To believe in fate or that dull mantra ‘everything happens for a reason’ is to forgo all rational thinking and succumb to popular delusion. You might as well believe in witchcraft for all the sense that’s in it.

You get people who comment on things like crossing on the stairs, smashing a mirror or walking under a ladder. These are meaningless platitudes, mostly benign. But when people subscribe to fate, that’s when I want to intervene. When something bad happens and somebody puts an arm round your shoulder and says ‘it’s okay, everything happens for a reason,’ – the truth is that there is no reason, and you’d be exceptionally foolish to think that if things then suddenly got a lot better for you, it would be some form of justice. If that happened, you got lucky. We are not the solitary authors of our successes and failures. Rather we are slaves to chance.

Now, I’ve always been a determinist. I think that for the entire Universe, there is one specific set of events which will happen and does happen. The concepts of past, present and future are created by humans and have no real scientific place, they are effectively just words, used merely for convenience. There is surely no reason to suggest that all three of them cannot be combined together, and this can be understood as ‘the way it goes’.

So in a way, yes, we are fated to live the life that we will live. Free will does not exist. We cannot have perceivably acted differently in the past, because if we did so, we would not have been us. We would have been something quite different. In a moment of decision making, we are influenced by the thoughts we have at the time (which we are not in control of), which in turn are influenced by the events of our past (which we are not in control of), chemical reactions in the brain (which we are not in control of) and environmental factors, i.e what’s going on around you at the time (which we are not in control of). We are always at the mercy of these factors, and we should not encourage people to believe that some strange supernatural force is constantly watching their back, looking to do you a favour, or if you’re a negative thinker, to bury you in the dust.



One comment

  1. There is a very common error of confusing “free will” with “freedom from causation”.

    The pragmatic operation of free will is to identify cases where we decide for ourselves what we will do, free from coercion or other undue influence (hypnosis, brain tumor, etc.) and those cases where we are forced to act against our will.

    The idea of “freedom from causation” is an oxymoron. Without reliable cause and effect we cannot reliably cause any effect–that is, we’re not free to DO anything!

    Therefore, no use of the term “free” can ever logically imply “freedom from causation”. And since it cannot, it does not.


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