Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Fate, Renaissance Concept of

  • Valentina ZaffinoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_671-1


The term fate (heimarmenē in Greek, fatum in Latin) can be understood in different ways. Ancient tradition sometimes likened it to the idea of chance (tyche) to signify the unfathomable force that governs cosmic events. On a more strictly philosophical level, fate indicated the unfailing causal order regulating the course of events. This order was at times identified with divine providence itself or as its subordinate, depending on whether the existence of a supernatural causality had been accepted. The concept of fate also has logical and ethical implications. It involves the possibility of moral conduct and mankind’s responsibility for it. These themes were associated by Christianity with the issue of divine grace and human predestination, both of which were extensively discussed during the Renaissance. It was at this time that several authors turned their attention to the subject of fate and its opposite, the theme of mankind’s freedom. Therefore, the debate over fate is first and foremost part of the wider discussion over predestination and free will, which was based on an ancient and late antique legacy that acquired a distinctly religious meaning with Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther. The debate mainly concerned how human behavior affected the soul’s eternal salvation and the role Christ’s grace played in the process. The issue of predestination was also crucial in the theological controversies that led to the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. In addition, Renaissance philosophers argued over whether cosmic influences affected human events and whether the planets governed human life by affecting bodily fluids. This debate had a remarkable impact on the early modern age, especially on Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, and the French Enlightenment.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyPontifical Lateran UniversityRomeVatican City State

Section editors and affiliations

  • Jill Kraye
    • 1