Fatalism the doctrine of an inevitable necessity, implying an omnipotent and arbitrary superior power. It is derived from the Latin fatum ("what is spoken or decreed," passive participle offari). The Greeks expressed it also by the passive participle εἱμαρμένη; but their words μοῖρα (Destiny, the Goddess of Fate) and αϊvσα (decree, destiny, goddess who dispenses fate) have an active meaning.
I. In Homer, Moira has a twofold force; it is sometimes considered as superior to Zeus, then again as inferior to him; a twofold force which Nagelsbach correctly expounds (after Delbrick and Creuzer) by saying that in Homer the monarchical will of Zeus does not appear as directly opposed to the contrary efforts of the other gods. Yet the human mind has a monotheistic tendency even among the heathen, and therefore seeks to give to the heavens one supreme ruler, and to unite all the gods into one exclusive unity. On the other hand, however, this unity is inert and dead. and this leads Homer to identify it with the highest, the living god with the "total will" of the other gods. The gradual development of Greek philosophy led to the thought of representing the supreme ruling power by Moira: so we find it in Herodotus, 1:91, τὴν πεπρωμένην μοἴραν ἀδὐνατά ἐστιν ἀποφυγέειν καὶ θεῷ. This agency of Fate was afterwards made to apply to the regulation of the outward life of men, and the conception of Fate as the ruling power of the universe became deeper and more spiritual: so Anaxagoras recognises Νοῦς, the spirit, as ruler of the world; and Plato does the same, especially in Philebus (31, 4, ἐν τῇ τοῦ Διὸς φὐσει βασιλικὴν μὲν ψυχήν, βασιλικὸν δὲ νοῦν ἐγγίγνεσθαι). This same tendency towards a spiritualization of Fate is found in the tragic authors, especially in Sophocles, who has happily expressed these views in his oEdmpus Coloneus, 266, 267 (edition Schneidewin): ἐπεὶ τὰ γ ἔργα μυο πεπονθοτ᾿ ἐστὶ μᾶλλον ἢ δεδρακότα (for my actions are rather to be called my destiny's than smy own). But this fate does not exclude guilt on the part of man, for the curse rested from the first on individual sin, as is shown especially in the revelation of fearful guilt in the (Edipus Rex, and the possibility of pardon in the Colonens. The Greek tragedy is based on this very antagonism between individual being and the supreme world-power. After Sophocles, the two notions of the word Μοῖρα war's separated, and each was gradually brought out more distinctly. From Euripides down to thee Epicureans a tendency prevailed to nlake the power of fate subservient to human caprice, and to make it subordinate to Τύχη (chance), which plays an important part in Thucydides. Blind chance was made to rule the earth. The Epicureans proclaimed their gods the "essence of pure inactive self- indulgence, indifferent to the condition of mankind and the world," so that, the gods no longer interfering in human affairs; it became matter of indifference whether they were worshipped or not. On the other hand, Stoicism maintained that to live according to the laws of nature, i.e., to resign one's self to the necessary course of things, is the true wisdom of life. In this point, as in others, the views of the Stoics and the Epicureans were directly opposed to each other, SEE EPICUREAN PHILOSOPHY, yet in their results they arrived at the same point, viz. that against the inehictabile fatum, whether the result of separate accidental chances or of the general law of nature, there is nothing to be done. The Moira, acting according to higher laws incomprehensible to humanity, is thus confounded with blind destiny.
II. The conception of fate which underlies all theories of fatalism is as follows: (1.) Destiny is a dead, blind power; (2.) human liberty is completely and irresistibly controlled by destiny. Under this twofold aspect, fatalism finds its most complete realization in Mohammedanism; but it has also been defended on scientific grounds within the sphere of Christendom. The doctrine of absolute predestination, in its hidden absolutum decretum (see Luther, De servo arbitrio, and Ullmann, Studien u. Kritiken, 1847, 1:2), resembles the heathen conception of fate. In its relation to spiritual and eternal life, fatalism is generally based on (1) the pantheistic view of the world, which swallows up individual freedom and responsibility, so that (as by Spinoza) all our thoughts and actions are represented as but the thoughts and actions of God manifested through us. This leads naturally to (2) the determinism of deism, which considers the world as so ruled by the immutable laws of nature that individual life and actions are but cogs of one of the wheels of the universal machinery; and to modern materialism, according to which thought is but a natural secretion of the brain.
The Christian idea of God is directly opposed to all fatalism, whether pagan or modern maaterialistic. In Christian thought, God is not blind chance, dead fate, er a dark, unknown force of nature; but God is spirit, a living Goad, a personal Being, who is love and the Father of love. And this living and personal God has endowed man with his own image,and therefore with freedom, in the exercise of which endowment man is to become himself a participant in the fulfillment of the divine decrees, a "co- worker" with God, and, as such, not only capable of aiding in the spread and consummation of the kingdom (or royal sway) of God upon the earth, but also bound to aid in it. — Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 4:340 sq. (from which this article is chiefly a translation); Cudworth, Intellectual System of the Universe, book 1, chapter 1; Hamilton, Discussions in Philosophy; Werner, Geschichte der apolog. Literatur (Schaffhausen, 1867). SEE MATERIALISM.