only in hindsight that one can fully interpret and fathom the actions that led to an event. Bea, do you believe the hindsight of some and the accuracy of said hindsight is also inevitable?
@Qingu Interesting opinion and one I am finding myself concurring with for the most part. Do you believe that there are ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’ levels of reality or merely those which we are in and those we are not? Also regarding your mention of the discovery of fire and the wheel, do you believe humans and perhaps the reality we typically live within is directed solely by logic?
@ninjacolin What has influenced you to gain this opinion of determinism?

Qingu's avatar

@Nially_Bob, I don’t think I’d call layers of reality superior or inferior to one another. Look at the difference between physics and biology, for example. Physics deals with the underlying forces of matter and energy. Biology deals with organisms, which are vast structures composed of matter and energy. You can do physics without knowing much about biology, and vica-versa.

I would say physics is more fundamental than biology, but that doesn’t necessarily make it superior. Similarly, a brain surgeon might be familiar with the underlying mechanics (some of them) of how the brain functions. That doesn’t make his work “superior” to a psychologist, who studies the consciousness that emerges from those functions. I think all “layers” of reality can teach us important things.

I don’t think humans or our reality is directed solely by logic at all. Our brains are still ruled largely by emotion and magical thinking. It just so happens that the stuff we do stumble upon that tends to work better also tends to be logical.

Zen's avatar

I like where @Qingu is coming from. I take no exception, in any of the discussions put forth, for the simple reason that it is all inevitible, and yet, unpredictible. Which is what makes life beautiful. It’s called the road not taken, and I won’t go into detail. Those who know, know. Those who don’t, google.

And those who have googled, well, enjoy your youth.

:-)

ninjacolin's avatar

@Nially_Bob nothing has influenced my opinion. i’ve freely decided that that is what my opinion will be.
nice try though ;)

bea2345's avatar

@Nially_Bob do you believe the hindsight of some and the accuracy of said hindsight is also inevitable? No, nothing, from our point of view, is really inevitable because we don’t, and can’t, know every thing that led to this particular event. Determinism is only true to the very limited degree that we can perceive the environment. Hence my lighthearted comment on Schrodinger’s cat. Hindsight tells us a great deal, but not everything. Were Nazism, Hitler and WWII inevitable? How can we tell? Given what we know now, the answer might be a hesitating, “Yes”.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@ninjacolin shakes fist I’ll get you next time Ninjacoliiiiiin!

Bluefreedom's avatar

I found the following definitions of two recognized versions of history. To answer your question, yes, I believe some things in history have been inevitable and not scripted like those which could be found under the Accidental View of history. But, I also have suspicions that other things have happened due to manipulation of world events by very powerful people and entities which would be covered by the Conspiratorial View of history. (And no, I’m not a conspiracy theory nut either)

Accidental History
In the catastrophic or accidental view of history we are led to believe that historical events, such as wars and revolutions were the direct result of some sudden or surprising event. While the catastrophic view is accurate for weather, volcanoes and earthquakes, it does not always provide a realistic view of humanity and events influenced by man.

Young, malleable American and other Western minds are sadly taught the Accidental view of history in the government school systems. This view is reinforced throughout their lives by the controlled mass media. As a result, when most discover the Conspiratorial View of History, the immediate reaction is shock, disbelief and a refusal to accept something other than they’ve been taught to believe.

Conspiratorial History
Conspiratorial history studies that part of history that is a product of man’s planning. In conspiratorial history we are led to believe that events, such as wars and revolutions, are the result of planned events. While the conspiratorial view is not accurate for weather, volcanoes and earthquakes, it is a realistic and accurate view of the interrelationship of man and nations. Since the planning for most of these events was done in secret, we use the term conspiratorial history. That is; this history is the result of plans constructed in secret, which by definition is a conspiracy.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Nially_Bob lol, i’m actually just playing devil’s advocate. i’m a hardcore determinist who thinks he can prove it. however, i’m interested in seeing if i can defend the libertarian position. i think it’s impossible though. if nothing influenced my opinion, then where did it come from? doesn’t make sense to me and if you had pressed me for it, i don’t know how i would’ve responded.

Jeruba's avatar

In the sense that things happen by cause and effect, you might say that things are inevitable, which of course means unavoidable (unable to be averted or prevented). But a different cause has a different effect.

fundevogel's avatar

@ninjacolin tsk tsk, I would have expected you to know better than to think a world without determinism could only be a world without causal relationships.

since I’ve been telling you that for days.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol, i didn’t ever get that idea from our conversation, lady.

^^ Jeruba’s explanation makes sense to me.

fundevogel's avatar

It’s a function of the Copenhagen Interpretation.

“the Copenhagen understanding are willing to say that a wave function involves the various probabilities that a given event will proceed to certain different outcomes. But when one or another of those more- or less-likely outcomes becomes manifest the other probabilities cease to have any function in the real world. So if an electron passes through a double slit apparatus there are various probabilities for where on the detection screen that individual electron will hit. But once it has hit, there is no longer any probability whatsoever that it will hit somewhere else.”

I’m sorry I didn’t take our conversation down to the electron level.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@ninjacolin I see, if you wish to play Devil’s advocate I would suggest creating a counter-argument rather than referring to the matter as ‘crazy’ as I assumed you to only be passing the discussion rather than wanting to participate, note my reply. My apologies for the mistake :)
@fundevogel I was unaware such an interpretation had a formal title. Thank you for this insight my friend.

Shuttle128's avatar

Being a determinist myself, I believe that all things are inevitable. It’s all just the propagation of matter, energy, and information propagating through time based on the underlying principles of the Universe. Whether the future can be predicted or not doesn’t change the fact that the Universe is based on rules that matter, energy, and information follow.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, it is what it is, until it isn’t.

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