Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be translated as "love of fate" or "love of one's fate". It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one's life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary.
Amor fati is often associated with what Friedrich Nietzsche called "eternal recurrence", the idea that, over an infinite period of time, everything recurs infinitely. From this he developed a desire to be willing to live exactly the same life over and over for all eternity ("...long for nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal").
The concept of amor fati has been linked to Epictetus. It has also been linked to the writings of Marcus Aurelius, who did not use those words (he wrote in Greek, not Latin). However, it found its most explicit expression in Nietzsche, who made love of fate central to his philosophy. In "Why I Am So Clever" (Ecce Homo, section 10), he writes:
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.
The phrase is used elsewhere in Nietzsche's writings and is representative of the general outlook on life that he articulates in section 276 of The Gay Science:
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.
Nietzsche in this context refers to the "Yes-sayer", not in a political or social sense, but as a person who is capable of uncompromising acceptance of reality per se.
R. J. Hollingdale, who translated Thus Spoke Zarathustra into English, argued that Nietzsche's idea of amor fati originated in the Lutheran Pietism of his childhood.
Nietzsche's love of fate naturally leads him to confront the reality of suffering in a radical way. For to love that which is necessary demands not only that we love the bad along with the good, but that we view the two as inextricably linked. In section 3 of the preface of The Gay Science, he writes:
Only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit…. I doubt that such pain makes us ‘better’; but I know that it makes us more profound.
Nietzsche does not promote suffering as a good in itself, but rather as a precondition for good. A 'single moment' of good justifies an eternity of bad, but one extreme cannot have meaning without the other. In The Will to Power he writes:
For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.
Cyril O'Regan remarked that with "all the bravado about amor fati we sometimes get the impression in reading [Nietzsche] that he is expecting as much our pity as our admiration. Still, the aphorism is powerful, and it is powerful not only because it is scintillating in its expression, but because it is experientially apt."
The French philosopher Albert Camus, in his 1942 essay on "The Myth of Sisyphus", explores ideas similar to those of Nietzsche. According to Camus's philosophy of absurdism, the human condition is analogous to the curse of Sisyphus, who in ancient Greek mythology was condemned to eternally repeat the task of pushing a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again. Like Nietzsche, Camus concludes that happiness is only possible when the essential meaninglessness of one's existence is not only acknowledged but positively affirmed.
In "Return to Tipasa" (1952), Camus writes:
What else can I desire than to exclude nothing and to learn how to braid with white thread and black thread a single cord stretched to the breaking-point?
Camus, like Nietzsche, held his embrace of fate to be central to his philosophy and to life itself. Summarizing his general view of life in the above work, Camus further spoke of: "a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I honor most in this world."
In The Plague (1947), Camus seems more skeptical of the amor fati position, which he evokes using the character Father Paneloux, who adopts a "Thy will be done" philosophy in which Christians are to love God with no hope of understanding Him and without pretending they have the right to judge aspects of His creation as good or bad. If God wills that an innocent child is to suffer (as Paneloux witnesses in The Plague), a Christian must do more than accept it, but must love it and even will it.
Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy— as quoted in Hadot, Pierre (1998). The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Translated by Chase, Michael. Harvard University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780674461710.
All that is in accord with you is in accord with me, O World! Nothing which occurs at the right time for you comes too soon or too late for me. All that your seasons produce, O Nature, is fruit for me. It is from you that all things come: all things are within you, and all things move toward you.— as quoted in Hadot, Pierre (1998). The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Translated by Chase, Michael. Harvard University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9780674461710.