Is it Fate or Destiny?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsMost likely, you are familiar with the following phrases: “it was his or her destiny” and “his or her fate is sealed.” The key words here, of course, are fate and destiny. So what is the difference between fate and destiny, young Padowan? Aren’t they the same thing? Yes and no. Both words refer to what happens to a person in his or her life; however there is a subtle difference in meaning. Fate is an inevitable and often predetermined outcome, often a bad one resulting in death or destruction. For example: “The fate of the Titanic was sealed when its radio operator did not pass on a message warning about dense ice fields to the captain.” Destiny, on the other hand, suggests an invincible power that controls human life and the universe. For example: “The dedicated student triumphed over tremendous hardship, focused on his education, graduated from college with honors, and went on to be a successful writer, fulfilling his destiny.”

Socrates famously taught: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Taking a moment to reflect on your life, is it fate or destiny? Share your reflections in the comments section.

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3 responses to “Is it Fate or Destiny?

  • Christine Betts

    I’m a huge sucker for this whole subject! I was adopted as a baby and often wondered who I would be if I was still Rachel and not Christine. I’ve experienced so many strange synchronicities in my life and often feel I’m on my last throw of the dice, the last of many lifetimes.

    • Alexander Atkins

      Carl Jung called life a journey of discovery. And perhaps this is one of its many blessings: being aware of these synchronicities and reflecting on how they have tacitly molded you into the person you have become. And think of all the people you have met along the way. How you have contributed to them and vice versa. Fate or destiny?

  • Charles Atkins

    Interesting post!

    Personally, I would argue that whereas Fate describes an incompatibilist determinism—an unchangeable course of events strictly prescribed from the outset—Destiny is more compatibilist, allowing room for free will. For example, when we say that someone “was destined for greatness,” the past tense “was” seems odd; yet I think it refers to the fact that Destiny is more of a rough trajectory than a predetermined course, per se. That is, if someone plays baseball as kid, then we say they are “destined to be a great MLB player”; however, that course can be thrown off, can be deviated from, as when the kid ends up becoming a famous writer. On this account, I think we all have various innate Destinies from which to choose, if only we are prodded in the right direction.

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