Is Existentialism Compatible With Determinism?


Vincent White

Existentialism and determinism are two philosophical theories that have garnered a lot of attention in the world of philosophy. The question of whether these two theories are compatible has been the subject of much debate among philosophers.

What is Existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical theory that focuses on individual freedom and choice. According to this theory, individuals are responsible for creating their own meaning and purpose in life. Existentialists believe that life has no inherent meaning or purpose, and it is up to each individual to find their own meaning in life.

What is Determinism?

Determinism, on the other hand, is a philosophical theory that states that all events, including human actions, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. In other words, determinists believe that everything that happens is predetermined by factors such as genetics and environment.

The Compatibility Debate

The question of whether existentialism and determinism are compatible has been a topic of much debate in philosophy. On one hand, existentialists argue that human beings have free will and are responsible for their own actions. They believe that individuals have the ability to make choices regardless of any external factors.

On the other hand, determinists argue that everything happens for a reason and our actions are predetermined by factors beyond our control. According to determinists, there is no such thing as free will since all events are interconnected.

Arguments Against Compatibility

Many philosophers argue against the compatibility of existentialism and determinism. They believe that if everything is predetermined by external factors, then individuals cannot be held responsible for their actions since they do not have free will.

Moreover, existentialists argue that if everything is predetermined then there can be no sense of personal responsibility or meaning in life. They believe that individuals must take responsibility for their own lives and create their own sense of purpose.

Arguments For Compatibility

Despite the arguments against compatibility, some philosophers argue that existentialism and determinism can coexist. They believe that while external factors may influence our choices, individuals still have the ability to make choices that are meaningful to them.

Moreover, some argue that determinism does not necessarily negate free will. They believe that while our actions may be influenced by external factors, we still have the ability to act freely and make choices.


In conclusion, the debate over whether existentialism and determinism are compatible is far from settled. While some philosophers argue for compatibility, others believe that the two theories cannot coexist. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide what they believe about free will and personal responsibility in life.