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Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

“Fatalism is the belief that whatever happens is unavoidable.” Or, to quote the First Doctor in the Aztec’s: “You can’t rewrite history. Not one line!” While the old codger did mellow out eventually, he still claims that some fixed points of time can’t be changed. So does that make him a fatalist? A determinist? Or something completely different?

First off, lets look at the differences between fatalism and determinism. Determinism’s argument goes along the line that whatever will happen will always happen and you can’t change anything. Everything in the future is set in stone. There is no such thing as free will, anything you were going to do is what you were always going to do. Now this is a stupid philosophy, but I will (or have, depending when I posted this) talk about it in another blog. So what’s Fatalism? Fatalism believes that no matter what you do, the outcome will always be the same. To elaborate, lets look at the idle argument.

The Idle Argument goes thus:

1)You catch some sort of sickness.

2)It is fated that you are going to recover from this sickness regardless whether you go to the doctor or not (that’s a doctor doctor, not the time-travelling doctor).

3)If it is fated that you’re not going to recover, calling the doctor or not will not have an impact on your chances.

4)It is fated that you’ll recover from this illness or not.


5)It is pointless to go to the doctor.

The Idle Argument basically says ‘what will be will be’; and nothing you do will be able to change that. So the wise thing to do is to just do nothing since any precautions you take are ultimately pointless and a waste of time. Now while I may be a cynical git, it doesn’t take much to realise that this argument is pretty rubbish. Firstly, what if I am fated to recover only if I go to the doctor? The Fatalist would say I was going to do so anyway. But then that means I don’t have the choice to take precautions or not, since I’m already fated to do it. This is a very deterministic world view, which counters fatalism. The second problem is that if this was true, why would I bother getting up in the morning? It’s a pretty depressing view, having little control over the future. I might as well ride around on my bike naked for all the good it does me. That is why it’s imperative that if you ever meet someone who claims to be a Fatalist, scam money off them by pointing out that it was always meant to happen this way. Because fatalism is nothing more then pessimism disguising itself as philosophy.

But lets bring it back to the original question: Is the Doctor a fatalist? Well, yes and no I suppose. If there was such a thing as soft determinism (which there may be, I’ve yet to look that far ahead), he’d definitely be in that category. To quote the Tenth Doctor: “I think certain moments in time are fixed. Tiny, precious moments. Everything else is in flux, anything can happen, but those certain moments, they have to stand. And this base, on Mars, with you, Adelaide Brooke, this is one, vital moment. What happens here, must always happen.”

So what does that quote demonstrate? Well it proves the idea that there are fixed points in time. Events like Pompeii and the Doctor’s Death at Lake Silenco. These moments are fixed in stone and can not be changed. You can’t fight fate in this sense. However, (and this is where I agree with the Doctor), while the outcome is always the same the path leading up to it can be different. This is one of the key points that I think fatalism tries to get across. There is a somewhat limited amount of free will. I can’t stop some terrible event in the future, but I have the ability to try. While it may ultimately be for naught, at least we have that freedom that determinism doesn’t grant for us.

So is the Doctor a fatalist? Yes, but that doesn’t mean he’s miserable about it. He accepts that there are some thing he’s never going to be able to change everything. But he can change some things. While we’re doomed to fail, his brilliant Time Lord mind allows him to see what is fixed and what isn’t. So being a fatalist is great if you know what moments are in flux. Now to combat fatalism I come up with two very small points. One is the multiple worlds theory, that is to say there are parallel universes. This means that yes, everything is fated to happen. But it could be fated to happen in different universes. It gives fatalists what they want (a universe where some things are unchangeable) with the freedom of movement that free will wants to provide. The other minor point is that for fatalism to work, everything would need to be set out. That no matter what you do, nothing will change. I don’t know about you, but this seems to imply a very vindictive universe that’s out to get you. It applies a sentience to the universe that can only be sold by bringing God into the equation, but that’s an argument for another day. Just two minor points I’m leaving here for myself.

So there you have it. A quick and bad look at fatalism. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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