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Suppose that X is fated to occur at a particular time in the universe’s history. Can this process occur naturalistically? Or can it only be done by God?

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    Yes. It's called determinism.
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 16, 2023 at 3:47
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    Well, in fatalism, every event doesn’t have to be determined. You can have an event at time t be determined but the rest at other times not be. In determinism, every event is determined.
    – user62907
    Dec 16, 2023 at 8:59
  • If X is predetermined to occur, then the process is engineered to provide X as an output. The engineered process should be as robust as possible (All inputs to the process should provide X) and God as the process ensures a 100% robust system. Humans can design natural process that do very well but not with the robustness of a God. Dec 16, 2023 at 19:54
  • @thinkingman: Ok, determinism for causally-closed events, plus quantum randomness. Right? Where causally-closed means macroscopic phenomena not expected to be influenced by behaviour below the quantum decoherence threshold
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 16, 2023 at 23:10
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    @thinkingman Determinism is an unbreakable chain of causality which if true, would mean that X and every other event is inevitable. Fate is when event x happens irrespective of the events preceding it, you can have multiple paths to the same event, such as the inevitable loss in a game where you are a vastly inferior player, you can play the game with freewill but it is inevitable that you will loose, that is how I picture fate. That 'fate' could be supernaturally predetermined.
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Dec 17, 2023 at 16:50

4 Answers 4

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Can fate occur without god?

The most common definitions of fate (noun) are:

  1. the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power. "fate decided his course for him"
  2. an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end
  3. final outcome
  4. an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future.

The variety of definitions, unfortunately, leads to more than one answer: Yes and No. The first definition implies that God may be required. In this definition, both fate and destiny are decided and implemented by God.

The remaining definitions do not require supernatural intervention: A jury can decide the fate of a defendant in a trial. Of the definitions I have listed, the fourth is the one I use since a God is not required but not excluded:

an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future.

Death is the fate for all of us.

Fate decided his course of action. (God's will)

Once he moved his pawn, a checkmate in 5 moves was his fate.

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    Death is the fate of Life! 🤑 Non-Death is the fate of NON-Life!😘😹😹😹
    – xerx593
    Jan 16 at 12:10
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It depends on what you think the word "fate" means. Like another answer mentioned, if you take fate to mean "to decree beforehand", then you obviously need someone to declare what is going to happen before it does. Without someone who knows or decides what is going to occur - as you mentioned, this would be God - it would seem impossible.

If you take fate as to mean something like "be destined to happen, turn out, or act in a particular way," then determinism probably fits the bill. Determinism argues that every action has a cause, including our own actions and decisions. If every action has a cause, it follows that every future action can be/has already been determined based on past causes. This makes it impossible for anything else to have occurred, which might imply the concept of fate. This is all without the need for the existence of God. Feel free to read more about it in the article I linked.

There is a similar idea of theological determinism that argues God is the one that determines every action.

Another philosophy that comes to mind (but isn't nearly as helpful for your question) is fatalism. It's an old idea, from originating Aristotle. Logical fatalism is the idea that no acts we do are truely "free" because before we made the act, it was already true that act would occur. An explanation (extremely simplified!) goes something like this:

  1. It is true that I woke up at 9am this morning.
  2. It was true 200 years ago that I would wake up at 9am this morning.
  3. If it was true 200 years ago that I would wake up at 9am this morning, then I was never able to choose to wake up at a different time.

If we apply this to every action I've ever made, it follows that I don't act freely, which implies that my actions have been pre-determined. There are known problems with this line of reasoning. One being that the fact that it was true 200 years ago is only possible because I "chose" to wake up at 9am, instead of arguing the other way around. Nonetheless, if you're interested it's a fun thing to wrap your head around.

Again, there is a theological fatalism, where we don't act freely because God can foresee our actions before we take them.

I hope this helps give you an idea of what may be out there philosophically on the idea of fate without God.

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  1. Often a single event or a chain of events in a person's live is named "fate". The term often means: We do not know the reason and we cannot find out why the events happened.

    In these cases "by chance" is a substitute for the word "fate". The substitution is independent from any question about the existence of God.

  2. In general, the religious comment for unexplainable events in the live of a person reads: God knows why. Of course that's not an explanation but the capitulation to find the real cause.

    Also the story of the three fates is not an explanation. It is a myth.

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Since fate (as a verb) means (per M.W) "to decree beforehand", you need a person or group who decrees before you can have something be fated. Whether that is God; Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis; or Taylor Swift doesn't particularly matter, as long as they have putative authority to make the relevant decrees. If the event in question is a collision of supermassive black holes or something similarly beyond the domain of any authority except for an everything-authority, you might as well call the person who decrees God. If it's Taylor Swift's backup dancers getting new eyeliner, you could just stop at Taylor Swift.

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  • Why can’t something be fated without an agent? Perhaps imagine some book that events inexplicably follow
    – user62907
    Dec 16, 2023 at 0:40
  • Why the downvote? Dec 16, 2023 at 7:36
  • @thinkingman "Does the verb 'to fate' require an agent" is unmistakably a question about English syntax and not philosophy.
    – g s
    Dec 16, 2023 at 8:28
  • Not sure who downvoted honestly. And I see @gs I suppose I’m wondering if events in the universe can follow some sort of abstract decree automatically
    – user62907
    Dec 16, 2023 at 9:02
  • @thinkingman English syntax question again, but IMO an extant decree that wasn't decreed is incoherent, whether it pertains to galaxies or backup dancers.
    – g s
    Dec 16, 2023 at 9:15

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