Skip to main content
Select Source:

Fatalism

FATALISM.

Fatalism is the thesis that whatever happens must happen. This is not to be confused with the completely innocuous idea that whatever happens, happens. Nor is fatalism to be conflated with the proposition that, necessarily, whatever happens happens, where this assertion simply expresses the tautologous nature of the prior innocuous idea. Fatalism is a substantive thesis that claims that the occurrence of every event or state of affairs is necessary.

Elucidation of this thesis requires the articulation of the fatalist's necessity; we must know what the "must" amounts to when the fatalist tells us that whatever happens must occur. Since fatalism is to some measure a term of art, there are not tight a priori restrictions about how the necessity used by the fatalist is to be understood. There is, however, one criterion for any acceptable definition. Fatalism has occupied thinkers for more than two millennia primarily because its truth appears to have the consequence that we lack the power (capability, capacity) to perform any actions other than those that we actually do perform. If we perform an act, which is a type of event, and this event is necessitated, then no other act could have occurred. And, if no other act could have occurred, then we have no power to bring about any act other than the one that we, in fact, produced. If fatalism is true, there are no alternative courses of action open to us and so the conception of ourselves as meaningful, free-willed agents who have the power to affect the constitution of the future is thoroughly compromised. Any account of fatalistic necessity worth the name needs to respect the prima facie tension between fatalism and autonomous behavior.

Virtually all philosophers construe fatalistic necessity as logical or conceptual. Steven Cahn is representative when he states that fatalism

is the thesis that the laws of logic alone [his italics] suffice to prove that no man has free will, suffice to prove that the only actions which a man can perform are the actions which he does, in fact, perform, and suffice to prove that a man can bring about only those events which do, in fact, occur and can prevent only those events which do not, in fact, occur. (p. 8)

Although logical construals of fatalistic necessity meet the minimal requirement of maintaining the prima facie antagonism between fatalism and the actions of autonomous persons, they unfairly caricature the nature of some arguments that all parties deem as fatalistic. If all fatalistic arguments are conceived as containing only statements of logical laws (i.e., tautologies) as premises, it is difficult to see both how any substantive thesis could evolve and how any disagreement about the truth of fatalism could be more than merely a verbal squabble. In fact, the sophisticated fatalistic arguments of Aristotle (384322 b.c.e.), Diodorus Cronus (d. c. 284 b.c.e.), and others demonstrate that there are implicit substantive, albeit controversial, assumptions concerning the nature of truth and time. Before examining these arguments, it is important that we distinguish between fatalism and determinism, two theses that are frequently conflated.

Fatalism and Determinism

Regardless of the exact articulation of fatalistic necessity that one accepts, virtually all agree that it should be distinguished from the necessity of determinism. This distinction is especially important since determinism can be legitimately characterized in precisely the same way as fatalism: whatever happens must happen. The necessity of determinism is causal or natural necessity; all events or states of affairs are causally determined by antecedent states of affairs and the laws of nature. Alternatively, determinism claims that it is logically necessary that given an antecedent state of the world and the laws of nature, a particular subsequent state of the world will occur. On the traditional conception of fatalism as a logical thesis, there is no reference to natural laws or causality. Presumably, logical fatalism can be true in the absence of any causality in the world.

Aristotle's Sea Battle

Aristotle's discussion in De interpretatione, book 9, gives rise to the following:

  1. There will be a sea battle on 1 January 3000 or there will not be a sea battle on 1 January 3000.
  2. If there will be a sea battle on 1 January 3000 then it was always true (it was always a fact that) there will be a sea battle on 1 January 3000; if there will not be a sea battle on 1 January 3000 then it was always true (it was always a fact that) that there will not be a sea battle on 1 January 3000.
  3. If it was always true that there will be a sea battle on 1 January 3000, then there was never a time at which anyone could prevent the sea battle; if it was always true that there will not be a sea battle on 1 January 3000, then there was never a time at which anyone could bring about the sea battle.
  4. Thus either no one, at any time, could prevent the sea battle or no one, at any time, could bring about the sea battle.
  5. Thus, either the occurrence of the sea battle is necessary or the nonoccurrence of the sea battle is necessary.
  6. The sea battle is merely an arbitrarily selected event.
  7. Therefore, all events are necessitated.
  8. Therefore, fatalism is true.

The necessity that this argument attaches to events is necessity of the past. That is, we are to think of our powerlessness to affect the constitution of the future as we conceive of our inability to affect the constitution of the past. Just as the past is now closed to us, so too is our future. Aristotle's radical solution was to deny that future contingent statements had truth values, and so, "there will be a sea battle" and "there will not be a sea battle" were both neither true nor false. Contemporary times have produced other reactions to the argument. Some have questioned the meaningfulness of tensing truth, of the significance of speaking of truths holding at certain times. Others have suggested that we are not powerless to affect the truth-value of some claims about the past because some of these claims represent "soft facts" and are, in part, claims about the future. The question then becomes whether a statement to the effect that it was always true that a sea battle will occur on 1 January 3000 represents a soft fact. It should be clear that a robust discussion of Aristotle's argument requires investigating foundational claims about the nature of truth and time.

Theological Fatalism

Traditional Judeo-Christian theology considers God to have omniscient infallible foreknowledge and ubiquitous providence. If God knows all that will happen in a manner that cannot be mistaken, it is difficult to understand how any event can occur differently than it actually does. And, if no event can occur differently, it appears that there are no alternative courses of action that are open to us. We seem to be impotent concerning the constitution of the future. Additionally if everything that occurs is under the control of God's will, then it appears as if every event is divinely determined and so, once again, it appears as though we do not have the power to act otherwise than we actually do.

There have been three major types of response. The Boethian solution is to conceive of God as an atemporal being, one whose beliefs and will do not occur in time. The second approach is Ockhamism, which suggests that facts about God's past beliefs (and will) are soft facts and so should not be endowed with a type of necessity of the past that precludes autonomous action. The Molinist, or "middle knowledge" solution, attempts to find space for autonomy by suggesting that God knows the contingent future by knowing "counterfactuals of freedom," statements that describe what actions persons would freely perform in every possible situation. Using this knowledge, God then creates (wills) the future.

See also Autonomy ; Determinism ; Free Will, Determinism, and Predestination ; Responsibility .

bibliography

Bernstein, Mark H. Fatalism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.

. "Fatalism." In The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. Edited by Robert Kane, pp. 6584. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Cahn, Steven M. Fate, Logic, and Time. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1967.

White, Michael. Agency and Integrality: Philosophical Themes in the Ancient Discussions of Determinism and Responsibility. Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel, 1985.

Zagzebski, Linda. The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Mark H. Bernstein

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fatalism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fatalism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

"Fatalism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

fatalism

fatalism A system of beliefs which holds that everything has its appointed outcome, that this cannot be avoided by effort or foreknowledge, and must merely be accepted as an unavoidable fact of life. The phenomenon has been somewhat neglected by sociologists, although fatalism is often identified as a characteristic of poverty, chronic illness, and unemployment. Thus, for example, Oscar Lewis maintains that it is a central characteristic of the ‘culture of poverty’ (see The Children of Sanchez, 1961
). Similarly, in her discussion of ‘the passive worker thesis’ (the idea that women are generally more stable, passive, and fundamentally exploitable workers than men), Kate Purcell argues that women's behaviour at work is informed by ‘a fatalistic approach to life’, fostered by gender socialization and women's biology, and reinforced particularly by women manual workers' work and class circumstances (‘Female Manual Workers, Fatalism and the Reinforcement of Inequalities’, in David Robbins ( ed.) , Rethinking Social Inequality, 1982)
.

In his study of Suicide (1897), Émile Durkheim defines fatalistic suicide (as in the case of suicides committed by slaves) in terms of excessive regulation of the wants of individuals, a situation in which the future is ‘pitilessly blocked and passions violently choked by oppressive discipline’. Hope is diminished to the extent that even life itself becomes a matter of indifference. In an extension of the Durkheimian discussion, David Lockwood (Solidarity and Schism, 1992) suggests that fatalism is a matter of degree, and can result from either ‘physical or moral despotism’; that is, from force of circumstances such as the condition of slavery, or the constraints imposed by a system of explicitly fatalistic beliefs such as those embraced by the Hindu doctrine of karma–samsara–moksha. Fatalism grounded in a specifically fatalistic ideology (such as Hindu soteriology) engenders an ethical commitment. By comparison the existential fatalism induced by slavery is grounded primarily in ritual rather than beliefs, and the subordinate strata do not approve of their condition but judge it merely to be unalterable. In both cases, however, ‘what is especially conducive to a fatalistic attitude is not so much the degree of oppressive discipline involved, but rather the fact that social constraint is experienced as an external, inevitable and impersonal condition’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fatalism." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fatalism." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

"fatalism." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

FATE (Magazine)

FATE (Magazine)

Preeminent American journal devoted to articles and true stories of the strange and unknown. It was originally launched by Raymond A. Palmer and Curtis Fuller in the spring of 1948. Previously both had worked for Ziff-Davis, a Chicago-based publishing company that was in the process of moving to New York. Palmer and Fuller decided to stay in the Midwest. Palmer had concluded from his prior publishing experience that there was a market for a magazine offering true stories of mysterious occurrences. The first issue featured the story of Kenneth Arnold's UFO sightings and FATE regularly thereafter carried UFO stories.

In 1955, after Palmer had moved to Amherst, Wisconsin, and started a second magazine, Mystic, Fuller bought his share of the publication and became sole owner. He published and edited the magazine until 1966, when Mary Margaret Fuller became the editor. She was succeeded by Jerome Clark in 1988. FATE emerged as a unique publication. On the one hand it promoted, through its very existence, all areas of inquiry on matters psychic, occult, and Fortean. It also became known for its large advertisement section covering a wide range of occult and other curious publications and services representative of the contemporary scene. At the same time, FATE took the lead in exposing hoaxes and printing articles presenting evidence of mundane explanations of supposed mysterious phenomena.

In 1989 Fuller relinquished FATE to its present owner, Carl L. Weschcke. Address: P.O. Box 64383, St. Paul, MN 55164-0383. FATE Magazine is also online at http://www.llewellyn.com/fate/ where back issues are also available.

Sources:

Clark, Jerome. The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959. Vol. 2. of The UFO Encyclopedia. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.

. Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Phenomena. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.

FATE Magazine. http://www.llewellyn.com/fate/. March 8, 2000.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"FATE (Magazine)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"FATE (Magazine)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fate-magazine

"FATE (Magazine)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fate-magazine

Fate

253. Fate (See also Chance.)

  1. Adrastea goddess of inevitable fate. [Gk. Myth.: Jobes, 35]
  2. Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis the three Fates; worked the thread of life. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Bulfinch]
  3. Bridge of San Luis Rey, The catastrophe as act of divine providence. [Am. Lit.: The Bridge of San Luis Rey ]
  4. dance of death, the recurring motif in medieval art. [Eur. Culture: Bishop, 363367]
  5. Destiny goddess of destiny of mankind. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 78]
  6. Fates three goddesses who spin, measure out, and cut the thread of each humans life. Also called Lat. Parcae, Gk. Moirai. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 757]
  7. Jennie Gerhardt novel of young girl trapped by lifes circumstances (1911). [Am. Lit.: Jennie Gerhardt, Magill III, 526528]
  8. karma ones every action brings inevitable results. [Buddhist and Hindu Trad.: EB (1963), 13: 283; Pop. Culture: Misc.]
  9. kismet alludes to the part of life assigned one by his destiny. [Moslem Trad.: EB (1963), 13: 418; Pop. Culture: Misc.]
  10. Leonora cursed by father; stabbed by brother. [Ital. Opera: Verdi, La Forza del Destino, Westerman, 316317]
  11. Meleager death would come when firebrand burned up. [Gk. Myth.: Walsh Classical, 186]
  12. Moirai see Fates.
  13. Necessitas goddess of the destiny of mankind. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 78, 162]
  14. Nemesis goddess of vengeance and retribution; nemesis has come to mean that which one cannot achieve. [Gr. Myth.: WB, 14: 116; Pop. Culture: Misc.]
  15. Norns wove the fabric of human destiny. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 720]
  16. Parcae see Fates.
  17. wool and narcissi, garland of emblem of the three Fates. [Gk. Myth.: Jobes, 374]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fate." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fate." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

"Fate." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

fate

fate / fāt/ • n. 1. the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power: his injury is a cruel twist of fate. ∎  the course of someone's life, or the outcome of a particular situation for someone or something, seen as beyond their control: he suffered the same fate as his companion. ∎  the inescapable death of a person: the guards led her to her fate. 2. (the Fates) Greek & Roman Mythol. the three goddesses who preside over the birth and life of humans. • v. (be fated) be destined to happen, turn out, or act in a particular way. PHRASES: seal someone's fate make it inevitable that something unpleasant will happen to someone. ORIGIN: late Middle English: from Italian fato or Old French fator (later) from their source, Latin fatum ‘that which has been spoken,’ from fari ‘speak.’

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fate." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fate." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-1

"fate." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-1

fatalism

fa·tal·ism / ˈfātlˌizəm/ • n. the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. ∎  a submissive attitude to events, resulting from such a belief. DERIVATIVES: fa·tal·ist n. fa·tal·is·tic / ˌfātlˈistik/ adj. fa·tal·is·ti·cal·ly adv.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fatalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fatalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

"fatalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fatalism

fate

fate a fate worse than death rape; the term is recorded from the early 19th century, although earlier in the mid 17th century Dorothy Osborne in a letter refers to ‘the Roman courage, when they killed themselves to avoid misfortunes that were infinitely worse than death’.
seal someone's fate make it inevitable that something unpleasant will happen to someone.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fate." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fate." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

"fate." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

fate

fate predetermination of events; predestined lot XIV; destiny (spec. fatal end), goddess of destiny XV. Not common before XVI. Orig. — It. fato, later — its source L. fātum, sb. use of n. pp. of fārī speak (cf. FAME).
Hence fateful XVIII.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-2

"fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-2

Fate

Fate ( Janáček). See Osud.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

"Fate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate

fate

fateabate, ablate, aerate, ait, await, backdate, bait, bate, berate, castrate, collate, conflate, crate, create, cremate, date, deflate, dictate, dilate, distraite, donate, downstate, eight, elate, equate, estate, fate, fellate, fête, fixate, freight, frustrate, gait, gate, gestate, gradate, grate, great, gyrate, hate, hydrate, inflate, innate, interrelate, interstate, irate, Kate, Kuwait, lactate, late, locate, lustrate, mandate, mate, migrate, misdate, misstate, mistranslate, mutate, narrate, negate, notate, orate, ornate, Pate, placate, plate, prate, prorate, prostrate, pulsate, pupate, quadrate, rate, rotate, sate, sedate, serrate, short weight, skate, slate, spate, spectate, spruit, stagnate, state, straight, strait, Tate, tête-à-tête, Thwaite, translate, translocate, transmigrate, truncate, underrate, understate, underweight, update, uprate, upstate, up-to-date, vacate, vibrate, wait, weight

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"fate." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"fate." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-0

"fate." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fate-0