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Arguments for Fatalism

Free «Arguments for Fatalism» Essay Sample


Bruce and Barbone (2011) define the thesis of fatalism to refer to the idea that the occurrence of human acts is not free, since they occur by necessity. The thesis has been discussed by different scholars. Taylor defines fatalism as the perception that all that occurs is unavoidable. The thesis can also be understood to refer to the belief that human actions cannot have any effect on the occurrence of events. It can still be understood to refer to the perception that people have some internal absurdity as they do something in order to make something else happen subsequently. Other scholars also discuss fatalism with respect to the perception that people cannot act differently from the way they do. In most cases, the term ‘fatalism’ is used while making reference to the tendency by people to resign before future events that they accept as inevitable. However, most philosophers make references to the idea that humans lack the ability to do anything contrary to what they actually do. In an attempt to justify such perception, philosophers use different modes of argument. Some arguments are based on metaphysical necessities and logical laws, some are based on the nature of God and His existence, while others justify the notion with respect to the concept of causal determinism (Solomon, 2003). The arguments that are based on the idea of metaphysical necessities and logical laws lead to the type of fatalism known as logical or metaphysical fatalism. On the other hand, the arguments that are based on the existence and the nature of God exist in line with the second type of fatalism known as theological fatalism. Such discussion is based on two arguments of fatalism namely the idle argument and the Sea-battle argument.

The arguments that are used in support of the thesis of fatalism in contemporary philosophy seek to confirm the perception that all human actions are not free. The arguments are either logical or theological. The arguments that are given in support of logical fatalism are anchored on facts about future occurrences. In this manner, the arguments assert the notion that such future occurrences are inevitable, hence they are not free. On the other hand, the arguments for theological fatalism are anchored on the divine belief about future actions. They state that future actions are predetermined, hence they are not free. All arguments for fatalism show one common characteristic. It is that they all start by attempting to justify the perception that no human action is free as purported by the logical or metaphysical perceptions. Secondly, the arguments show similarities in the way they fail to extensively mention the thesis that human actions are casually determined. People who support the idea of fatalism have failed to give a clear justification of the idea that all human actions are free and to support such idea by appealing to the logical or the metaphysical assumptions (Bruce & Barbone, 2011).

Based on the idle argument, fatalism refers to the fact that people are capable of acting freely but irrespective of people’s actions, it is impossible to alter the course of events (Cahn, Eckert & Wallace, 2011). For example, the argument suggests that a person will either be involved in an accident or not. If it was predetermined that he/she is going to be involved in an accident, any precautionary measures that the individual may take to avoid the accident will be ineffective, hence futile. If one is not going to be involved in an accident, then it is pointless to take any precautions. Such argument has some sense but it is faulted based on its second part that suggests that people’s actions cannot influence a predetermined occurrence. Logically, every human action has a reason and some value in it. As such, it is commonly agreed that some precautionary measures that people take certainly make sense.

The original version of the argument is also referred to as the Lazy argument as discussed by Cicero in De Fato (XII, XIII) (Cahn, Eckert & Wallace, 2011). While discussing the original version of the argument, Cicero introduces the idea of a fated event. Such concept is coined from the word fate to refer to the perception that every individual has his or her predestined fate that cannot be altered. As such, the argument suggests that one’s future event is a matter of fate and, that, humans have little power to change their fate. Using the earlier example, the argument suggests that if it is fated for one to be involved in an accident then the individual will be involved in it regardless of the efforts he or she makes to take precaution.

Some philosophers have noted that such argument is not tenable as it simply relies on fatalism instead of proving it. According to the argument given in objection to the idea, fatalists should not rely on the idea of fated event but should justify the concept of fatalism. In this case, the point is that it is unnecessary to try proving that people can influence their future if they have already accepted the concept of fatalism. It would be more important to launch an argument that can convince those that have not accepted fatalism to accept it. Some philosophers agree with the condition presented by the argument that if it is fated that an event would have to occur, it is needless to attempt preventing it or trying to making it happen. However, people often fail to consent to the statement that all events that are going to occur are fated. Such claim is considered unfamiliar; hence, calling for the fatalists to make more effort in trying to prove it to the non-fatalists. Based on such controversy, it is perceived that an omission of the idea of fated event can help reduce objection to the argument. It is based on the understanding that contemporary notions of the argument fail to use the idea of fated event as a basis for their presumptions.

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Based on the concepts raised by the idle argument about future occurrences, it becomes clearly that fatalism deviates from the Anti-Realist concept of truth. Conee and Sider (2014), state that the latter is largely based on the possibility to verify statement so that to see the truth in them. Even with the deterministic metaphysical perception of reality, the idle argument makes it difficult to establish evidence that can help confirm future occurrences. It follows that all statements that are made about the future must be left indeterminate as there is some power that is beyond human control, which always determines future events. The independent force is a power that renders statements concerning future events that can occur in line with human expectations or against them (Bruce & Barbone, 2011).

The idle argument is an ancient one. Most of those who were opposed to it had issues with its insistence on fate. However, Cicero and Origen that were the initiators of the argument were determined to confirm that one’s future must take the course of his or her predetermined fate (Bruce & Barbone, 2011). If it is fated that one would die in the result of a given disease, it would be futile to book several appointments with a doctor in an attempt to heal it. It means that people have no control over their future. The notion is inconsistent with those who believe that people have to strive to make their future better. It can be understood that the idle argument suggests that people should wait and witness future events as they occur.

The argument derives its name from such interpretation. It suggests that people should remain idle without making any efforts to improve their destinies as everyone’s destiny is already defined and no effort can alter it. The argument is considered by the Stoics to be sophism and they dispute it on the grounds that some events can be co-fated. Based on such argument, one event could lead to another in a way that it is wrong for a person to expect for a negative occurrence if an action can be taken to change the situation. For example, while the idle argument suggests that one should not make efforts to consult a doctor when ill, the Stoics believe that the illness can occur so that those people who are fated to recover are also the ones that are fated to see a doctor. Such perception implies that negligence or reluctance can result in death because some people may fail to adhere to the idea of co-fated events.

Basically, the idle argument is rooted on the idea that everything occurs out of necessity and that it is needless trying to deliberate about a precautionary measure in order to prevent any events from occurring. Based on the argument, it is pointless imagining that doing one thing can either make or prevent another from happening. Aristotle and others who support such argument accept the opinion that individual’s will cannot influence their fate. However, other versions of the argument omit the idea of ‘fate’.

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The second argument is known as the Sea-Battle argument. It has certain similarities to the idle argument. According to the idle argument, we cannot influence the course of events irrespective of which disjunction will become true. On the other hand, the Sea-Battle argument suggests that humans lack the capacity to influence the course of events simply because one disjunction is already true. The two arguments appear similar but they have logical differences.

Aristotle raised the analogy of the Sea-Battle in Chapter 9 of De Interpretatione. His analogy is largely related to the idea of determinism. The Sea-Battle argument looks at the problem of truth values of future contingents. In this argument, Aristotle seeks to confirm that there is no true value in statements that are made about the future if the events talked about fail to materialize. Aristotle’s arguments are intended to present his perceptions concerning the past, the present and the future events. According to his argument, statements that are made about the past or the present events must either be true or false. There is no way that such statements can fail to either be true or false because they can either be in line with the state of affairs that they are used to describe or not. For example, the statement that there will be an accident in the town. It represents an event that is taking place in the present and it can show a given occurrence or not. Such example is similar to a statement that is made about the past. While making statements about past events, it is easy to tell whether such statements are true or false as they already happened or did not happen at all (Conee & Sider, 2014).

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The Sea-Battle argument is based on the concept of a contradiction where there is a set of propositions with one supporting what the other denies. While interpreting the notion presented by the argument, it emerges that in such contradictory situations, one proposition has to be true, while the other is false. It follows that the Sea-Battle argument is based on the law of excluded middle. In turn, the law is based on the understanding that a statement can be true as it is uttered and not true if it is not. To illustrate it, Aristotle used two statements. The first statement is that “There will be a sea-battle tomorrow” while the second statement is that, “There will not be a sea battle tomorrow.” Going by the rules of the law of the excluded middle, one of the two statements has to be true and the other must be false (Oaklander, 2014).

If the first statement is true, the implication is that there has to be a sea-battle tomorrow, hence it makes the second statement irrelevant. The puzzle of the Sea-Battle is used to argue that no event is possible except that, which actually occurs. As such, the Sea-Battle argument attempts to suggest that all possibilities are actualized. For example, if several years ago it was true that there would be an accident on a given date in future, the occurrence of the accident justifies that the past is unchangeable. It is what can make the past utterance to have a truth value.

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The argument suggests that if some event will not take place, it is not possible for the event to take place. Anyway, it is irrespective of the time when the statement is made. It implies that statements made in the past about future events would only materialize if they were actually destined to occur. If the statements are justified by actual occurrences, it is worth acknowledging the fact that the statements had truth value in them. Taking the Sea-Battle scenario to justify such proposition, the occurrence of the sea battle makes the statement to have truth value. Besides, there are only two possibilities. Either the sea battle occurs or it fails to occur. The fulfillment of one statement makes the other irrelevant.

The Sea-Battle scenario means that a sea battle must either occur tomorrow or not. None of the statements is necessary but they simply give alternatives for each other. In this manner, the Sea-Battle argument attempts to justify that all future events have alternatives. The provision for alternatives implies that an event has to occur either as it had been stated in the past or in the alternative way. It makes the corresponding affirmation or its contrary to have the same character (Hintikka, 1964).

The argument presents a reasoning that is linked to the necessity of the past. It follows that humans should regard themselves to have no ability to affect future occurrences just as they were not unable to influence the events in the past. Future occurrences are closed to human influence in the same way as the past events were closed to them. The solution presented by Aristotle in the argument is that the two statements that, ‘there will be a sea battle tomorrow’ and that “there will not be a sea battle tomorrow’ are neither true nor false. The argument has been subjected to criticism by those who feel that the idea of tensing truth is not meaningful. Other philosophers suggest that people are not powerless to cause any effect on the truth value of some claims about future events.

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The points presented in the arguments relate to the idea of the sea battle in that if it is true at present that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, the logical points that have been discussed in current section show that the sea battle is unavoidable. If it is not the case, then it would be pointless to make the statement. The argument can be understood to mean that the occurrence of a sea battle today confirms the truth value of earlier statements that there would be a sea battle on the given date (Cahn, 1967). The statement would remain true irrespective of the duration that has elapsed after it was uttered. The idea is also used in arguing that if something is currently ‘white’ then it would be true to say that it was white several days, months or years before. Therefore, it was true to say that all the things that have taken place would take place.

One problem that many people have identified with the Sea-Battle argument for fatalism is its reasoning that all possible things eventually occur in the long run and that things that fail to occur are impossible (Hintikka, 1964). The contested idea here is the imagination that Aristotle suggests that every possible event occurs. It is so as there are several things that have the potentiality to occur but that do not occur in the long run.

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Generally, the thesis of fatalism suggests that the occurrence of human acts is not free, since they occur by necessity. The thesis is understood differently by different philosophers. Some use it to refer to the belief that human actions cannot have any effect on the occurrence of events, while the others understand it to refer to the perception that people have some internal absurdity as they do something in order to make something else occur subsequently. Looking at the two arguments for fatalism, it is clear that the idea of fatalism is inconsistent with metaphysical doctrines that are opposed to the causative principles of determinism. In a situation where there are sources of future actions or events, like the unrestricted human will that do not occur as a result of the existing forces, it would be wrong to consider the future as having been determined. Therefore, all statements that are made about the future should remain indeterminate. The idle argument of fatalism suggests that people have free will to act in any given way but that their actions cannot change the course of events. The concepts raised by the idle argument about future occurrences make it understandable that fatalism deviates from the Anti-Realist concept of truth (Richard, 1962).

The argument is illustrative of the understanding that future events are predetermined and people have no authority over them. In this way, the idle argument suggests that people should remain observant as there is no need of trying to act with an intention to change possible occurrences. On the other hand, the Sea-Battle argument suggests that people cannot cause any change on the course of events because one disjunction is already true. The Sea-Battle argument is grounded on the notion of a contradiction, where there exists a set of propositions which contradict each other. What is clearly seen from the reasoning behind the Sea-Battle argument is that in contradictory situations, one proposition has to be true, while the other is false. It means that the ideas used in the Sea-Battle argument are based on the law of excluded middle. Looking at the two arguments keenly, they appear to be similar on an account of asserting that people do not have control over future events.

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