everything happens for a reason.

Paul Thagard, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, questions if everything indeed happens for a reason:

When people have to cope with difficult situations in their lives, they sometimes reassure themselves by saying that everything happens for a reason. For some people, thinking this way makes it easier to deal with relationship problems, financial crises, disease, death, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes. It can be distressing to think that bad things happen merely through chance or accident. But they do.

The saying that everything happens for a reason is the modern, New Age version of the old religious saying:  “It’s God’s will.”    The two sayings have the same problem – the complete lack of evidence that they’re true.    Not only is there no good evidence that God exists, we have no way of knowing what it is that he (or she) wanted to happen, other than that it actually did happen.  Did God really will that hundreds of thousands of people die in an earthquake in one of the world’s poorest countries?    What could be the reason for this disaster and the ongoing suffering of millions of people deprived of food, water, and shelter?    Why do people find it reassuring that the Haiti earthquake happened for a reason such as the will of God, when such terrible events suggest a high degree of malevolence in the universe or its alleged creator?    Fortunately, such events can alternatively (and with good evidence) be viewed as the result of accidents, and possibly even of chance.

I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. Even if nothing else fails to make me feel a little better, this always seems to work. I don’t think it’s a self-serving bias in any way; if anything, it is introspection: by exploring the upsides of a bad situation, we are able to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and learn from our mistakes.

And sometimes, we need to have a little faith.

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2 thoughts on “everything happens for a reason.

  1. Some say it’s fate. Some say coincidence. Some say they’re both the same. I believe that everything happens for a reason, in a “chaos theory” kind of way. Most of the things that happen to you happened a result of your actions. That’s just my opinion.. or I might need to have a little more faith. c’,)

  2. Hi Guarin,

    Thanks for your comment.:) Buddhists believe in karma, i.e. the inequality in mankind should not be attributed to chance events; instead everything that happens has a certain moral causation. Depending on our religious beliefs, personal values, or personality traits, I think we all have our own takes on the events that happen to us in life. That said however, it can be painful to resign yourself to that belief – especially when bad things happen to you in spite of your efforts to be good!

    It’s no mystery that we as humans are ill-suited to situations involving uncertainty and randomness. When things happen as a result of chance, it is only intuitive that we seek explanations – when that fails, we employ our own view of the world to filter and process our perceptions, extracting meaning from the ocean of events that washes over us in daily life. In some situations failure to recognize the role of chance can be fatal. But my personal take is that the learning points we can extract from things that happen to us are far more important than its causal factors.

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