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1. the philosophical doctrine that all events are predetermined so that man is powerless to alter his destiny
2. the acceptance of and submission to this doctrine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a world view wherein every event and every human action is regarded as the inevitable realization of what was preordained from the beginning, thus excluding free choice and chance. Three basic types of fatalism may be distinguished: mythological fatalism, or what later became the fatalism of the man in the street, which equates predestination with irrational and unfathomable fate; theological fatalism, in which predestination is regarded as the will of an almighty deity; and rational fatalism, which merged with mechanistic determinism and which views predestination as the inexorable linking of cause and effect within a closed system of causality.

Mythological fatalism, which was a universal feature of early human culture, was subsequently relegated to the marginal categories of thought and was manifested in such “occult” doctrines as astrology; it recurs in periods of decadence or transition such as late Greco-Roman times and the late Renaissance, and an example of its revival in the 20th century can be found in bourgeois society’s fascination with astrology. A new interpretation of this type of fatalism was embodied in the irrational philosophy of life represented by O. Spengler and further elaborated by its advocates, including E. Jünger, G. Benn, and fascist theoreticians.

Theological fatalism holds that men’s destiny is divinely preordained before their birth, some being predestined to “salvation” and others to “perdition.” A consistent formulation of these views can be found in Islam (namely, in the eighth- and ninth-century doctrines of the jabarites), in certain medieval Christian heresies (such as Gottschalk’s in the ninth century), in Calvinism, and in Jansenism. Both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church are opposed to theological fatalism.

Theological fatalism was combined with rational fatalism by G. Pletho. Among the proponents of a strictly rational fatalism were Democritus, Spinoza, Hobbes, and such other mechanistic determinists as Laplace, with his doctrine of the limitless capacity of reason to deduce all future events from full knowledge of the forces of nature at the present moment. A later and philosophically unfounded variant of rational fatalism was that proposed by C. Lombroso, who held that men’s criminal behavior was fate-fully predetermined by their inherited biological makeup—a view that was popular at the turn of the century.

Marxism rejects all forms of fatalism, proposing instead the doctrine of necessity and chance—that is, the dialectics of freedom and necessity in the sociohistorical process.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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