You may have been asked this before but a common phrase you hear is "everything happens for a reason." Is that actually true? It seems pretty black and white to me. Wouldn't "most things happen for a reason" make better sense?

The "principle of sufficient reason" has been around in philosophy for a long time; it's implicit even in the philosophy of the pre-Socratics (those who came before Socrates and Plato; we know their work only from fragments.)

The principle of sufficient reason was clarified by Gottfried Leibniz in the 1700s. His idea was that everything that happened has at least one reason why it happened. So the notion that everything happens for a reason has been embedded in philosophy for a long time and is part of the modern philosophical view. Its alternative is the idea that nothing happens for a reason.

As for "most things happen for a reason", try to think of something that has NO plausible explanation. It's impossible for me to think of none. The only thing we know of that might qualify are quantum leaps in quantum physics, and even there, the events that we do observe happen by the "collapse of the wave function" when we observe them; the cause is our observation of them. And there are physicists who think that the appearance of randomness is an illusion due to our limited ability to measure things.

In sum, if we expand the notion of "reason" to include physical causality, then everything DOES happen for a reason.

Hope this helps.




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Charles K. MacKay


I can answer a number of questions in philosophy; my academic concentrations (graduate school at Cornell) are ethics, political philosophy, and 19th-century German philosophy (Marx, Hegel, and hangers-on.)



BA, New College, 1971, Philosophy and Religion
Awarded four graduate fellowships upon graduation

MA, Cornell University, 1974
Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

All course work and dissertation drafts completed for Ph.D. Cornell University, 1971-1975, Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

Courses in statistics and microeconomics, George Washington University and The American University, 1976-1978

EXPERIENCE: Health Insurance Specialist 2005 - Present
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service
US Department of Health and Human Services

Allentown Business School Instructor (Computer Science) 2003 - 2005

Northampton Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy 2003 -2005

Lehigh County Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science


Medicare Made Easy (with Charles B. Inlander) Addison-Wesley, 1989

Good Operations, Bad Operations (with Charles B. Inlander) Viking Press, 1993

Health Rebooted: Information Changes Everything (in press), 2008

Bachelor of Arts, Philosphy and Religion, New College, 1971 Master of Arts, Social and Political Philosophy, Cornell University, 1975

Awards and Honors
Danforth Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship

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