Stoic Fatalism

As you might know, I follow the (ancient) philosophy of Stoicism. Read my full Stoicism article here. Today I want to delve into one specific aspect of stoicism, fatalism.

Before I start, here’s a short (personal) definition of Stoicism: the pursuit of tranquillity, to be happy with what you have without experiencing negative emotions. In other words, Stoicism (for me, and in general for the philosophy) is not to banish emotion from life, but to banish negative emotion.


Past Fatalism

The ancient Stoics believed that fate determines what happens to us. That in life, we have a role and that we must play that role to our best ability. Therefore a man, according to Marcus Aurelius “should welcome every experience the looms of fate may weave for him.”

But we shouldn’t be fatalistic of the future, rather we should be only fatalistic about the past and present.

Take for instance a mother with a sick child. She should do everything in her power to nurture her child back to health. But if the child may die, or live on disabled, she shouldn’t get stuck in ‘what if’ scenarios. She should let go of the past.


Present Fatalism

We can decide where we want to be in a minute, hour or day, not right now. We can’t change where we are at this very moment. Therefore we should accept this moment (and the past) and be satisfied with what it brings. We can either spend this moment wishing it could be different, or we can embrace this moment.

If we think fatalistically about the past and present, we also refuse to think about how it could be better. By doing this a Stoic will make the present situation also more enjoyable. There are no alternative pasts, and you can be very happy/tranquil with what life has brought you so far.