Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Fatalism is, roughly, the view that the future is already set and therefore, that human deliberation and actions are pointless because things have to be the way they have to be.

One ancient argument, called the idle argument, went like this:

Arguments like the above are usually rejected even by causal determinists, who may say that it may be determined that only a doctor can cure you. There are other examples that show clearly that human deliberation makes a big difference - a chess player who deliberates should usually be able to defeat one of equal strength who is only allowed a second per move.

Determinism should therefore not be mistaken for fatalism. Although determinists would accept that the future is in some sense set, they accept human actions as factors that will cause the future to take the shape that it will - even though those human actions are themselves determined, if they had been different, the future would also be different.

Arguments for fatalism, although rarely accepted, do have a bearing on discussions about the nature of truth. The logical argument for fatalism says that, if there will be a sea battle tomorrow, and someone says "there will be a sea battle tomorrow" then that sentence is true, even before the sea battle occurs. But given that the sentence is true, the sea battle could not fail to take place. This argument can be rejected by denying that predictions about the future have to be true or false when they are made - ie, rejecting bivalence for sentences about the future, though this is controversial.

Related to fatalism is the debate over whether the alleged omniscience of God is compatible with free will, or whether omniscience implies predestination and therefore fatalism.

External link