Everything happens for a reason

By megpie1991, in 'English to Latin Translation', Jun 26, 2011.

  1. megpie1991 New Member

    I'm looking to get "everything happens for a reason" in Latin as a tattoo. I'm hoping the meaning is pretty self explanatory as I don't really have any better ways of describing it.
    Thanks :)
  2. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    Cygnea, Gena
    nihil fit sine causa
  3. socratidion Civis Illustris

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    London
    = 'nothing happens without a reason'. Fine. I think doing the double negative thing works well here, better than a literal rendering.

    But I don't think it's what the OP is looking for. Bitmap has given us a scientific truth, a logical axiom: effect follows cause, everything is explicable if you follow the chain of causality. I would not be surprised to find a statement like this in Lucretius -- an atheist materialist, who would be very much opposed to the sentiment that the OP is, I think, endorsing. Surely the OP means 'everything happens according to some supernatural plan'. It's not just 'a reason', its' 'a REASON '.

    I've wondered about whether substituting 'ratione' for 'causa' would bring out this sense, since I think that 'ratio' (with its root in the idea of thinking, calculating, reasoning) is maybe less impersonal than 'causa', but I'm still not confident the difference would be felt. So I'm inclining towards something like:
    nihil fit nisi consulto = nothing happens unless on purpose
    forte nihil, omnia consilio fiunt = nothing happens by chance, everything <happens> by plan (or just the second half on its own)

    Now that I look at it again, I wonder if 'fio' is after all the right way to go, since it often acts as the passive of facio. My versions could read as if the bearer of the tattoo is saying that everything done by him is deliberate. Perhaps use accido instead: it still means 'happen', but more appropriate for just the way things turn out.
    nihil accidit nisi consulto
    forte nihil, omnia consilio accidunt. (or just the second half on its own)

    Or pursuing a different idea:
    nihil accidit nisi ex proposito = nothing happens unless from a set purpose.
    It might be better to stick a quodam in there, to show that you don't exactly know what the purpose is -- it's "a purpose", not "the purpose".
    nihil accidit nisi quodam ex proposito= nothing happens unless from some purpose

    Oh dear, reading that back I'm still not getting the sense of a divine or otherwise supra-human agency. And am tempted to put 'in vita' (nihil in vita accidit = nothing happens in life)to get a proper context. But now the sentence is getting quite long... as is this post. There's probably some really simple way of doing this. But I do think that Bitmap's version, elegantly simple as it is, is not getting under the surface.

    Maybe we could just cut through all the coyness and say:
    nihil fit nisi ex causa quasi divina = nothing happens unless from a sort-of-divine cause.

    Elegance! Where's the elegance?! Bother!
  4. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

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    I think it’s funny that someone want a cognitive bias tattooed on them. :doh:

    :) Anyway, maybe:

    Est propositum omni evento.
  5. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    it's a Ciceronian sentiment.

    didn't bother to read the rest of your message
  6. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

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    elephantum ex musca iterum facit. quousque tandem abutetur patientia nostra?
  7. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

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    Naaww, don’t be so mean to Socratidion. He’s a bit wordy, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of curiosity.
  8. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

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    Yeah but that's going a tad too far. Sorry but I prefer brevity. I bet so does the poor OP.
  9. socratidion Civis Illustris

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    Even if I ramble, I don't think the OP gets a bad deal out of this.

    That's true, but not pertinent unless you are sure what Cicero means. I've spent a bit of time tonight tracking down what I could from Cicero's works. According to my evidence, he means it in the rational/scientific sense, and not in the sense of a grand supernatural plan. It's a point about logic, not about the meaning of life. Most clearly here:

    Quicquid enim oritur, qualecumque est, causam habeat a natura necesse est, ut, etiamsi praeter consuetudinem exstiterit, praeter naturam tamen non possit exsistere. Causam igitur investigato in re nova atque admirabili, si poteris; si nullam reperies, illud tamen exploratum habeto, nihil fieri potuisse sine causa, eumque terrorem, quem tibi rei novitas adtulerit, naturae ratione depellito.
    Cic. de Div. 2.60

    Though if you feel like following this up a bit further, you could look at Natura Deorum 1.92 and Topica 62.

    I therefore submit, once again, that Bitmap's version does not answer the brief.
  10. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

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    Stop bickering, and discuss my translation. It’s all about me, meee, meeee!!
  11. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    It's not really "my translation"... just one of the best-known Latin phrases there are. :roll:
  12. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

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    That’s not the issue. The question is whether the translation is appropriate.
  13. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    Incidentally, this has been asked before a couple of times:

    viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5578&p=26077#p26071

    I actually believe the post in the frequently asked translations could do with some updates as the translations offered here are much better than the primitive suggestions in the other threads.

    Still, I don't see the need to question a well-established proverb that is essentially the basis for this English phrase.
    The meaning range of causa is wider than merely "cause" as in "scientific cause and effect". Causa can also point to the purpose/reason for which something is done, and that's how I'd understand it here.
    To be honest, I would also understand it that way in a work like de divinatione, which is concerned with the prevision of the future, not the rational logic of cause and effect. At least I don't understand how you can say that this is clear in the passage you stated. However, I must admit that I've only read parts of the work and that I haven't dealt with it in detail, so I can't really argue about that. (btw. the same sentiment occurs one paragraph later, in 2.61, again).

    Apart from that, this phrase also seems to be a question of the respective idiom of a language to me. For example, the German translation of this well-known English proverb would be more idiomatic with the double-negative rather than the single positive. Latin, too, seems to like the double negative here as phrases including "non sine causa" or "non nisi (quadam/ some adjective) ex causa" are found quiite a few times.

    I don't see anything wrong with the well-established proverb. If you feel like you can make it look nicer, I won't prevent you from adding some elegance. Just don't reinvent the wheel on the basis that the wheels we've got are not round enough.
  14. socratidion Civis Illustris

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    I'm embattled on two fronts, here.

    There's a philosophical/linguistic issue: what does the OP mean? What does Cicero mean? I am proposing that they are as different as 'Everything happens according to a benevolent cosmic plan' versus 'there is a logical explanation for everything'. I have not succeeded in proving that (or even, apparently, in being heard), and hell, I don't even know if I'm right; but whether I'm right or wrong, that difference is real, and still, in my opinion, worth discussing.

    There's a pragmatic issue: it's a tattoo, it's the modern world, the OP wants a simple, grammatically correct Latin phrase, and probably doesn't care what Cicero said, as long as he/she can point to the tattoo and say 'that means, Nothing happens without a reason'. I concede this point. Let the OP inscribe his/her skin with 'nihil fit sine causa'. An internet search will reveal that this phrase has indeed achieved some currency; everyone thinks it refers to a cosmic plan. Job done.
  15. socratidion Civis Illustris

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    OK? Now the boring bit; no-one has to read this, not even Bitmap, to whom it is principally addressed.
    Absolutely -- as a vocabulary item, it has a wide range of meanings, but of course they depend on context. In the context of human action, it will take often take on the meaning of purpose/reason for doing something. But not here, where we are talking about the nature of the universe, and the concept of agency is moot.

    It would help to read it. I'm not sure how you can get clearer than 'quicquid enim oritur, qualecumque est, causam habeat a natura necesse est', to show that 'causa' is not being used in the sense of purpose. The following bit you mention runs:

    "Quarum omnium causas si a Chrysippo quaeram, ipse ille divinationis auctor numquam illa dicet facta fortuito naturalemque rationem omnium reddet; nihil enim fieri sine causa potest; nec quicquam fit, quod fieri non potest; nec, si id factum est quod potuit fieri, portentum debet videri; nulla igitur portenta sunt"

    ... which I would interpret as

    If I ask Chrysippus what are the causes of all those things, he himself, that famous proponent of divination, will say that they never happen by chance, and will offer a natural explanation for all of them; for nothing can happen without a cause; nor does anything happen which is impossible; and if something has happened which was possible, it should not be regarded as a portent; therefore there are no portents.

    What about Cic. de Fato 9.18, where Cicero says that Epicurus's theory of random atomic swerve contradicts his fundamental tenet that nothing happens randomly ('sine causa fiat'); he uses a similar phrase when dealing with Chrysippus' argument in section 20 (motus ergo sine causa nullus est); all of which sets the ball rolling for a lengthy discussion in which the idea is batted about for our benefit, and some version of the phrase is used fifteen times, all in the rational/scientific sense.

    So I think it's reasonable to suppose that, 'nihil fit sine causa' was indeed a well-known maxim, being one of the fundamental principles of natural science, and was never used to describe divine intervention or fate (from which it was, in fact, logically separate)

    That's a bit of a leap. I suppose it's possible the English have derived from the Latin, but I doubt it: it didn't have to -- it's not a hard idea to come up with. It sounds more Christian than Ciceronian to me; or if not that, influenced by eastern religion. Karma. Ideas very foreign to Cicero's stoicism. I've seen the Latin around a lot on the internet, but if you ask me, it's just been misappropriated. There are plenty of examples of that sort of thing (if only I could think of one now!).
  16. Iohannes Aurum Technicus Auxiliarius

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    I agree Bitmap. It does need updating. After all, it is your own post.
  17. Decimus Canus Civis Illustris

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    In these situations provenance is everything. Should someone challenge the Latin the OP can simply retort, "Oh yeah, smartass? It's *@#%ing Cicero!"
  18. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    don't worry... I do actually read your posts.

    I just mentioned 2.61 as another source, not as a paragraph that would prove my point. As I said, I won't contest your argumentation because I'm no expert on de divinatione and I believe and trust that you're right in your understanding of this passage.

    Yes, there is ... but only if you want the sentence to be understood the way Cicero did it in a particular passage. Bereft of context, the interpretation of nihil fit sine causa is entirely up to the reader and probably within the range of what the OP *may* have wanted (he/she never made it clear).
    After all, this is a tattoo translation, so the pragmatic issue you mentioned is likely to be prevalent <I might have second thoughts if this were prose composition>. As I said (or may have tried to said), I don't think there's anything wrong with the good translations you or Cursor offered ... I'm just trying to defend a pretty common phrase that will be recognised immediatly.
  19. Bitmap Civis Illustris

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    thank you Johnny. I didn't notice that...

    it's just that I can't edit a post any longer if it is almost 2 years old ....
  20. Cinefactus Censor

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    If you make a new post on the topic, I can delete the old one for you and relink it in the index.

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