Fatalism v/s Determinism

Sourced in Ancient Greece, Fatalism is the belief that events are predestined and nothing can alter their course. Kazuo lshiguro wrote in Never Let Me Go, “Your life must now run the course that’s been set for it.”

Fatalism, the belief that some events are destined to occur regardless of whatever else might occur, originated with thinkers in ancient Greece. A wellknown example is the story of Oedipus from Sophocles’s ancient play Oedipus Rex (c. 429 BCE). In the play, Oedipus seeks revenge for the murder of his former king and his wife’s former husband, Laius, only to discover that Laius and his wife abandoned Oedipus as a child to escape an oracle that their son would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Yet, despite all their machinations, the prophecy had come true: Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother.

Fatalism is distinct from determinism. The latter is the view that every event is fully determined by prior events, that is, if some prior events had been different, later events would be different. Fatalism neither implies, nor is implied by, determinism.

The ancient Greek Stoic philosophy is often linked with fatalism, though it is unclear whether it is fatalistic or deterministic. Some Stoics suggested that the universe is organized according to a single divine purpose that will be realized irrespective of what humans intend. Others argued that perfect virtue is found through learning to be guided by nature and becoming free from passions. This emphasis on learning and becoming free suggests that some events are left to individual agents. Scholars debate whether this constitutes a conceptual problem for Stoicism or fatalism. Fatalism, especially in regard to moral attitudes and happiness, remains influential in contemporary thought, notably in military training.

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