Kant & Fate



destiny, fate, Immanuel Kant, philosophy of religion, providence


Immanuel Kant mentions fate (Schicksal) in several places. Peter Thielke offers the only sustained interpretation of what Kant meant by fate. According to Thielke, fate is a “usurpatory concept” that takes the place of causality but fails to do its job. There are problems with this interpretation, relative to Kant’s philosophy and to the ordinary concept of fate. It is not clear why we only find a usurpation of causality and not the other concepts of the categories, or how a usurpation of an a priori concept could occur. Thielke’s interpretation does not explain the way in which fate attributions are only made about events that have significance for human action or well-being, or fate’s teleological aspect. I outline the textual evidence that, for Kant, fate usurps providence, a postulate of practical reason, and then show how this interpretation preserves the strengths but avoids the weaknesses of its competitor.


Aphrodisias, Alexander of. 1983. On Fate. Translated by R. W. Sharples. London: Duckworth.

Aquinas, Thomas. 1947. Summa Theologica. Translated by English Province Dominicans. New York: Bezinger Bros.

Aurelius, Marcus. 2008. The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Edited by James Moore and Michael Silverthorne. Translated by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Banerjee, Konika, and Paul Bloom. 2014. “Why Did This Happen To Me? Religious Believers’ and Non-Believers’ Teleological Reasoning about Life Events.” Cognition 133 (1): 277–303.

———. 2017. “You Get What You Give: Children’s Karmic Bargaining.” Developmental Science 20 (5).

Bobzein, Susanne. 1998. Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boethius, Anicius. 2008. The Consolation of Philosophy. Translated by David R. Slavitt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Burrus, Jeremy, and Neal J. Roese. 2006. “Long Ago It Was Meant To Be: The Interplay Between Time, Construal, and Fate Beliefs.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 32 (8): 1050–58.

Confucius. 2003. Analects: With Selections From Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Converse, Benjamin A, Jane L Risen, and Travis J Carter. 2012. “Investing in Karma : When Wanting Promotes Helping.” Psychological Science 23 (8): 923–30.

Eidinow, Esther. 2011. Luck, Fate & Fortune: Antiquity and Its Legacy. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co.

Elliot, Alice. 2016. “The Makeup of Destiny: Predestination and the Labor of Hope in a Moroccan Emigrant Town.” American Ethnologist 43 (3): 488–99.

Fortes, Meyer. 2018. “Oedipus and Job in West African Religion: The 1956 Frazer Lecture.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 8 (1/2): 394–413.

Furnham, Adrian. 1993. “Just World Beliefs in Twelve Societies.” The Journal of Social Psychology 133 (3): 317–29.

Gelven, Michael. 1992. Why Me? A Philosophy Enquiry Into Fate. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.

Johnson, W. J. 2009. “Daiva.” In A Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University Press.

Kant, Immanuel. 1929. Critique of Pure Reason. Edited by Norman Kemp Smith. London: MacMillan.

———. 1956. Kritik Der Reinen Vernunft. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag.

———. 1979. The Conflict of the Faculties. Edited by Mary J. Gregor. New York: Abaris Books.

———. 1996a. Critique of Pure Reason: Unified Edition. Edited by Werner Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett.

———. 1996b. “History of Natural Theology According to Meiners’s Historia Doctrinae de Uno Vero Deo.” In Religion and Rational Theology, edited by Allen Wood and George Di Giovanni. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1996c. “Lectures on the Philosophical Doctrine of Religion.” In Religion and Rational Theology, edited by Allen Wood and George Di Giovanni, 335–452. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1996d. Religion and Rational Theology. Edited by George Di Giovanni and Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1996e. “Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason.” In Religion and Rational Theology, edited by Allen Wood and George Di Giovanni, 39–216.

———. 1996f. “The End of All Things.” In Religion and Rational Theology, edited by Allen Wood and George Di Giovanni, 217–32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1996g. “The Metaphysics of Morals.” In Practical Philosophy, edited by Mary Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1997a. Lectures on Ethics. Edited by Peter Heath and J. B. Schneewind. Translated by Peter Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1997b. Lectures on Metaphysics. Translated by Karl Ameriks and Steve Naragon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1998. Critique of Pure Reason. Edited by Paul Guyer and Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2002. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Edited by Paul Guyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2006a. “Conjectural Beginning of Human History.” In Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History, edited by Pauline Kleingeld and David L Colclasure, 24–36. New Haven: Yale University Press.

———. 2006b. Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History. Edited by Pauline Kleingeld. Translated by David L. Colclasure. New Haven: Yale University Press.

———. 2007. Critique of Pure Reason. Edited by Max Müller and Marcus Weigelt. London: Penguin.

———. 2015. Critique of Practical Reason. Edited by Mary Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kleingeld, Pauline. 2001. “Nature or Providence? On the Theoretical and Moral Importance of Kant’s Philosophy of History.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75 (2): 201–19.

Lawson, Jack Newton. 1992. “The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia of the 1st Millenium: Toward an Understanding of Šīmtu.” Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (Ohio).

Lench, Heather C, and Esther S Chang. 2007. “Belief in an Unjust World : When Beliefs in a Just World Fail.” Journal of Personality Assessment 89 (2): 126–35.

Lerner, Melvin. 1975. “The Justice Motive: Some Hypotheses as to Its Origins and Forms.” Journal of Personality 31 (3): 1–52.

———. 1980. The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion. New York: Springer.

Lupfer, Michael B, Karla F Brock, and Stephen J Depaola. 1992. “The Use of Secular and Religious Attributions to Explain Everyday Behavior.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 31 (4): 486–503.

Lupfer, Michael B, Donna Tolliver, and Mark Jackson. 1996. “Explaining Life-Altering Occurrences : A Test of the ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ Hypothesis.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 35 (4): 379–91.

May, Rollo. 1981. Freedom and Destiny. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.

Oral, Meltem, Aynil Yenel, Elif Oral, Nazan Aydin, and Nazan Aydin. 2015. “Earthquake Experience and Preparedness in Turkey.” Disaster Prevention and Management 24 (1): 21–37.

Pasternack, Lawrence, and Courtney Fugate. 2021. “Kant’s Philosophy of Religion.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-religion/.

Pippin, Robert B. 1982. Kant’s Theory of Form: An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Plutarch, Pseudo. 1959. “On Fate.” In Plutarch’s Moralia In Fifteen Volumes, Volume VII, edited by Phillip H. De Lacy and Benedict Einarson, 303–574. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rashwan, Basem, and J. Craig Jenkins. 2017. “Fatalism and Revolution: Expanding Our Understanding of Fatalism During a Unique Political Opening in Egypt.” Journal of North African Studies 22 (4): 645–64.

Sangren, P. Steven. 2012. “Fate, Agency, and the Economy of Desire in Chinese Ritual and Society.” Social Analysis 56 (2): 117–35.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1974. “Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Deliberatness in the Fate of the Individual.” In Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume 1, 199–224. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Solomon, Robert C. 2003. “On Fate and Fatalism.” Philosophy East and West 53 (4): 435–54.

Strickland, Lloyd. 2016. “Leibniz’s Harmony between the Kingdoms of Nature and Grace.” Archiv Für Geschichte Der Philosophie 98 (3): 302–29.

Thielke, Peter. 2006. “Fate and the Fortune of the Categories : Kant on the Usurpation and Schematization of Concepts.” Inquiry 49 (5): 438–68.

Tizzard, Jessica. 2019. “Why Does Kant Think We Must Believe in the Immortal Soul?” Canadian Journal of Philosophy Online: 1–16.

Tucker, Abraham. 1990. Freewill, Foreknowledge and Fate. A Fragment. Bristol: Thoemmes Antiquarian Books.

Watkins, Eric. 2001. “Kant On Rational Cosmology.” In Kant and the Sciences, edited by Eric Watkins, 70–90. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Weeks, Matthew, and Michael B Lupfer. 2000. “Religious Attributions and Proximity of Influence: An Investigation of Direct Interventions and Distal Explanations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 348–62.



23-08-2022 — Updated on 29-08-2022


How to Cite

Hunt, M. (2022). Kant & Fate. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 18(1), 401–421. Retrieved from https://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/1026 (Original work published August 23, 2022)