Between wisdom and despair - RSA

Between wisdom and despair

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The latest blog on ‘coordination theory,' a set of ideas about human motivation, organisational and social change, looks at the form of ‘fatalism'. Fatalism is the voice that says to us ‘we can’t work together’, ‘we won’t solve this problem’ or even ‘whether or not we solve it, we can’t change the things that make it hardest to be human.’

“We are all resigned to death: it's life we aren't resigned to”
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

I grew up when there were only three or four television channels. When a great series came along it could change your quality of life. For me, two of those occasions were provided by the playwright Dennis Potter. The days on which the next episode of either Pennies from Heaven or The Singing Detective were due to be broadcast were highpoints of the week. In 1994 Potter, racked with terminal illness, agreed to be interviewed by Melvyn Bragg. It made a huge impression on me. There is a moment in that interview when Potter’s words become poetic:   

"Below my window in Ross…there at this season, the blossom is out in full now, there in the west early. It's a plum tree, it looks like apple blossom but it's white, and looking at it, instead of saying "Oh that's nice blossom"...I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn't seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know. There's no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance ....". 

Fatalism can bring out the best in us  

We live in what seem fatalistic times. A Prince’s Trust survey published in early 2019 found that nearly one in five young people say that have nothing to live for. According to pollsters IPSOS MORI, just one third (33 percent) of those from Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) think they will have a better life than the generation older than them. This means today’s young people are half as optimistic as their own parents. The same pollster consistently finds two thirds of British people think the country is going in the wrong direction. Surveys in many countries show young people are increasingly anxious and pessimistic about climate change. We are by all accounts living through an epidemic of mental illness, which Covid-19 seems to have exacerbated.

Woman looking pessimistic

In previous posts in this series I have described three sets of ideas; the individualistic, the solidaristic and the hierarchical. Each is a basis for individual and group motivation and a foundation for differing worldviews. They describe a way that people respond to, and pursue, social change, which is why I refer to them as ‘forms of coordination’. But there is a fourth, equally ubiquitous, perspective. Fatalism is the voice that says to us ‘we can’t work together’, ‘we won’t solve this problem’ or even ‘whether or not we solve it, we can’t change the things that make it hardest to be human’. The expression of fatalism may seem to come from the disgruntled, pessimistic fringe of debates about social action, but think for a moment about a mild form of fatalism: it is for most of us, our default mind set. Just about every day, at work and in our personal lives, we decide change is impossible or that it is not worth the effort and so we may as well get on with things as best we can.

Think for a moment about a mild form of fatalism - it is for most of us, our default mind set. Just about every day, we decide change is impossible or that it is not worth the effort and so we may as well get on with things as best we can.

Despite the growth in collective pessimism, the social expectations of modern Britain generally disparage explicit fatalism. Politicians, managers and teachers extol the virtues of a ‘can do’ or ‘never say die’ attitude. Characteristics such as commitment, motivation, determination, and optimism are seen as inherently positive. Conversely, words like ‘doubting’, ‘ambivalent’, ‘unsure’ or even ‘realistic’ appear much less often in someone’s CV or an appreciative work appraisal. Yet fatalism is part of who we are.

Our animal nature, the randomness of the universe, ageing, death and the way the world will move on without us, are unavoidable realities that hover over our lives from childhood. One of the problems with the modern world is our resistance to accepting or even acknowledging fatalism, let alone appreciating its value and its uses. If what we most need to notice about individualism is how its dominance belies its flaws and contradictions; if the most notable feature of solidarity is how it can inspire both the best and the worst in us; if we need to understand why we depend on hierarchy but are so often disappointed by it; the conundrum posed by fatalism is how we face up to it, channelling its insights and appreciating its role in human flourishing and, arguably, survival.

One difference between my ideas and many other ways of categorising human motivation, for example Self Determination Theory, which I mentioned in an earlier post, is that I see fatalism as significant and substantive. To explain why, I need to go back to the theory on which my ideas are based.

My four forms are based on those developed by the British anthropologist Mary Douglas and a number of people who subsequently refined her thinking. Douglas is possibly most associated with her of idea ‘grid group’ theory, which came from observations she made in a wide variety of contexts ranging from traditional cultures to modern organisations. The theory classifies cultures depending on, first, the degree and rigidity of stratification (grid) and, second, the degree and intensity of collective belonging and affiliation (group).

Think of a two by two matrix: the bottom left hand corner is the area of low grid and low group. It is the one associated with individualism, exemplified by a market place, where anyone’s money is as good as anyone else’s, but people have only a limited sense of belonging. The area in the right bottom corner is ‘high group, low grid’, the area of solidarity. This might be seen in a newly formed social movement with its strong sense of shared purpose but with relatively little structure or hierarchy. An example of ‘high grid, high group’ – the hierarchical zone in the top right corner – might be the Catholic church or perhaps senior echelons of the civil service, an explicit and quite rigid hierarchy combined with a strong shared ethic. This leaves the unattractive combination of high grid and low group, a situation of rigid stratification with places in the pecking order predetermined and fixed but with little sense of belonging or shared purpose. This might be how it would feel to be a slave or a long-term prisoner. This is the kind of culture that would likely be dominated by fatalism. But it can be anywhere and in anyone.

‘Situational’ and ‘existential’ fatalism

Situational fatalism…is the view, in a particular context, that change will not be possible, successful or, ultimately, for the better.

Like all the others forms, fatalism is complex. I find it useful to think of two primary forms, which I call the ‘situational’ and ‘existential’.

Situational fatalism is a response to the possibility of change in a specific context. It is the view, in a particular context, that change will not be possible, successful or, ultimately, for the better. It may be how we feel when we listen to a new boss promising that the next strategy really will make our organisation a joyful and successful place to work. It may be how we respond when a politician tells us he can make our country great again or exhorts us to be better citizens. It is what might lead us to give up our stated intention to get fit, learn a new language, even to be a better person, deciding that perhaps things aren’t that bad and that, anyway, our efforts are likely to fail in the face of the challenge and our own frailties.

This fatalism is ‘situational’ because it has a specific subject and because we can imagine other circumstances in which we might not feel it. In a different context we might have believed the company strategy, been inspired by the politician, or have completed our first marathon. This type of fatalism is often an accurate assessment.

Existential fatalism…is the feeling that whatever happens, even if the changes we pursue are entirely successful, it will do nothing to relieve us of some of the things that make existence so difficult.

The other form is the existential fatalism. This is the feeling that whatever happens, even if the changes we pursue are entirely successful, it will do nothing to relieve us of some of the things that make existence so difficult. There are certain times and places when this feeling is more likely to take hold so it has a situational dimension, but it is also an inevitable and inherent part of the human condition. 

Watching a film in cinema

In the goal-oriented world most of us occupy most of the time, existential fatalism seems generally pointless and dysfunctional. It is not the kind of perspective that would be appreciated in work meeting or across the family dining table. But there are more acceptable outlets: the creative arts for example. Plays, films, paintings, novels, poems and pieces of music are valued in part because they express and summon emotions like poignancy and insignificance, which we otherwise work hard to avoid. One of my own favourite examples comes in Roger Altman’s 1974 film California Split.

Two gambling addicts, Charlie Waters and Bill Denny (played respectively by Elliot Gould and George Segal) pursue the ultimate win. Throughout the film the viewer expects the usual gamblers’ comeuppance with them losing everything. Instead as the film closes Bill scoops the pot at the biggest poker game in Las Vegas. As an exuberant Charlie sits at a pool table dividing their winnings he notices Bill sitting silent, not celebrating; “you always take a big win this hard?” he teases. Then, as the reason for his friend’s demeanour hits him, he utters the film’s pivotal line “don’t mean a f***ing thing does it?” The pathos operates on two levels. As gambling addicts and slaves to their instincts, they will keep coming back until all is lost. More profoundly, if gambling is a strategy to escape reality it is only the big win that finally reveals its futility.

While situational fatalism is more likely to be felt when an organisation is dysfunctional or when our plans go awry, existential fatalism can creep up on us when everything seems to be going well. I remember the shock among a group of my friends when an actor they knew well took his own life just hours after receiving a standing ovation for his performance. Like the story of Bill and Charlie, it is in the moment of triumph that our inability ever to escape the pathos of life can feel most acute.

Whatever we achieve in life and however sophisticated we feel we have become, we continue always to be subject to basic animalistic needs, drives and fears. As neuroscience and psychology shows us, much more of our behaviour than we like to imagine is driven by fast acting animal instinct and much less by slow moving conscious deliberation. As science fiction writer, Robert A Heinlein, said, “man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalising animal”.

Life continuously reminds us of the contingent nature of its blessings and curses. The rain falls equally on the virtuous and the sinful, the fitness freak dies of cancer while the chain smoker lives to 90. The blameless child starves in a famine, while the investment banker enjoys the fruits of his questionable financial arbitrage. And as we become older, we also experience the jagged path of human history: victories followed by defeats, idealism by disillusionment and renewal by decay. Liberal enthusiasts like Stephen Pinker argue that the world has been on an upward trend since the Enlightenment, but the horrors of the 20th century and the volatility of our own reminds us of history’s cyclical pattern; each turn accompanied by vast and apparently pointless human suffering.

Humans’ relationship to the natural world was for nearly all our existence, and still in some parts of the world, at the heart of fatalism. The inability of our ancestors to predict or manage natural events, with life or death consequences, provided a continuous reminder of the role of fate in our lives.

Why do we suffer existential fatalism? To be so deep in us, each perspective must have some kind of evolutionary rationale. This is reasonably obvious for situational fatalism as it is often simply correct, but it is more difficult to see the purpose for this deeper melancholy. Yet, it too seems to have been a constant feature of human imagination.

Is it simply an unwelcome by-product of human nature? Not all our traits have a direct evolutionary purpose. Think of phantom limb syndrome; the experience felt by amputees that their lost limb still exists leaving the strong sense that, for example, non-existent toes or fingers are painfully crossed. As far as we can tell phantom limb syndrome does not have an evolutionary purpose, it is simply the by-product of the way we have control over our limbs through their representation in parts of our brains, parts which continue to exist and function even when the limb has gone. As I once heard the scientific and cultural polymath Dr Jonathan Miller say during a debate, “all limbs are phantom limbs, it’s just that most have real limbs attached to them”.

Similarly, existential fatalism may be a by-product of human capacities of higher consciousness and symbolic communication that have been essential for us to evolve beyond the rest of the animal kingdom. As soon as human beings became capable of reflexive thought, narrative memory and the communication of ideas, individual and collective awareness of human nature and human mortality, inevitably followed. Equally, as each of us develops self-consciousness as a child, we are also confronted by our unbidden needs and desires. We start to perceive the world as it is and we become aware of the frightening mystery of death.

In his classic book The Denial of Death (poignantly published after his own life ended prematurely), Ernest Becker argues that the awareness of our own mortality, and even worse, the fact that the world will go on without us, is the key driver of all human behaviour. Becker uses his psychoanalytic perspective to argue that this knowledge drives us subconsciously to seek immortality through our own pursuit of heroism, or by projecting our desires on to leaders or celebrities. This challenges the surface appearance that fatalism is always the least active form of coordination. Becker places it as the impulse behind the others, whether the urge to succeed, to belong, to lead or follow.

Suppressing an awareness of death can, as Becker and others argue, drive us to depression or mania. The alternative is that we try to live with the knowledge and its implications. Despite the pain, grief and inevitable fear, many people facing the certainty of imminent death speak of this position of very concrete fatalism allowing them to see things more clearly than before, to appreciate what really matters, to become more philosophical about life’s triumphs and disasters. I began this chapter by quoting Dennis Potter a few days before his death. Two of my friends, Philip Gould and Kate Gross, used some of their remaining time to write powerful books on the wisdom an awareness of mortality can bring to us. They did this in part to counter the difficulty individualistic societies like ours have in confronting, much less accepting death.

Our animal nature, the contingencies of life and the inevitability of death and being forgotten, are among the most fundamental parts of being human. They are also the big questions religions promise to answer. Prehistoric religions involved a spiritual relationship to nature reflecting its role in governing human fate. The Romans took their concept of fate from the Greeks. The destiny of mortals lay in the hands of three female Gods, Nona, Decima and Morta, collectively known as Parcae (Moirai to the Greeks). Even the other Gods cannot rebel against the Parcae‘s decision; moreover every God was subject to the mysterious force of ‘Fatum’. Christianity substituted this concept of Fate with the concept of Divine Providence. For today’s believers, religion helps them cope with being human. It guides in how to overcome our animal spirits. God’s plan and beneficence offer meaning in a world that can so easily feel arbitrary and a belief in some kind of after-life can help people cope with mortality.  

Worshipping in a church

For some, the realities of life and death are unbearable without belief in the divine. Rather than a belief in God being the basis for faith, perhaps it is our hunger for faith that makes us susceptible to the idea of a benign deity. Along with its solidaristic dimensions of belonging, this helps explain why religious conviction and observance continue to be so powerful in so many people’s lives, despite theology being almost impossible to reconcile with the scientific assumptions pervading much of the rest of our lives. In a society that finds it hard to acknowledge much less honour fatalism as a worldview, religion both acknowledges our needs and offers antidote.

The idea that God is in charge and has a plan for us might seem likely to instil passivity and resignation in his subjects. This is not necessarily the case. Whilst history and the daily news of terrible crimes committed in the name of a God remind us of how religious belief can rationalise inhumanity, there is also strong evidence that aggregately those with faith are more likely to demonstrate pro-social behaviours such as volunteering and philanthropy; according to the American Almanac of Philanthropy “religion motivates giving more than any other factor”. Perhaps because faith helps us to cope with fatalism, believers, regardless of which faith, also enjoy higher levels of health and wellbeing. Max Weber famously argued that while the doctrine of predestination, most strongly associated with Calvinism, may seem disempowering and gloomy, it drove its followers to try to prove their chosen status through worldly accomplishment. In our own time the popular, albeit widely ridiculed, doctrine of prosperity theology argues that faith is the path to material success. Even if we do accept that we are not ultimately in charge of our destiny, it is still up to us to decide how to deal with that truth.

For most people across most of time, religion has been the way to deal with fate but after the Enlightenment, the question of how we can live and find meaning in a disenchanted world has become a core theme of philosophy. In much Eastern philosophy, most notably Buddhism, fatalism is a state of mind to be cultivated a source of wisdom not just about death but how to live our lives.

A useful antidote

Older man having coffee with friends

For people living in the modern West, fatalism can be a useful antidote to the worldviews, which tend to emerge from the other three forms of coordination. Think first of individualism: from relational bliss to the lure of consumerism, the idea that we must always be happy and should throw off anything that is less than perfect is as pervasive and damaging as it is vacuous. It is the kind of illusion we grow out of as we age. The ancients and many other societies revere the old partly because they have been freed of their animal appetites and seen through the illusions of personal ambition. Our individualist culture sees an ageing society in largely problematic terms but a society at home with its own fatalism would almost certainly be one that better respected the wisdom of age.

Solidarity, with its tendency to be oriented to the past and its relationship to the sacred and transcendental, is the form closest to fatalism. Yet, its idealism can also be problematic. Emphasising shared moral values as the basis for action can lead to the futile and disabling search for perfection. In an earlier post, I described the troubled history of communal living. The attempt to create perfect communities adhering to rigid values is doomed to failure. Terrible crimes have been committed in the name of ideological purity. A dose of realistic fatalism can counter the dangerous belief that any society can overcome human nature.    

For people living in the modern West, fatalism can be a useful antidote to the worldviews, which tend to emerge from the other three forms of coordination.

Finally, thinking of the hierarchical form, the wise leader may be highly motivated but they should also able to recognise their own frailties and to put the organisations successes and failures in context. Humility is starting to be more widely recognised as a leadership virtue. A 2014 study in six countries by Catalyst, a global NGO supporting women workers, found it to be one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees from different demographic backgrounds felt included.

The humble leader acknowledges that while they may have invested a large part of their life in the organisation’s performance, they can hardly expect this to be true of people lower down the pecking order, especially now that the loyalty of organisations, particularly commercial ones, to staff is so limited. As I leave the RSA I must accept my own organisational mortality. Even when a leader is deemed to be successful, they will soon enough be replaced by someone with new ideas determined to make their own mark. It is tempting for leaders to try to create a legacy that survives their departure. Such efforts are generally ill-fated. Much better to accept the wisdom of fatalism, enjoy the leaving party and move on with resigned good grace. 

The simplest explanation for the other form of fatalism, the situational, is how often it is accurate. It enables us to identify times when action is likely to be inefficient, unsuccessful or dangerous. Imagine a prehistoric hunting group chasing prey: the weather is closing in and the group is far away from base. Some in the group want to go on but to do so could be disastrous. In such circumstances the capacity to spot danger, to remind the group of previous attempts that have failed, to argue that it is better to be hungry than to be dead, could all be vital to survival. Fatalism acts as a prescient and sometimes vital restraint on other human drives, particularly the individualistic and hierarchical, which are strongly oriented to action and change.

Fatalism acts as a prescient and sometimes vital restraint on other human drives, particularly the individualistic and hierarchical, which are strongly oriented to action and change.

The mythology of the ancient world includes powerful symbols of the virtues of individualism, solidarity and hierarchy but it also has its cautionary tales. These fables implicitly encourage realism and caution while warning of hubris. Think of the fate of Midas, Icarus or the tale of King Canute (although in his case it was his followers’ faith he was seeking to dispel).

Like the other more active forms, fatalism has both a universal and an individual dimension. While some situations are likely to foster a fatalistic response in us all, the propensity also differs from person to person. A group’s capacity to be realistic about dangers or chances of success may depend on it containing people with a more sceptical predisposition.

The argument for fatalism’s utility is given credence by evidence that the mildly depressed may be more realistic than the rest of us. In an influential survey undertaken by Lyn Abramson and Lauren Alloy in the late 1970s (subtitled 'sadder but wiser?') it was found that those diagnosed as having mildly depressive symptoms turned out to have a more accurate view of both themselves and reality than people with a more average, non-depressed, perspective. Other studies have found that such people can be more perceptive, more accurate in recollecting facts and more empathic to other people. These findings, combined with neuro-scientific research, which suggests that in some ways depression might enhance certain forms of cognitive functioning, provides further grounds for hypothesising the evolutionary function of a capacity for fatalism. Neuroscientist Paul Andrews and psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. suggest that depression might be “a mental adaptation that focuses the mind to better solve complex problems”. Conversely, psychology has identified a more general ‘optimism bias’, which, for example, makes people feel they are less likely than others to succumb to various risks associated with behavior ranging from smoking to bungee jumping and more likely to be fortunate in various forms of gambling.

Anthropologist Michael Thompson is one of the most important and original of those who have developed Mary Douglas’ ideas. His research suggest that teams that include the voices of each of the four forms – including fatalism – are less likely to get carried away by exuberance when things are going well. The evidence that a bit more scepticism might do us good is all around. Sometimes policy failure is to do with inaction but, more often, disasters result from unrealistic expectations and impractical plans. To take just one high profile and tragic example, how much better might it have been had Tony Blair taken the advice of those who warned that changing things in Iraq or Afghanistan would prove infinitely more difficult than winning UK elections and pursuing domestic reform? In the business world most organisational strategies fail, most mergers and takeovers add no value, while the refusal to accept the inevitability of business cycles leads to the kind of regulatory negligence that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.  

The evidence that a bit more scepticism might do us good is all around. Sometimes policy failure is to do with inaction but, more often, disasters result from unrealistic expectations and impractical plans.

The voice of caution and realism can play an important role, not necessarily in vetoing action but in helping to identify evidence that leaders might choose to ignore, pointing out the scale of risks or reminding everyone that all significant change is likely to have downsides as well as benefits. For those pursuing organisational change, risk assessment and forms of routine, accountability may feel onerous but they may also be what stand between the institution and disaster. 

Coordination theory and its interpretation of social pessimism

I opened this chapter with some of the statistics suggesting growing pessimism in the UK. The question of why we seem to be gloomier and more vulnerable is inevitably political with people’s views often saying as much about their ideological starting point then anything substantive about the problem itself. Coordination theory offers its own structural interpretation of social pessimism.

First, some of what we can observe surely reflects the dominance of individualism in contemporary liberal democracies. These are the downsides of a way of thinking and living, which we more often associate with benefits. Although living standards have stagnated in recent times, economic growth has over the long run brought many improvements in people’s quality of life. But remember the case made by Avner Offer to which I referred to in the post on individualism: The weakening correlation between national affluence and national contentment may reflect the consequences of our lesser reliance of ‘commitment devices’ such as marriage, church attendance or limits of debt. Without such social constraints we are more likely to succumb to a myopic inability to weigh short-term desires against long-term needs.

Woman on social media

A further side effect of individualism lies in the process of continuous, competitive and often self-destructive comparison. A number of studies show that anxiety about social status is exacerbated by the scale of social inequality. It is too early to be sure about the long-term impacts of social media use – although there are plenty of alarming claims – but platforms like Instagram enable comparison to be constant, intimate and with every celebrity. The individualistic myths of social mobility and meritocracy make matters worse by suggesting that each of us is to somehow to blame for the fact that we aren’t as rich, famous or beautiful as those whose lives we are invited to observe. It is bad enough ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ but now we are invited to keep up with the Kardashians or whoever else is the latest social media sensation. 

Greater consumer choice and personal freedom are drivers and consequences of individualism. But it seems we can have too much of a good thing. As Barry Schwartz argued powerfully in his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, beyond a certain point, having more options reduces people’s sense of control and efficacy. Equally, the freedom to construct and change our identity, especially on-line, can liberate but also lead to self-absorption.

As I have argued, the ideology of individualism deprecates fatalism. But suppressing what a necessary and inevitable way we see the world and our place in it, is probably not good for us. Some argue that higher levels of mental illness and the huge growth in the use of anti-depressants represent not a genuine deterioration in health but the medicalisation of everyday unease and unhappiness. Is this what happens when we see fatalism only as dysfunctional?  

The strength of fatalism in societies like the UK is sending us a message we must heed. The converse of individualism’s dominance in the modern world is the deficit, which I described in the post on solidarity; a hunger for belonging, which is partly responsible for our current experience of political and social polarisation and public pessimism. In seeking to extend market forces to all domains of life and passing huge power to the financial system, neoliberalism has generated stark social and geographical inequality and accelerated processes of globalisation and change, which many people feel to have robbed them of security, agency and pride.

In earlier posts I developed the idea of ‘full engagement’, those powerful and creative periods in organisations, places and societies, when hierarchy, individualism and solidarity are expressed and aligned. Balancing society is not simply about ‘dialing up’ undervalued motivations and methods; it involves the development of new balance of forces specific to a time and place. Our sense of fatalism is in part a reflection of how far away from such a balance we feel we are. Recent analysis of attitudes and on-line behavior suggests that over a third of the population of countries like the US and UK believe that even chaos would be better than the status quo. 

There is a lazy tendency to suggest that political leaders have been ignorant of the growing problems and uncaring about public disillusionment. The problem is not that the solidarity deficit has not been acknowledged, it is that it is so hard to address. Indeed, it is arguably the gap between the rhetoric and the reality that has often been the source of public anger and pessimism. Despite our comparative affluence and the availability of new insights and tools that should facilitate social solutions, the overriding sense in many counties is intractability; things should change but they won’t.

Acknowledging fatalism might also help us think clearly about how to manage and transcend it.

Acknowledging fatalism might also help us think clearly about how to manage and transcend it. One answer is to promote participation. It is not hope that leads to action so much as action that leads to hope. For example, research on young people’s anxiety about climate change finds that it can be reduced when they start to organise together to campaign and act on the issue. 

Protesting about climate change

But instead by not facing up to, in the face of the apparent incapability of mainstream politicians and conventional reforms to address modern ills, people seek other remedies. It is not just seen in the progress of explicitly populist movement but more generally in the attraction of ‘magical thinking’ a form of politics, which not only avoids engaging with practicality but also portrays such an engagement as a sign of disrespect for the popular will. Populism offers short-term emotional comfort but little in the way of structural or sustainable solutions to the solidarity deficit of modern liberal societies. Fatalism is the canary in the mine, signalling the scale of our society’s structural imbalance. The solution is not simply to turn up the volume of solidarity – as populists of left and right are prone to argue – but to try to reimagine our social structure as a whole.

The final form of coordination is very different to the others. We respond gladly to the individualistic promise of pleasure or success, the reassurance or necessity of authority, and the emotional resonance of solidaristic feeling, but fatalism – like pain – is something we can easily imagine living without. But like pain, fatalism is an intrinsic part of what makes us human, an inevitable consequence of our struggles and a vital clue to what is going on in our environment and how we should respond.

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  • I have only just become a Fellow and am already enjoying the opportunity to join in such interesting and relevant conversations. What an excellent reworking of Mary Douglas's Group/Grid theory.

  • Philosophy is my favorite topic to study. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  • Philosophy is my favorite topic to study. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

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