What is fatalism? What is determinism?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
Let's begin with some general definitions of fatalism and determinism and some related terms: Determinism: The view that every event has a cause and that everything in the universe is absolutely de...

July 01 2013 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
I will attempt to give a treatment of fatalism and determinism below - but as there are many philosophies influencing them and coming out of them, it is hard for any summary to cover them completely. Also, it is easy to misunderstand beliefs and engage in strawman arguments (attacking a limited personal understanding of someone else's belief rather than their own true philosophies) - so understand that the below is just an overview, and not an evaluation. All philosophies of man are understandably limited.

Fatalism is the philosophical belief that all events are predetermined, and therefore inevitable. For some the agent predetermining is the gods, or God. For others, it's fate, or its the casual rules of the universe. Several main ideas stem out of this, creating further classes of fatalism.

[While a pessimistic, defeatist attitude about things being inevitable (If it is unavoidable, why stress or worry trying to change it?), or a passive acceptance ('what will be will be' sort of thing) is often referred to as 'fatalism' as well, that is not the same as the philosophical definition of fatalism.]

Some scriptures that touch on various aspects (for or against) fatalism: (Matt 5:43-48, Deut 30:15-19, Ezek 18:21-23, Psalms 104:19, Isaiah 40:26, Acts 2:23)

Determinism is a subset of fatalistic thought. It holds that -all- events; events in nature, acts of will, social phenomena, even the psychological pattern of the mind; are caused by preceding causes, and that people have no real power to even make choices, let alone influence events. It can also believe that the 'preceding causes' were all predetermined, leading to an ultimate belief of the predestination of all things in time and space.

Determinism boils everything down to cause and effect. "All events whatsoever are to be understood as the necessary outcome of certain causes and so may be regarded as instances of laws” (Harvey, 1964, 69)

However, the above can be classified as 'pre-determinism' and is separate from 'adequate determinism' (the idea that most macroscopic things and events are predetermined via cause and effect, but that on the quantum level there may be uncertainty).

Theistic Determinism gives God the credit for predetermining everything or predetermining prior causes that will inevitably lead to predetermined effects.

'Soft Determinists'/Compatabalists hold to theistic determinism, but believe man's choices are also a 'cause' affecting the chain of events - although those choices are still predetermined by prior factors and causes/effects God sets.

Some scriptures on various aspects of deterministic thought, for or against: (Luke 15:18, John 5:40, John 7:17, Rev 22:17, Deut 27:12-13, Acts 17:31, Isaiah 5:5-15, Isaiah 44:28-45:4)

Indeterminism is the point that if there is even one failure on one point of determinism (such as, something is found that is not determined by a previous cause), then determinism (all events being predetermined) could not be true. It is not incompatible with ideas that the majority of things might be predetermined, that most physical, observable events (such as a snowstorm) can be traced back to specific factors, that macroscopic objects are determined to a large degree, or with 'adequate determinism'- it simply precludes strict determinism.

A classic example of this is Heisenburg's Indeterminacy principle (or 'uncertainty' principle) from quantum mechanics - (we can only know the exact position and the momentum of an atomic particle within certain limits). The 'Schrodinger's Cat' thought experiment is in the same vein.


July 26 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining