Fatalism is often depicted in zombie fiction, but the concept itself is rarely explored in any real detail. Characters sacrifice themselves for the common good, or commit suicide due to altruism and despair. But when the philosophy of predeterminism is actually addressed, it’s usually a ham-handed attempt to portray believers as some sort of religious death cult.

In the popular novel World War Z, a religious sect known as Gods Lambs believed that the sooner they became infected, the sooner they would go to heaven. The video game series Dead Rising features a cult known as True Eye, while the AMC series Fear The Walking Dead featured a Mexican death cult in a recent episode titled “Los Muertos”.

The misconception is that the death of humanity, culture, and our ultimate replacement by the undead hordes is preordained. The term predeterminism is even used in the context of biology and hereditary; representing a form of biological determinism that somehow favors the zombie hordes over Western civilization, and therefore not even worth fighting against.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, fatalism, determinism, and predeterminism are discrete in stressing different aspects of the futility of human will or the foreordination of destiny … Determinists generally agree that human actions affect the future but that human action is itself determined by a causal chain of prior events. Their view does not accentuate a “submission” to fate or destiny, whereas fatalists stress an acceptance of future events as inevitable. Determinists believe the future is fixed specifically due to causality; fatalists and predeterminists believe that some or all aspects of the future are inescapable…

In the face of demographic displacement, and the statistical mechanics of zombie outbreaks, it’s easy to see why any survivor of the apocalypse may succumb to nihilism. But the problem of fatalism and predeterminism is that you often assume these trials and tribulations to be the ultimate end, rather than part of the journey.

Of course fatalism can also be hopeful, depending on your view of the future. It’s the eternal struggle between optimism and pessimism; do you see the glass half full or half empty?

But what is the opposite of fatalism? Indeterminism, metaphysical libertarianism, and the very concept of free will itself play a large part in survival; whether they’re applied to our daily lives, the horrors of war, or a zombie apocalypse. Even those who believe in fatalism or predeterminism may see a better future for mankind, rather than the religious death cults often depicted in zombie literature. It’s a complex worldview that’s largely hypothetical.

And unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) we may never know how we’ll actually feel until the harsh realities of an inevitable zombie apocalypse test our beliefs. Will you sacrifice the courage of your convictions, compromise your morality, or ultimately accept the futility of humanity’s survival? It’s a heady question, to be sure; but definitely one worth considering.

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