1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Accidentalism

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ACCIDENTALISM, a term used (1) in philosophy for any system of thought which denies the causal nexus and maintains that events succeed one another haphazard or by chance (not in the mathematical but in the popular sense). In metaphysics, accidentalism denies the doctrine that everything occurs or results from a definite cause. In this connexion it is synonymous with Tychism (τύχη, chance), a term used by C. S. Peirce for the theories which make chance an objective factor in the process of the Universe. Opponents of this accidentalism maintain that what seems to be the result of chance is in reality due to a cause or causes which, owing to the lack of imagination, knowledge or scientific instruments, we are unable to detect. In ethics the term is used, like indeterminism, to denote the theory that mental change cannot always be ascribed to previously ascertained psychological states, and that volition is not causally related to the motives involved. An example of this theory is the doctrine of the liberum arbitrium indifferentiae ("liberty of indifference"), according to which the choice of two or more alternative possibilities is affected neither by contemporaneous data of an ethical or prudential kind nor by crystallized habit (character). (2) In painting, the term is used for the effect produced by accidental lights (Ruskin, Modern Painters, I. II. 4, iii. § 4, 287). (3) In medicine, it stands for the hypothesis that disease is only an accidental modification of the healthy condition, and can, therefore, be avoided by modifying external conditions.