Robert Kane (A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will, Oxford 2005, p. 19) rightly bids us not confuse determinism with fatalism:
This is one of the most common confusions in free will debates.
Fatalism is the view that whatever is going to happen, is going to
happen, no matter what we do. Determinism alone does not imply such
a consequence. What we decide and what we do would make a
difference in how things turn out -- often an enormous difference
-- even if determinism should be true.
Although it is true that determinism ought not be confused with fatalism, Kane here presents an uncharitable definition of 'fatalism.' No sophisticated contemporary defender of fatalism would recognize his position in this definition. Indeed, as Richard Taylor points out in a well-known discussion (Metaphysics, Ch. 6), it is logically incoherent to suppose that what will happen will happen no matter what. If I am fated to die in a car crash, then I am fated to die in that manner -- but it is absurd to append 'no matter what I do.' For I cannot die in a car crash if I flee to a Tibetan monastery and swear off automobiles. There are certain things I must do if I am to die in a car crash. As Taylor says,
The expression 'no matter what,' by means of which some
philosophers have sought an easy and even childish refutation of
fatalism, is accordingly highly inappropriate in any description of
the fatalist conviction. (Metaphysics, 3rd ed., p. 57)
Kane's contrast is therefore bogus: no sophisticated contemporary is a fatalist in Kane's sense. Should we conclude that fatalism and determinism are the same? No. I suggest we adopt Peter van Inwagen's definition: "Fatalism . . . is the thesis that that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no one is able to act otherwise than he in fact does; that the very idea of an agent to whom alternative courses of action are open is self-contradictory." (An Essay on Free Will, p. 23.)
As I understand the matter, fatalism differs from determinism since the determinist does not say that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no one is able to act otherwise than he in fact does. What the determinist says is that the actual past together with the actual laws of nature render nomologically possible only one future. The determinist must therefore deny that the future is open. But his claim is not that it is logically self-contradictory that the future be open, but only that it is not open given the facts of the past, which are logically contingent, together with the laws of nature, which are also logically contingent.
Perhaps we can focus the difference as follows. Suppose A is a logically contingent action of mine, the action, say, of phoning Harry. Suppose I perform A. Both fatalist and determinist say that I could not have done otherwise. They agree that my doing A is necessitated. But they disagree about the source of the necessitation.
The fatalist holds that the source is logical: the Law of Excluded Middle together with a certain view of truth and of propositions. The determinist holds that the source is the contingent laws of nature
together with the contingent actual past.