Difference between ‘determinism’ and ‘fatalism’

  • What is the difference between determinism and fatalism?

    This question would have been better posed (and less vague) if the OP mentioned which definitions of determinism and fatalism he recognised for the purpose of this question, since there is no consensus on what exactly either of the two terms actually refer to (as can be easily seen from the corresponding Wikipedia pages of the two concepts).

  • Determinism is the view that the laws of nature together with the universe's initial state are sufficient to determine the state of the universe at every other point in the future. What "determine" means here isn't always clear, but usually what people have in mind is something like "derivability": in other words, determinism is the view that one could derive (in an ideal sense of "derive") every other future state of the universe just from the universe's initial state and the laws of nature.

    Fatalism is the view that every future-tensed proposition has a determinate truth value. So for instance, there just is a fact of the matter as to whether I will die in a car crash tomorrow: hopefully it's false (recall Diodorus's "Master Argument", which I believe is about fatalism, not determinism).

    Determinism seems to imply fatalism; if you can determine all future states of the universe with the laws of nature plus the initial state of the universe, then surely the truth value of all future-tensed propositions is decided (at least, I don't see how they would fail to be in any interesting way).

    But you might be a fatalist without being a determinist. You might think that the laws of nature and the initial state of the universe are insufficient to determine the future states of the universe (e.g. probability is involved in determining future states of the universe), but you might think at the same time that future-tensed propositions still have a determinate truth value: we just can't determine that truth value from the laws of nature and the initial state of the universe.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM

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