Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason is a noble cliché that may provide comfort, but in logical discourse the assumption on which the statement is based is an example of the pathetic fallacy—that is, the attribution of human feelings and motives to inanimate nature. The statement that everything happens for a reason does not explain away randomness, and in fact it dismisses important truths about the senselessness of some events. Sometimes the reasons for things lie in unthinking, unemotional nature and have nothing to do with human truth.

The most egregious instances of this phrase occur where people use it to dismiss senseless tragedies. It is true that tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods happen for natural, earthly reasons, but notwithstanding the human need for comfort, there is no way to reconcile the random loss of life with morality.

Examples

In these examples, the people who claim that everything happens for a reason obviously take comfort in the sentiment, but it’s not a convincing argument:

I have come to the belief everything happens for a reason, even cruel and violent things. [quoted in Mirror (now offline)]

“[I’m] beyond disappointed,” she wrote, “but I told myself everything happens for a reason and there must be a lot of great reasons why this didn’t happen, and it just motivates me to do better in 2015.” [Gazette.Net]

” Obviously we would have liked to have had better success in the past, but everything happens for a reason I think.” [quoted in Joplin Globe]

“Everything happens for a reason. They weren’t really using me out there in Phoenix, and I feel like I’ll get a fair shot here.” [quoted in Orlando Sentinel]

“Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.”  [quoted in The New York Observer]

Comments

  1. Am I wrong in thinking that this phrase necessarily refers to something in the spiritual/metaphysical realm? When one uses the phrase, they are admitting that they don’t know the reason why said event happened, while holding a belief that there must be a deeper reason for the event. Simply saying “I don’t know why this happened” does not convey the belief in a higher power (fate, god, etc)

    Don’t beg the question (of god, or similar non-logic) by assuming that people who say this are trying to follow logic.

  2. Also, my mistake on the one-they equivocation.

  3. I’m really “tired” of people telling me this – about my situation(s). [Do they say that to: the abused wives? to the molested children? paraplegics? homeless people?] That statement shows no empathy of one’s situation.

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