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In a world where magic exists, fate-spinners are people with supernatural powers that influence the chances of events happening.

Their power has been proven by countless experiments where they compare the chances of an event happening with or without them influencing it (in order to derive a chance, they repeat each experiment several times and record the number of times the event has the intended result, this number divided by the total number of attempts gives the measured chance)

Fate-spinners (rightly) believe that they are changing fate, thus they know fate to be mutable by our actions.

A fatalist comes, armed with the belief that fate can't be bent.

He assumes that fate already includes the fact that fate-spinners are using their mystical power, so while they believe they bent fate, fate already had that shape to begin with.

Unluckily for the fatalist, divination rituals exist, and they can divine the result of the next experiment to measure chance done in a certain location with 100% accuracy

(Please note that I tried hard to define this ritual as something that will not bend fate by itself with possible outcomes such as "the fate-bender can not die until he does the experiment" or "fate will change its course so that, no matter what the experimenter does, the result will conform to the future reading". Maybe it wasn't needed, maybe I failed at this. Just know that the reading does not change fate at all.)

So, fate-spinners look into the future and see the result of the nest experiment, they they do the experiment aiming for a very different result... and, since they really changed fate, they get the different result they wanted.

Have they really proved the fatalist wrong?

I'm thinking that the fatalist might have some additional reasoning that makes this new experiment moot, maybe linked to the fact that the chance and the measured chance might differ (11 tails in a row while tossing a coin can happen in real life, where nobody changed the chance from 50%), or maybe the problem lies in the results of the ritual being also somehow part of fate.

However, I can't figure out of these counterarguments are actually solid, therefore I'm asking your help.


For context, I have long thought of playing a fatalist character in a role-playing game in which fate-spinners exist.

If the fatalist can be disproven, this character would not work, and I'd like to know in advance.

I'm of the opionion that philosophers are better equipped at answering this question than role-play gamers on rpg.stackexchange.com

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  • Is how the fate-spinners use their power, also affected by fate? Nov 1, 2023 at 11:39
  • From a philosophical perspective, we would want to know if we're dealing with logical fatalism, theological fatalism, determinism, or something else. If you check through Brandon Sanderson's Arcanum, you might find philosophically informed definitions of Luck, involving Intent, but such as can be spun/bent, and which is theologically relevant (modulo the Shards of Adonalsium). Nov 1, 2023 at 11:53
  • You probably are already familiar with this, but if not, I would recommend looking over the Luck Manipulation Mechanic entry on TV Tropes. Nov 1, 2023 at 12:52
  • No. There is no way to ascertain what the fate was before and after the "fate-changing" because there is no unquestionable access to what would have happened otherwise. It is not even clear what "measuring chance with 100% accuracy" means, chances do not come out of individual measurements. And any "divination ritual" can only be conjectured to divine the fate, there is no way to verify from within that it actually does that. This is similar to "superdeterminism", radical fatalism is unverifiable and unfalsifiable in principle.
    – Conifold
    Nov 1, 2023 at 16:22
  • Can fate spinners make things that have probability 0 have positive probability? If so, even if fatalism holds, a fate spinner can just "spin away" the fatalism. If they can't effect 0% chance events I don't see how they are spinning fate- as fate has 100% to happen Nov 1, 2023 at 16:53

2 Answers 2

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Fatalism is a belief. You can always be a fatalist. Things may appear random or freely willed at the level that people can perceive, but there could always be a deeper level where they are predetermined.

We can prove this with a thought experiment. Imagine a book. Now, write whatever scenario you want in this book--for instance, this exact scenario with the fate-spinners and the divination ritual. If the characters in the book existed, they would think they were changing fate. But someone who could see that the book was already written would know that even the change was foreordained.

Note that it is not necessary for the character to see the book, or know it exists or even to imagine it in order to be a fatalist. They just have to have a belief in something like it.

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In a sense, every deliberating agent is a fate spinner in the sense that their will can change the normal course of events. Even a child can pick up a stone, which in the normal course of events would have remained where it was. We can imagine someone who has three powers: prediction of the future, knowledge of what can be changed in the present to change the future, and the telekinetic ability to affect those changes in the present. A fate spinner can be viewed as someone who has those three powers in some sort of unconscious form. Therefore, there is no need to appeal to a special power of changing fate in order to describe what they do--they are changing fate in the same sense that any deliberating agent can change fate.

The existence of divination might change this equation. Let us assume that divination takes into account the actions of deliberating agents and predicts not only the natural course of events, but also the actions of deliberating agents so that it completely predicts the future. If a fate spinner has the ability to change the world in ways not predictable by divination does that show that the fate spinner is changing fate in a special way? It depends on how divination works. Suppose a diviner is sitting in his room and devines that in five seconds he will pick up his pen and begin writing. Does he have the power to not pick up his pen in five seconds and begin writing? If he has that power, then divining is not relevant to the question of fate spinning, because by hypothesis, the fate spinner is an unconscious diviner and so has the power to change the future.

If the diviner has no power to change the future that he divines, but a fate spinner does, then this can be taken as evidence that the fate spinner can change the future. But the fatalist can always argue the following: divination doesn't show what is fated to happen, only what will happen if a fate spinner does not intervene. This is just a fourth special power that the fate spinner has--the power to frustrate the power of divination.

It seems we have come to an impasse. If we define fate as whatever the diviner devines, and then the fate spinner can change fate, but the fatalist can always claim that fate is something else. However, the fatalist is in a bad position here. It is beginning to look as if the fatalist is defining fate as "whatever will actually happen", and so the claim of fatalism is the tautological claim that that "whatever will actually happen will actually happen". This is not an interesting claim. It makes no interesting predictions. In order for the fatalist to make his claim interesting and non-tautological, he has to come up with a definition of fate that can be tested.

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  • Yes, the fatalist does define fate as "what will actually happen" (it is not an interesting claim maybe, but it is a valid claim), but divination shows that fate was different before it got changed.
    – Zachiel
    Nov 5, 2023 at 10:23

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