In my opinion, one of the reasons that we argue around determinism is that it seems to have some disturbing implications with regards to fatalism: if determinism is true, then everything is predetermined since the origin of the universe. That is to say that given enough information about the state of the original universe, it is possible to 'calculate' what is going to happen thereafter, because determinism means everything is strictly causally determined by its prior events. And because of this, in a strictly deterministic universe, there is only one 'fate' for anyone, and the disturbing implication that seems to follow is that since there is one fate for me, there is not much point for me make any decisions, because I'm not really making decisions, as everything I will do, or want, is already determined. How might a compatibilist, who thinks that humans are still capable of free will and are capable of making decisions, refute the above argument for fatalism? p.s.: this is a follow-up from the question about compatibilism... Thanks for such a great answer, Prof. Maitzen! p.p.s.: I too definitely don't think indeterminism is the way to go... But I also don't find determinism a whole lot more acceptable either, probably because I'm misunderstanding it from a 17-year-old point of view...?

Thanks for following up. I'm pleased that you found my earlier answer helpful.

Above you wrote, "the disturbing implication that seems to follow is that since there is one fate for me, there is not much point for me make any decisions, because I'm not really making decisions, as everything I will do, or want, is already determined." I'd like to make two points in reply.

(1) It's crucial not to confuse determinism with "your fate." Your fate is supposed to be the fixed outcome that you'll encounter regardless of anything you do in the meantime. So, according to the story, Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his mother, regardless of any actions Oedipus takes beforehand, including any attempts he makes to avoid that fate. Determinism is, if anything, the opposite doctrine. According to determinism, whom you marry (if anyone) depends crucially on your actions beforehand: every link in the causal chain is essential, no link is superfluous, and those links include your carefully considered prior decisions. As I tell my students, "Fatalism says that your grade on the Final Exam is already fixed and therefore doesn't depend on whether you decide to study for it between now and then. Determinism says that your grade is not already fixed but depends crucially on whether you decide to study for it between now and then."

(2) Yes, according to determinism, your decisions are themselves determined by earlier events, but that doesn't imply that those decisions aren't your decisions: after all, who else made them? No one thinks that determinism has a mind. Determinism isn't an agent. It can't make decisions. It can't manipulate. Nevertheless, unfortunately, even professional philosophers who ought to know better sometimes write as if determinism were a puppeteer pulling our strings. I'm not a psychologist, but I suspect that this confusion may stem from our evolved tendency to treat all causes as if they were agents. Nor does determinism imply that your decisions aren't decisions (what else are they?) or that your decisions are already made before you make them (again, who else is making them before you do?).

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