“Everything happens for a reason.”
“That happened to you because if it doesn’t, you might be in a bad place.”
“Bad things have to happen in order for the good times to come after.”
“In every storm, there is a rainbow.”
“There are no accidents or coincidences; all things happen with a purpose”
We probably encountered this kind of statements – regardless of language or culture you have. Humans generally use this to console a current plight. For example, “You probably got your car engine busted because there is an imminent disaster en route.” This is probably acceptable, because it is possible; but I call this ‘bullshit’. This is the least possible advice you can say to anyone who is currently on a hard time in life.
Why? Because it’s all fallacy, folks, and it is a poor philosophy. Read on to know why.
Every time anyone says this kind of assurance, I cringe. I always think, “Who the hell are you to be certain that it will happen?” though I always respect their opinions. Nonetheless, please, reader. After you read this post, refrain from using that kind of advice – it is too good to be true, and too bad to be an advice.
We all get problems. It might be small or enormous, but we always find a way to cope it. That problem might be a consequence of our actions, or from another; but nevertheless, it affects us. The problem here is, is the problem primarily designed to beset you?
If your answer is yes, then scram, you egocentric pleb. You think that everything that happens to you is probably made to happen to you? What about the random people who don’t even know you? Accidents are one example of this. Accidents are usually unplanned, without intent, but it might cause bad effect to anyone. A simple car accident might kill an innocent pedestrian, but probably, the car is not made to accidentally kill the unfortunate.
There are 2 premises in this philosophy:
- the cause of the cause of a good effect is the bad effect.
- there must be a teleological reason within everything that will cause ‘good’ effect.
If both premises were true, then it must have a predetermined plan, similar to God’s Plan. It means that the series of events are interconnected and will happen after the prior event happen (just think of any story you know with linear plot).
While this philosophy is similar to the karma philosophy, worry not – I will not discuss anything about it.
In a nutshell, this is the structure of this philosophy:
[cause -> bad effect] -> [cause -> good effect]
this is also the same as:
[bad effect] -> [cause -> good effect] or [bad event] -> [good event]
As you can see, bad effect is the cause of a cause that will probably have a good effect. Meaning, without the bad effect, there wouldn’t be the cause of the good effect, therefore it cannot exist.
Stop thinking and imposing that everything goes according to a plan – it’s too depressing and dangerous!
This is the same as saying that human beings have no free will, or in other words, no freedom of choice. It is possible that, when humans realize that they have no control over the outcome of the future, or if fate exists, then why must they live? They will probably lose their self-efficacy, the belief of oneself to complete a certain task.
They will be more aggressive in life, because once they lost their volition, they will not take the blame for every actions they have made; in the same way as the praises and credit for their good deeds.
Teleology – or so called purpose, is just according to man.
Purpose – that word is an illusion. I can say that it exists in the lexicon, but on the ontological sense, it is untrue.
Some may say their purpose for doing something, but that’s just their opinion. Keep in mind that only you, humans to be exact, can define your own purpose. Teleology is the study behind that. One can argue that a seed’s purpose is to grow into a tree, or a zygote’s purpose is to develop into an embryo, but that’s not tantamount to everything.
Assume that you are what you are today, and was given a spoon and fork together with your favorite soup – Arroz Caldo. In order to eat it, you will use your spoon. Why so? Because humans imposed that spoons are used for soups, thus implying its purpose.
Now, assume that you are a caveman who survived with no culture and civilized knowledge (and know nothing about spoon and fork.) Enact the same scenario – what will you probably do? Without knowledge about the imposed purpose of humans towards spoons, you won’t know what to do with it. You will probably club that stupid person who gave you the food to death – you might even use the fork because it is more sharp.
Spoons are used for eating soup; and it is for clubbing as well.
To think of it, we only make our own purpose. There could be a myriad of purposes we can conceive on a certain event, but hence, it doesn’t have a definite purpose. Now as I just explained how impossible for everything to have a purpose, let us proceed to the second part.
“I got my arm disabled and the army didn’t conscript me into the war because of it.”
This scenario is way too efficient (and satisfying), but we can’t disregard the fact that he got his arm disabled. I remember this one scene on Osamu Tezuka’s manga Message to Adolf when one character got his arm disabled (without intent), and he got disqualified for the war.
One can argue that his arms got disabled in purpose that he would be forced to be disqualified to join the war, which was implied to be worse than having your arms disabled, because your whole life is at stake in the battlefield.
But isn’t that argument folly? Probably in the manga the cause of his arms’ disability is because he overused it even before it get better (after getting shot), so the consequence of it is probably the disability. That conscription is just a mere coincidence, and a bit of luck (if you believe in it). It is probably impossible to assure that his disability’s purpose is to disqualify him in the conscription.
In the statement, don’t get confused. The word ‘because’ here is the ontological reason of the consequence (didn’t get conscripted). Because of his disability, he got disqualified, therefore didn’t get conscripted; but thinking back, it is not the teleological reason of the antecedent. You are just thinking on hindsight, that’s why you formed that kind of purpose. You wouldn’t be able to assure the purpose of it beforehand, doesn’t it?
This is fairly a common logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc , that means ‘after this, therefore because of this’. Just like in the manga, he got depressed and sad for thinking he won’t be unable to use his arm again, he never thought of happiness that because of it, he got disqualified on the worse scenario.
Thinking that everything has a distinct, intrinsic purpose is like you already know what will happen in the future.
Yes! We assume that all zygote will eventually form into an embryo, and embryo to fetus, but for some reason, some just fail developing into one. It is probably the cause of another thing, we cannot blame the zygote itself, because we assume that everything has a distinct purpose, and for instance, a zygote’s purpose is to grow; therefore, only things that are purposed to stop the development of the zygote will take the blame – e.g. abortion.
Same thing as the existence of a human for example. A human being is precious among humanity, but can you define its purpose?
Why humans exist? An ambiguous question, and it serves two definite reasons – ontological and teleological.
Ontologically, there are certain theories about the why humans exist. It is probably covered in the Holy Bible, that humans were created by God. Another speculation is the Evolution theory.
Teleologically, this is where the problem starts. We do not hold the knowledge on defining the certain purpose of our existence. That’s why every time you ask anyone, “Why do you exist?” They will spout some opinions i.e. “Because I have a purpose, because I am a survivor.”
As you can see, it all comes down whenever you discuss the ‘purpose’ part, it all comes to subjectivity, because no one holds the knowledge of the future. They will say they have a purpose, but they are not certain about it.
That’s why when you start to think about using ‘everything happens for a reason’ as an advice, think again – “Am I certain about it? What if it is just an accident?”
And the problem is – the human volition.
It is truly a problem whether our decisions are affected by this philosophy. If everything happens for a reason, then probably our decisions also happen for a reason. If there is a reason for my irrationality, for instance, jumping down from the 163rd floor of Burj Khalifa. If its purpose is to kill me, then how is it beneficial to me?
“There is a purpose of your cancer.”
Once you begin to think that everything happens for a reason, of course it includes accidents, natural disasters, and genetic errors such as Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), autism, and mental retardation.
Let’s discuss about natural disasters – typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruption. Each one has its own cause, and its effects are affecting our society. It slaughters unfortunate people, without discretion – rich or poor, it deliberates not.
How come we form a purpose of its existence? Shall we still resort into blind conclusion? (i.e. “probably because of human sins, God’s divine wrath”) It is saddening to think, that every tragedy in life has its purpose.
How lamenting that problems were made to afflict pain, sorrow, and agony. Such disastrous events were orchestrated to massacre innocent, unfortunate people. How malevolent it is! People were born with autism, people develop cancer eventually, all happened for a certain purpose. How cruel it is!
To conclude, people in this world desire this one thing- justice. We believe that all our merits deserve an adequate reward, and all infamy deserve punishment. As good as it is, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way.
Causality – or they say, for every cause there is a distinct effect, is cogent, though still not proven. While this system of things seems evident a posteriori, it is not evident a priori.
If you still think that there is a certain purpose on everything, then you probably think that you never have any volition, therefore have no free will. I have no qualms about it – believe anything you want to believe.
Nonetheless, if you think you have a free will, please, refrain from using this kind of advice. I would rather say that this happens to you because of a myriad of causes, and with that, the chaos made a certain problem and you are affected by it. If there would be to blame, it is only your creator and/or yourself; but I’m not sure on the former.
Though even this philosophy seems illogical and impossible to happen, it is true that nothing is futile, and everything that happens has its effect to the world, but that doesn’t mean that it is the reason of its existence.