The Virus of Fatalism

  • Helena Eilstein
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 165)


Fatalism is widespread in our culture. It is present in some religious creeds, as in Calvinism with its idea of predestination or in Islam with its idea of kismet. I am not interested here in fatalism in that domain. What is of interest for me is that the metaphysical hypothesis of fatalism is not seldom represented among our philosophizing scientists and philosophers.


Open Possibility Fatalist Belief Epistemic Subject Philosophical Dispute Metaphysical Doctrine 
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  1. 1.
    See e.g. his Metaphysics, Prentice Hall, 1974, the chapter on fatalism and his paper ‘Fatalism’ in: R. M. Gale (ed.), The Philosophy of Time (a collection of essays). Humanities Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  2. 2a.
    For typical examples of transientistic arguments concerning Relativity, see e.g. the papers of Ph. Frank and M. Čapek in: M. Čapek (ed.), The Concepts of Space and Time, Boston Studies, vol. xii, Reidel 1976.Google Scholar
  3. 2b.
    For criticism, see e.g. Hilary Putnam, ‘Time and Physical Geometry’, in his Philosophical Papers, vol. I, Cambridge University Press, 1975, or: C. W. Rietdijk, ‘Special Relativity and Determinism’, Phil, of Science, December 1976. (Rietdijk confuses fatalism - whose name he never uses but actually defends in his paper - with determinism which he supposedly but not actually defends. With these verbal misunderstandings overcome, the paper is very good.)Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    See the paper ‘Einstein Time and Process Time’, as well as the discussion of that paper in: D. R. Griffin (ed.), Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time, SUNY Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See O. Costa de Beauregard, Time, the Physical Magnitude, Reidel, 1987.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See the contribution of John Bell to: P. C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown (eds.), The Ghost in the Atom, Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 47.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Compare J. A. Wheeler, ‘Bohr, Einstein and the Strange Lesson of the Quantum’, in: R. Q. Elvee, Mind in Nature, Harper and Row, 1982. The quoted sentence is on p. 23.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Quoted in: P. Davies, God and the New Physics, Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 44.Google Scholar
  9. 8a.
    See for example: C. D. Broad, ‘Determinism, Indeterminism and Libertarianism’, in: B. Berofsky (ed.), Free Will and Determinism, Harper and Row, 1966Google Scholar
  10. 8b.
    and J. M. E. McTaggart, ‘A Defense of Determinism’, in: Ph. Davis (ed.), Introduction to Moral Philosophy, Ch. E. Merril Publishing Co., 1973. (These authors examine libertarianism in the context of the controversy between determinism and indeterminism and not, as it should be done, in the context of controversy between fatalism and Aristotelian possi- bilism. This notwithstanding, they point very clearly to what makes libertarianism absurd.)Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See his ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’, J. Phil, vol. LXVIII, No. 1, 1971.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    In: P. E. Davis, Introduction to Moral Philosophy. The quotations in my text below are from pp. 337 and 341.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    P. F. Strawson, ‘Freedom and Resentment’, in his “Freedom and Resentment” and Other Essays, Methuen, 1974.Google Scholar

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

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  • Helena Eilstein

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