Ethical Determinism: An Overview

Since the dawn of recorded philosophical history, ethical determinism has been a topic of debate. Ethical determinism is a philosophical position that asserts that all behavior is determined by factors outside of an individual’s control, such as genetic and environmental influences. This article will discuss ethical determinism, its implications, and the arguments for and against it.


Ethical determinism is the belief that all behavior is determined by factors outside of an individual’s control. This includes physical and biological determinants, as well as the influence of environmental factors. Ethical determinism posits that individuals have no free will when it comes to their behavior, as it is predetermined by these external forces.

Arguments for Ethical Determinism

Proponents of ethical determinism argue that it explains why individuals behave in certain ways, even in the face of contrary evidence. They argue that individuals do not have the ability to choose how they will act, as their behavior is pre-determined by outside forces. This can explain why individuals may commit immoral or unethical acts, even when they know that the consequences of their actions will be negative.

Arguments Against Ethical Determinism

Opponents of ethical determinism argue that it does not account for the complexity of human behavior. They argue that individuals have the capacity to make choices and that there is no single factor that determines behavior. They also argue that ethical determinism fails to take into account the influence of an individual’s moral beliefs and values, which can influence behavior.


The implications of ethical determinism are far-reaching. If ethical determinism is true, then it could have implications for criminal justice systems, as individuals may not be responsible for their actions if they are predetermined by outside forces. It could also have implications for education, as educators may need to take into account the influence of external factors on student behavior.


In conclusion, ethical determinism is a complex topic that has been debated for centuries. It posits that all behavior is predetermined by external factors, and has implications for criminal justice systems, education, and other areas of life. In the end, it is up to each individual to make their own decision about whether or not ethical determinism is true.


Berkowitz, S. (2014). Ethical determinism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Honderich, T. (1995). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford University Press.

Kane, R. (1996). The signifance of free will. Oxford University Press.

O’Connor, T. (2005). Libertarianism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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