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Choices Matter (reflection)

Date: 2020-11-15

OP on

I’ve thought for a long time that choices are epistemically significant; even before I had a good idea of what ‘epistemically’ means. One of the first ways I remember thinking about this was wrt determinism and free-will. My idea was roughly: if a person chooses to believe in (and thus have) free-will, then they do have it, and if they choose not to, then they don’t. I don’t think that’s strictly correct, but I do think there’s an essence of truth insofar as the believe that your problems are soluble is required to seek solutions. If you don’t seek solutions to your problems then your life will be ruled by static-memes and other things. Those ideas take away your control and autonomy over your life (at least in particular partial ways).

I think Rand agrees that choices are epistemically significant in some way. From Philosophy: Who Needs It (p 45, kindle edition):

A man does not have to be a worthless scoundrel, but so long as he chooses to be, he is a worthless scoundrel and must be treated accordingly; to treat him otherwise is to contradict a fact. A man does not have to be a heroic achiever; but so long as he chooses to be, he is a heroic achiever and must be treated accordingly; to treat him otherwise is to contradict a fact.

I’m pleased that there seems to be some convergence between what Rand has said and my draft ‘Why I Live’ post (#18534), esp considering I wrote my draft before starting Philosophy. I think that’s probably due largely to learning from curi and consuming his content. (e.g. repeatedly returning to think on the topic ‘helping the best ppl or helping the masses’.)

Note: I’m unsure about my honesty with this next paragraph. I didn’t want to cut it, though, in case anyone has some criticisms of it, or has suggestions of things to consider when one is self-doubtful in this way. I’m using a blockquote to signal that it’s different from the rest of the post.

I’ve repeatedly thought about whether and how choices matter, and one reason for that is my enduring dissatisfaction with how I’ve been treated (particularly wrt academics or ‘intelligence’). I’ve largely been treated well, and often preferentially, going back almost as far as I can remember. My current explanation for that dissatisfaction is that I think my success has had more to do with my choices than innate ability. I don’t know how early that started, though. I have an example about explicitly choosing to change my attitude and approach to an aspect of life from when I was 13, so I think I must have had some important ideas before that.

I still think choices matter, and also that the choice to believe choices matter is epistemically significant.

There’s a deluge of bad ideas waiting to flood one’s mind if one doesn’t take one’s choices seriously.

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