Determinism is a philosophical category of theories that brings up the ideas of free will and its relationship with fate and destiny, and comes in a variety of flavors. Hard-Determinism suggests that there is no free will, that all actions and choices made were predestined and preprogrammed with no hope of escaping. Causality is king on the throne of Hard-Determinism and his word is set in stone. In-contrast, Soft-Determinism suggests that there is a balance between causality and free will, that there are many different outcomes and one's own choices that decide which outcome becomes true. There is also Indeterminism, but who cares about that, right?
While it is impossible to divine the future in any meaningful way in Real Life, Seers in fiction usually see the future for real and are forced to choose between a multitude of prophecies. When the future is a multiple choice question with no wrong answers, one Self-Fulfilling Prophecy means a near-infinite supply of Self-Defeating Prophecies. In some cases, this can lead to Alternate Timelines, with various forms of media showing that each probable future has happened and live parallel with one another.
Supertrope to Either/Or Prophecy, where there are exactly two possibilities. Subtrope of Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate. Sounds similar but has nothing to do with Multiple-Choice Past. For more meta-examples, see Multiple Endings.
- Destiny, a member of the X-Men adversaries the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, can see the future but makes it clear that what she sees are probabilities, not set-in-stone facts.
- In Supreme Power, Arcanna has a limited ability to see possible futures and collapse them into a preferred outcome.
- In Generation Zero, Telic has the ability to see the flow of time, giving her a limited ability to see multiple futures.
- Brother on Brother, Daughter on Mother: Reshek Taryn, a Time Police officer, describes the overall timestream using the metaphor of a rope, made of strands of probabilistic outcomes. The author explains further in related forum posts that some outcomes are more probable than others (as a way of explaining alternate timelines' tendency towards In Spite of a Nail similarities).
- In Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to peer into the future to find an outcome where they come out winning against Thanos, sifting through over fourteen million probable futures and only finding one with such an outcome. It is even implied that him willingly giving Thanos the stone after their battle against him and Thanos succeeding in his near-omnicidal goal was all a part of that probable future.
- In the Star Wars universe, The Force can give its users precognition in the very short term, but the future gets foggy if one tries to see farther than that. As Yoda explains in The Empire Strikes Back:
Yoda: It is the future you see.Luke: The future? [beat] Will they die?Yoda: [closes his eyes for a moment] Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
- Mr. Nobody takes this to the logical extreme with a boy who can see all possible futures, in his life.
- Next: The Arc Words for the film discuss this: "Every time you look at the future, it changes, because you looked at it." Because Cris can see multiple possible short-term futures, he can select the one with the best outcome.
- This is strongly implied that there is no set destiny in the Harry Potter universe, with various character's choices and instances on fulfilling prophecies being the catalyst for many of such prophecies in the first place. Dumbledore flat-out states that the only reason Harry Potter became Voldemort's undoing was because he believed in the prophecy that he would be defeated by him so much that his own attempts at curtailing it led to his own undoing. Because of this, Divination is considered an especially fickle skill to master given that the future is constantly in flux, Hermione Granger once describing it as "woolly" and "a lot of guesswork."
- In The Cosmere, some entities have the power to see into the Spiritual Realm, a Place Beyond Time and Space where Connections into the past and future are tangible. The Shards, Pieces of God who exist primarily in the Spiritual Realm and have the Super Intelligence to process all those Connections, can use that to project potential futures to a greater or lesser degree: it seems to be a matter of incredibly complex, highly interdependent probability distributions rather than a definitive image of the future.
- In The Wheel of Time, Min has the gift of seeing cryptic visions of the future around people. Most of the ambiguous ones are Prophecy Twists that come true in unexpected ways, but on two occasions, she gets viewings with two possible outcomes depending on whether one person is present for another at a crucial time. Perrin takes the warning to heart and saves Rand's life, while Siuan and Gareth do not and are killed soon after they separate.
- In Hand of Thrawn, Luke at one point uses the Force to meditate on the future and try to decide his next move. He perceives nearly infinite possible futures and wonders if this is what Yoda saw while Luke was fixated on his vision of Darth Vader capturing Han and Leia at Cloud City back in The Empire Strikes Back. He ultimately selects the only course of action he saw that didn't appear to lead to complete chaos.
- Forms the backdrop to Theirs Not to Reason Why. Ia, the protagonist, is an impressively powerful precognitive who grew up tormented by visions of the entire galaxy being wiped out by a Horde of Alien Locusts 300 years in the future. She ultimately sets out to wind her way down the only possible combination of events where the Alien Locusts lose, which involves becoming a war hero instead of a musician like she wanted, while leaving messages for thousands upon thousands of people across the galaxy to nudge them onto the correct paths, too.
- In The Carpet People, all wights can see the future and so they assume that Hard-Determinism is real and that their fates are fixed, and do what they've foreseen themselves doing because that's what they've foreseen — except for one, who can see multiple possible futures and knows that it's possible to choose between them.
- In the Sulien novels, all seers can see multiple possible futures, and have to weigh up which one seems most likely to come true and what they can do to bring it about. In a twist, it's said that what they're actually seeing is the futures of alternate timelines, meaning that the one future no seer will ever see is the one that's actually about to happen to them. Most of the time this makes no practical difference, since they will see futures that are like their real future in every relevant detail, but they can be blindsided if a god intervenes to cause something impossible to happen, since that won't be reflected in any other timeline. (Sulien herself has her life saved by divine intervention early in the series, with the result that seers have no idea what to make of her because she never appears in the futures they see.)
- In The Story of a Mother by Hans Christian Andersen, a mother sacrifices her hair and eyes and allows herself to be pricked by thorns to ask Death to bring her child back. When she finally reaches him, he shows her the two futures that could be her son's: one where he's a happy, beloved citizen, and one where he's a suffering, lonely criminal. Afraid of condemning her son to a life of misery, she lets Death take him.
- The Iliad: Achilles' mother knew that he could either live a brief but glorious life as a hero or a long life of I Coulda Been a Contender!. While she tries her best to steer him towards the latter by disguising him as a girl, it doesn't work, and when she sees how easily he takes to the warrior's life she realizes she would rather he be happy rather than miserable for the rest of his days, so she stops trying to keep him safe.
- Despite being able to see the future and being established as both a Manipulative Bastard and The Chessmaster, Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time is continually blindsided by various foreign-factors that continue to catch him by surprise, including falling in love with Cora and Belle (and the various hurdles and complications that come from it), meeting Zelena, the prophesied boy that is his undoing being his own grandson, etc. Justified, considering the Seer that granted him his prophetic abilities explained that he sees multiple probable futures and is forced to cherry pick the most likely of them to make any sense of it.
- In Andromeda Trance Gemini can see multiple timelines and pick the best one possible. One episode focused on her shows her reviewing different possibilities and rejecting them by pruning one of her plants.
- In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow the Oracle of the Winged Ones invokes this as a subtle hint that there are two major ways to finish the game:
Fate is not like the cut of a blade, young one, but rather like the myriad of paths formed when a hammer cracks ice...
- In BlazBlue, the world runs on a quantum principle, i.e "multiple worlds" and uncertainty theory where there exist multiple "possibilities" of events and things in the world. Someone with the power of Phenomenon Intervention is able to change something happening with an existing "possibility" for it. Noel, with her "Eye of the Azure", can see through multiple possibilities and "shift" them around (at first unconsciously, later at will), causing the phenomenon called "Continuum Shift".
- Much like BlazBlue above, Zero Escape runs on the many-world theory — there are countless universes out there, each being created as one of the results of any decision. Once trained, SHIFTers can move through them at will, and this becomes a requirement for reaching the Golden Ending.
- Scootertrix the Abridged gives this a metafictional spin. Pinkie Pie knows she's a character in an abridged series and can see the future by Reading Ahead in the Script. But she also knows that the Script "changes all the time", in response to characters' choices: essentially the characters are creating the Script, rather than it controlling the characters.
- Garnet from Steven Universe is established is having "Future Vision", an ability that allows her to see into many different probable futures. Many of these range from mundane to incredibly improbable (ranging from various comical deaths to chasing away the Ruby Squadron with a game of baseball) and are selected by the choices people involved in such outcomes make. In-contrast, Sapphire's future vision is much more hard-deterministic in nature and can only see one possible outcome, implying that Ruby's passionate and impulsive personality enhances her future vision while fused together as Garnet.
- In Voltron: Legendary Defender, there are countless realities that are the result of diverging paths at different points in time. It's implied that Slav has the ability to see all these different realities, along with future ones, and is easily overwhelmed by them.