What Mozi Thinks about Fatalism

Mozi was a Chinese philosopher who was active during China’s Hundred Schools of Thought period. He is best known for being the first ever scholar to oppose Confucius and his followers. Mozi and his followers went around China initiating philosophical debates and arguments with willing participants.

Born in the Shadong province of China, he founded a school of philosophy known as Mohism. This philosophy encouraged the use of authenticity, self-restraint, and self-reflection in rituals rather than obedience. Mozi soon acquired a band of followers known as Mohists who propagated his ideologies around China. During the Warring States period, the Mohists had grown to become one of the most prominent schools of thoughts in China, second only to the Confucians. However, they lost their place when the Qin dynasty headed by Emperor Qin Shi Huang came into power. He carried out a purge that encouraged the burying of scholars and burning of books. It is believed that most of the Mohist classics were lost in the purge. Confucianism soon became the dominant philosophy during the Han dynasty and totally wiped out the remnants of Mohism from the Chinese culture.

What is Mozi’s philosophy?

Mozi was mostly interested in setting logical moral standards for any political or social endeavor. He saw moral standards as an important tool that is needed for the smooth running of government and for the proper regulation of society. According to him, the Will of Heaven is the absolute moral standard because it is a source of limitless generosity and universal love.

Some of the beliefs of Mozi include the following:

  • Practicing simplicity and condemning luxury and waste.
  • Obedience and reverence to Heaven (tian) and the ghosts worshipped in traditional religion. 
  • Supporting a central authoritarian state that is ruled by a benevolent leader and is managed by a merit-based bureaucracy.
  • Actively opposing any form of military aggression and injury to others.
  • Advocating for a unified political and ethical order that is grounded in an ideology that emphasizes impartiality.

Mozi assumed that humans needed the appropriate moral education to conform to the proper ethical norms. He also believed in using persuasion and discussion to motivate actions and solve ethical problems. Before we go fully into the purpose of this article, let us find out about fatalism.

What is fatalism?

This is the belief that every event or action that takes place in nature has already been predetermined by fate. It believes that man does not have the power to influence his actions or the future. It encourages humans to resign and accept their fate instead of showing any form of resistance.

Now, let us find out what Mozi thinks about fatalism in this article:

Fatalism is responsible for poverty

Mozi saw the philosophy of fatalism as an instrument that was used to keep people in poverty and sufferings. He observed that most rulers desired to have a prosperous country filled with wealthy people, a booming population, and administered by an appropriate and orderly government. Unfortunately, these desires remained wishes as they lost what they liked and got the things they disliked. For example, instead of their people being wealthy, a vast majority of them remained poor. There was no increase in the population, rather it was always decreasing. Moreover, there was no orderliness in government as everything was in a state of chaos.

Mozi attributed the cause of this problem to the presence of a large number of fatalists among the populace. He debunked and faulted the beliefs of these fatalists who leave everything to fate and neglect to take actions that can better their lots in society. He saw this fatalism as a tool to prevent the people from working and using their willpower. To him, the fatalists were selfish individuals whose doctrines should be watched closely and prevented from spreading among the people.

Fatalism promotes evil

Another one of Mozi’s views about fatalism is that it promoted the growth of evil in the society. In Mozi’s time, the ancient sage-rulers issued decrees and published laws that were meant to be used as standards for rewards and punishments. These laws and decrees were also seen as a guide to encourage the good and obstruct the bad in the country. The people accepted these guides and it resulted in a society filled with individuals who were obedient and respectful to elders, decent in their conducts and thinking, and who practiced moderation in everything they did. The acts of stealing, disobedience, rebellion and other vices were foreign to them. But with the coming of fatalism, these noble virtues were all wiped out.

The fatalists faulted the reward and punishment system. To them, fate had already decided and predetermined the person that would be rewarded or punished. Therefore, an individual’s good acts were not responsible for his rewards, neither were his bad acts responsible for his punishment. According to Mozi, when this ideology was embraced by the people, they immediately abandoned any personal attempt to be virtuous. After all, their actions did not matter since fate had already decided their destiny. As a result, chaos, disorderliness, stealing and other vices became prevalent in the society.

Fatalism is the way of the wicked

Mozi was of the opinion that fatalism encourages wickedness and he viewed those that practiced it as wicked individuals. According to him, in ancient times, the wretched people in society regularly engaged in excessive eating and drinking. They were also generally lazy about their work. However, when their food and clothing became insufficient, and they began to experience the pangs of hunger and cold, they refused to admit that their actions contributed to their present state. Instead, these individuals considered it as their lot in life to be poor.

Also, wicked kings at the time never controlled their passions and the desires of their mind. They also refused to follow the paths laid down for them by their ancestors. So, when they inevitably lost their country to war or ruined their states, they did not acknowledge the fact that their actions were responsible for their loss. Instead, they chose to believe that fate had already decided that they should lose their country. Therefore, Mozi discouraged the practice of fatalism as it prevents every sphere of society from doing their job.

Mozi’s three criteria (San Biao)

Mozi tested the correctness of his views by using three criterias which are as follows:

  • Basis: He based fatalism on the deeds of ancient sage-rulers.
  • Verifiability: He verified it by the sight and hearing of the people.
  • Applicability: He applied it by observing its benefits to the people and society.

By applying these criteria to fatalism, the results he came out with were all negative.


Mozi saw fatalism as a philosophy that encouraged people to evade responsibility. To him, it was an irresponsible doctrine that was practiced by individuals that have refused to accept that their own actions had caused hardships in their lives. Lastly, Mozi regarded fatalism as a heresy and a great calamity to the world that should be destroyed.

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