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Fatalism

FATALISM (Lat. fatum, that which is spoken, decreed), strictly the doctrine that all things happen according to a prearranged fate, necessity or inexorable decree. It has frequently been confused with determinism (q.v.), which, however, differs from it categorically in assigning a certain function to the will. The essence of the fatalistic doctrine is that it assigns no place at all to the initiative of the individual, or to rational sequence of events. Thus an oriental may believe that he is fated to die on a particular day; he believes that, whatever he does and in spite of all precautions he may take, nothing can avert the disaster. The idea of an omnipotent fate overruling all affairs of men is present in various forms in practically all religious systems. Thus Homer assumes a single fate , an impersonal power which makes all human concerns subject to the gods: it is not powerful over the gods, however, for Zeus is spoken of as weighing out the fate of men (Il. xxii. 209, viii. 69). Hesiod has three Fates , daughters of Night, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. In Aeschylus fate is powerful even over the gods. The Epicureans regarded fate as blind chance, while to the Stoics everything is subject to an absolute rational law.

The doctrine of fate appears also in what are known as the higher religions, e.g. Christianity and Mahommedanism. In the former the ideas of personality and infinite power have vanished, all power being conceived as inherent in God. It is recognized that the moral individual must have some kind of initiative, and yet since God is omnipotent and omniscient man must be conceived as in some sense foreordained to a certain moral, mental and physical development. In the history of the Christian church emphasis has from time to time been laid specially on the latter aspect of human life (cf. the doctrines of election, foreordination, determinism). Even those theologians, however, who have laid special stress on the limitations of the human will have repudiated the strictly fatalistic doctrine which is characteristic of Oriental thought and is the negation of all human initiative (see Predestination; Augustine, Saint; Will). In Islam fate is an absolute power, known as Kismet, or Nasib, which is conceived as inexorable and transcending all the physical laws of the universe. The most striking feature of the Oriental fatalism is its complete indifference to material circumstances: men accept prosperity and misfortune with calmness as the decree of fate.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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