Speaking in terms of computer language, can we describe 'Fate' as some kind of 'default', something static, that existed independently and will always be there? And 'Destiny', on the other hand, is something dynamic, an expected but unknown.

In that scenario, submitting to your fate would gravitate to a failure in life, while achieving your destiny would represent successful fulfillment of your life's purpose?

"The concept of fate suggests that everything that occurs in our lives has a predetermined route and that this predetermined path can potentially have an overarching reason. It includes the idea of a predetermined, unchangeable course that we must take.

On the other hand, destiny is more closely associated with the concepts of potential and purpose. It refers to the ultimate objective or result of our existence, frequently conveying a sense of personal achievement or fulfillment." The Stoic Definition of Fate

  • Etymologically, fatum is associated with prophecy, prediction and destinatio with purpose, design. Not exactly your idea but not far off, more like efficient vs final cause. But keep in mind that the Stoic distinction is not as optimistic as it seems in your quote. It is explicated by Chrysippus's quip:"When a dog is tied to a cart it can follow willingly, making its spontaneous act coincide with necessity; but if not, it will be dragged along anyway. So it is with men, if not willing they will be compelled to follow what is destined." The only Stoic freedom is over one's own attitude.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 28 at 3:49

1 Answer 1


It's difficult to give a straightforward answer to your question. Fate and Destiny are concepts whose content changes depending on whether they are interpreted in a pagan or "naturalistic" mode of thought, viewed as theological issues, or conceived as existential matters.

We can make a "repetition" (Wiederholung) of the Greek problem you pose in our current time, examining its hidden possibilities. Perhaps Heidegger offers a way to approach it. For Heidegger, in Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), the Fate of an "individual" existence, of a Dasein, is living toward death. Our Fate is death, and we must authentically recognize it to appropriate it, so death is what "determines" our temporal existence.

Destiny, on the other hand, is the "destining" of a generation in which Dasein is situated. Destiny for Heidegger is something belonging to a community to which Dasein belongs and is irrevocably intertwined with.

That's why Heidegger says:

But if fateful Dasein, as Being-in-the-world, exists essentially in Being-with Others, its historizing is a co-historizing and is determinative for it as destiny [Geschick]. This is how we designate the historizing of the community, of a people. Destiny is not something that puts itself together out of individual fates, any more than Being-with-one-another can be conceived as the occurring together of several Subjects. Our fates have already been guided in advance, in our Being with one another in the same world and in our resoluteness for definite possibilities. Only in communicating and in struggling does the power of destiny become free. Dasein's fateful destiny in and with its 'generation' goes to make up the full authentic historizing of Dasein.

  • I like your interpretation even though it is quite remote from my line of thinking. Commented May 28 at 3:23

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