Bite-Sized Philosophy

Amor Fati: Schopenhauer On The Idea Of Fate

How The Passage Of Time Encourages A Belief In Fate

R. C. Abbott
5 min readJul 16, 2021

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Black and white screenshot from the film: Cinema Paradiso directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. An older man holds a young boy’s face. The subtitle reads: whatever you end up doing, love it.
Photo credit: Criterion Babe. Cinema Paradiso 1988, Giuseppe Tornatore.

In Schopenhauer’s essay Transcendent speculation on the apparent deliberateness in the fate of the individual (I KNOW, that’s a title and a half), he explores the idea that our sense of free will changes as we age. His basic premise is that we are more likely to believe in fate, destiny, providence, or predetermination as we get older because we have seen the different acts of our life come together.

It’s important to note that in the first paragraph of the essay, he emphasizes that he’s talking about something non-falsifiable, meaning it can’t be proven or disproven; it can only be thought about. That’s a disclaimer right there for the argumentative folks that are getting ready to die on the determinism vs. free will hill. That battle’s not happening today. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the thought-adventure without feeling the need to come to a conclusion and win an argument. He literally says: “the following is not to be taken seriously.” (But like… don’t take it not-seriously either, because it’s pretty cool.)

Like Marcus Aurelius says: “You always own the option of having no opinion.”

How Does One End Up Reading An Essay On Fate?

In your case, the algorithm decided you were ready for the Matrix (just kidding, relax).

In my case, I came across this essay because of William Gaddis’ The Recognitions. Specifically the following excerpt where a couple on vacation are telling their friends about being robbed by a Dante-quoting highwayman:

Her husband got out his billfold and found a scrap of paper. — Here’s a souvenir of it. He made me write this down so I’d remember to get this book and read it. Transcendent Speculations on Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual, that’s a mouthful isn’t it. I wrote this down at gun-point.

(Yes, the title translation is slightly different. It took me a fair bit of…

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