Everything that happens is inevitable.

Essay by Az777 October 2005

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We instinctively reject the idea that everything that happens is pre-determined and inevitable, but this essay explains the simple and compelling reasons why it's true. These reasons are easy to understand. But for many intelligent and thoughtful people the idea is at first sight so obviously inconsistent with experience and commonsense, and its consequences so distressing, that they feel sure it must be wrong. And so they find it difficult to consider the matter with an open mind. My main purpose in this brief essay is to show why these immediate reactions to the idea are mistaken, and to deal with its practical consequences for everyday life.

This belief in inevitability is based on experience and reason; it's not the ancient mystical superstition of Fatalism. It doesn't mean that the course of our lives isn't influenced by our actions; that we're mere mindless helpless puppets, mechanically going through the motions of a playscript written by someone else.

But the idea of inevitability is so much at odds with our customary ways of thinking that its acceptance does seem to call for modifications to many of our common beliefs and feelings. Pride in our achievements, shame at our failures, and guilt for our misdeeds - some of our deepest emotions lose much of their bite if the course of our lives is inevitably pre-determined. And we re-consider our attitudes to crime and punishment when we believe that wicked deeds are inevitable long before they're committed.

But first:

WHY is Everything Inevitable?

The idea of inevitability arises from thinking about cause and effect. In everyday life we find that nothing happens without a cause, and that (other things being equal) the same cause inevitably produces the same effect. When I drop a stone, it inevitably falls. When I put the kettle...