Accident and Chance : An Existential Perspective


Robleh Wais

Chance and Accident

In our continuing look at existential ideas let's consider the interpretive idea of chance and accident. Chance is a nothing more than the probability of an event. It is not interpretive. While accident is the assignment of intention to an event, and this difference is crucial to understanding what these two words actually mean. In the concept of existentialism there is no meaning that can be assigned to events in reality. We can dig into both these terms to see clearly the how one is false and the other quite true.

Chance is probability in action. It has another name: luck. When we think of chance we never think purpose. Why in fact, to associate purpose with chance is counter-intuitive. Chance is an event without purpose by definition. Chance is random and can occur at anytime in a statistical event. Chance has no cause. It can't be determined to stem from any discernible source. In this respect, chance defies our ability to analyze it. We can't assign meaning to chance we can only know it does exist. It has a rare possibility of being actualized.

Accident however is much different. It is caused. It can even be purpose-driven. Consider this: you reach for a bottle of wine from your refrigerator intending to pour yourself a glass of fine Port, but due to inattention, you drop it and it smashes into countless pieces on your kitchen floor.This is an example of an accident. It is obvious you had an intended purpose for this now smashed bottle, with the deep burgundy liquid pouring all over your tiled kitchen floor. You intended to drink that delicious wine, as you cry out in frustration and regret Godamnit I'm so clumsy!. This accident had a purpose behind it. Every accident is purpose-driven. Accidents are not chance events, they are unintended events. No accident is by chance!If there is an accident there is always a purpose behind it.Just think of your own life and this fact should be clear.


The Religious View


Why have I striven to make these two concepts distinct? This is a good question. It seems that many writers, even scientists confuse these concepts. It is also very very clear that many religionists use the confusion to posit the foolish idea of a God.I use the term religionists, to mean anyone whom subscribes to the idea of a supreme being or even beings, thus covering all faiths of this type. The paradoxical thing about this usage that these religionists make is they don't claim that existence is an accident or chance but that these very notions prove that existence can't be such. They argue that there is no chance to existence and certainly wasn't any accident.No, it was a purposeful event that their Godhead being or beings intended and is by a celestial plan. When confronted with facts about the random nature of the universe, they usually retreat to sacred text to refute these attacks. What a clinical deceived lot they are and I won't spend more time in discourse about their erroneous concepts. I will say this argument springs up in discussions about the origins of the universe. It can also arise when the topic of human existence on Earth is considered. What I really want to get to is what we examined in previous essays of this series: Why are there concepts of Chance and Accident?


Chance and Accident: A Different View


If we take it from the existential perspective chance is real. Chance does exist. It exists in a very strange fashion, however. It doesn't have a material existence. You can't point to some object and say: there is chance, see its pretty little chin it's so beautiful, looks just like my sister. This is absurd, right? Yet, existence is a fabric that is composed of more than just the elements of things we can perceive. Radioactivity is a random event that occurs in sub-atomic particles. For instance, until a uranium isotope decays this changed element doesn't exist. Or another example, new particles created from large cyclotron machines that smash particles into each other, create elements that were previously dormant and not actualized in our material world. But, we don't have to go to such extremes to see that existence is made of more than what is tangibly real. Take a child that is born from sexual union. This child was conceived by two people, whom very well may have met at random, or through a rape, or by a sperm donator that was used to impregnate a woman. In all these examples we can see a chance event gives rise to a real material existence.Existence includes more than what is currently existing.

What about accident? Accident is another human interpretive conception. We call things that result from unintended causes, accidents.But no such thing really exists.This may sound odd, but it's true. Just because you make what you call a mistake doesn't make the mistake a real existing thing! Let's go back to the dropped Port bottle example. What really happened in this case was a person dropped a bottle that gravity caused to impact the floor the force therein caused the glass to break bonds and release the liquid inside. The fact that the clumsy person didn't intend this to occur is irrelevant to actual event. The event itself had no intrinsic meaning to it. I know this seems strange to most readers, but is quite true from the existential perspective. We can't keep going on make meanings where there are none.It is deceptive to believe that our mental intentions are purposeful in this world. This is true, even when our intentions are realized believe or not! Another example might really make this idea clear.

Let's say you and your wife want a child badly, and you have intercourse and lo and behold you have a baby girl, which is what you wanted all along. Is this an example of a birth that was not accidental? Of course not, no birth is accidental, a birth just is. When we assign meaning to events we are again ignoring the existential reality of our existence.


I sense that many will say in response to the notion that is no accident, something like the following:

Since there is no meaning in all that we do, it is just events as they occur, why even care or make a life for ourselves? Why try to plan our children's births, or careers, or this or that etc.

This would be a misguided response. I am not saying that our interpretations of reality should not occur. Why in fact, we can't help doing this! I am saying that we should not let our interpretation of reality rule us. Yes, we will and must keep changing our world, building, creating, shaping and forming our reality through science and technology. But, we should not see that we what do is somehow meaningful.

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