If fatalism is true...

Fatalism is the view that whatever happens is unavoidable. When people say they believe in fate or destiny, they are not necessarily expressing fatalism. They may apply the concept of fate only to things that are important to them, such as love, career, and health, but not to mundane things like what to eat for breakfast. It is not clear that this selective concept of fate is even coherent.

If fatalism is true, then everything that happens is unavoidable. I find fatalism extremely hard to accept; even if there was a forceful argument for fatalism, I am not sure I would be able to accept its conclusion, that is, accept that everything that happens is unavoidable. Accepting fatalism would mean to me the loss of motivations to plan for and strive to achieve anything.

Richard Taylor thinks, however, that fatalism should imply "the attitude of calm acceptance":

And this is a comfort, both in fortune and in adversity. We shall say of him who turns out bad and mean that he was going to; of him who turns out happy and blessed that he was going to: neither praising nor berating fortune, crying over what has been, lamenting what was going to be, or passing moral judgments.

Then he goes on to ask this:

Shall we, then, sit idly by, passively observing the changing scene without participation, never testing our strength and our goodness, having no hand in what happens, or in making things come out as they should?

And his answer is:

This is a question for which each will find his own answer.

This answer can be understood fatalistically: Our attitude towards fatalism is also fated and unavoidable!


  1. Does fatalist only see fate in the past, when things happened and concluded? How can we see fate in the future?

    The thought of “Our attitude towards fatalism is also fated and unavoidable!” is horrible and sorrowful enough, for one is not the master of oneself. So when I’m writing this sentence I’m not writing on behalf of myself but fate. Wow……that’s too bad!

  2. Fatalists believe that everything that happens---past, present, and future---is unavoidable.

    I'd better not show you any argument for fatalism!

  3. just because it was fated to happen, does not mean your motivation was not part of it.

    it sounds too over arching to be a testable theory

    sorry, i'm a science student.


  4. Student of Philosophy and TheologySeptember 14, 2011 at 4:02 AM

    Hi dream夢兒

    Fatalism actually holds that beliefs, desires, and motivation are impotent and that they have absolutely no power in determining the future. If something is fated to happen, it will happen regardless of ANYTHING you think feel or do.

    I think you are getting confused with Determinism, which implies that yes the future is determined, but our beliefs, desires and motivations DO play a part in determinig the future.

    This is an essential difference between Fatalism and Determinism which a lot of people tend to mix up.

    If you struggle to understand this please refer to

    Sober, E. Core Questions of Philosophy 5th ed.
    In chapter 24 on page 302 you will find this explained in more detail.

    Good luck with your future studies!