Choices- It is MORE than just Free Will and Determinism
Primary Question: How does our physical and mental consciousness contribute to the ‘simple’ notion of choice?
I’ve stumbled across multiple blogs analyzing the nature of free-will and determinism, and while my topic does lay on this foundation, I’d like to discuss the essence of choice on a more pragmatic approach; in a world where choice(s) do exist and favour the notion of free-will while effectively negating the principles of determinism. As a “newby meta-physician” I could’ve chosen any metaphysical topic to discuss across the pool of interesting “things” in our world, deeming the topic of ‘choice’ somewhat ironic. Without further ado, lets dive into the world of choice.
What is a choice, and what are its processes?
- Defining a choice and breaking it down
In its essential “Googled” form, a choice is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. As a choice directly complements the ideals of free-will, a choice -in literal essence- denies the possibility of any other event from occurring. This mere act of choice can be broken down into four essential choosing processes. I picked up a book called Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans that clearly contrasts the dysfunctional process of choosing versus the more functional process of garnering satisfaction or simply being “ok” with a choice that you’ve already been made.
In effect, this image corroborates with the rather metaphysical questions stated above and below this process of choosing.
What is the ‘substance dualist’ construct of a choice?
- Where mind and matter exist independently but work comprehensively in the process of decision making?
Since we only know ourselves and we live a life through one subjective lens, I would argue that decision making solely relies on synthesizing thoughts from the mind where ones physiology (or physical state) reacts to outside forces, that in turn, have an effect on what a person decides to do; all based on the given situation that person is in. To support my point, I’ve explained two situations (rather extreme in the physical sense) when the options at your forefront may limit your overall ability to make a choice: matter over mind or mind over matter?
- Matter over Mind: if you were to be in a physically dangerous situation, the physiological processes in your body would send signals to your brain, essentially forcing you to make a decision. If you were being mauled by a bear you wouldn’t necessarily think about good choosing because your body is deliberately telling you to ‘get the !@#$ out of danger’. A person would instinctively do what is best to survive, and while the mind does play a roll in ones ‘search for survival’, in such an instance of physical danger, the physical essence is predominantly more influential than your “mental” essence.
- Mind over Matter: As many of will be doing sometime in the future, choosing a career path (for many) is one of the most stressful and toughest decisions we will ever have to make. My point is, the mental essence is an active ingredient in this type of decision making. As your body is in a state of mental stress and not physical stress, your mind (not your physical brain) influences your path of decision while you may experience that physical “gut feeling”.
In short, I would argue that the all important process of choosing involves both the mental essence and the physical essence, while one may be predominantly influential than the other given the circumstance.
What is the best or “right” choice, and is there even such a thing?
- A topic of decision stress- woo…
Making the right choice is often a dysfunctional belief that often exists as an empty void in our minds. Whether the choices we make are simply a mundane portion of our every-day lives or the choices we make have great significance for our short/long-term future, the image above directly corroborates with the principal of decision-stress. The process of choosing is anything but simple; often times the more options available to the mind, the less likely you are to make a choice.
- Real Life Example: Say you’ve come home from school after an ‘agonizingly’ long day. Your teachers have piled on the homework and you don’t know whether you should do your English homework, your chemistry, or your philosophy homework. Realizing there are too many options, those options never grow to become choices because you’ve spent too much time pondering over which one to do first. You finally choose you’re going to do your English homework for whatever reason but Instead of moving on and actually doing one piece of homework, being happy with your choice as the diagram of choosing suggests, you agonize over this choice. In this case your brain has been flooded with seemingly important information- this information, however, is useless.
The process of making a choice often leaves us agonizing over a choice we have already committed to. Sometimes we are so caught up on agonizing over our choices that we can’t design a future with prospect. On an ontological perspective, the process of making a choice, and in some cases agonizing, can actually characterize the principal of Being; where the concept of being self-aware and actually thinking about your essence in this world does exist. In short, there is no “right” choice. The key is to re-frame your idea of options by realizing that too many options equate to zero choices. You’re just frozen, thinking of the best way to go about ‘things’. To answer the question, I would argue there is no “right” choice – only good choosing. In my views, there is simply no such thing.
Where to next?
Choosing is never an easy topic. I’m ‘choosing’ to discuss this topic to further understand the “culling” process of decision making- to do myself a favor. Breaking down options towards a short and manageable size is often the ‘best’ way to be happy with the choice you’ve made, regardless of importance. I’d also like to help others choose wisely, primarily with subjects that are important to them so they can avoid the dangerous notion of agonizing that can suddenly creep into their heads. On a more metaphysical note, I’d like to further understand how my mind and body work comprehensively to make important choices and to prevent my eyes from being caught on the rear view mirror of decision regret. Remember, there is no right choice- simply good choosing.