Friday, February 6, 2009

The Inescapable Necessity of Choice

The inescapable necessity of choice is the hand that nature dealt to mankind.

"Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice." *
That sounds like determinism. Is it?

Determinism is a form of reductionism, "a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents.[1] This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanations, theories, and meanings." [see [1]]

"Reductionists are those who take one theory or phenomenon to be reducible to some other theory or phenomenon. [ ] The type of reductionism that is currently of most interest in metaphysics and philosophy of mind involves the claim that all sciences are reducible to physics. This is usually taken to entail that all phenomena (including mental phenomena like consciousness) are identical to physical phenomena." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

"Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us," writes Tom Clark, using those reductionist metaphysics.

While I would say that "conditions that preced us and surround us" do indeed eliminate our "power to escape the necessity of choice," I would disagree with Clark's following conclusion that because of that necessity of having to choose, "we can no longer take or assign ultimate credit or blame for what we do."

Men and women used to take that credit or blame, in other times, when the morals of humans seemed to be greater in personal importance. People were never heard to whine, "It wasn't my fault," except for those who were subsequently sneered at or even ostracized by society for such remarks.

The idea that man has no power to escape the necessity of choice creates the responsibility for any decisions he then chooses to make, and there is nowhere for them to be placed except squarely on the moral shoulders of the decision-maker. Certainly the blame cannot be placed on the inescapable necessity of choice.

It is the inescapable necessity of choice that gives meaning to life. Without choice, life--if it could exist--would exist as a stagnant, unthinking, unknowing blob of protoplasm that could not even act with biological necessity; after all, even biological necessity is created by inescapable evolutionary ends. Evolutionary ends are the "choices" nature makes in the life-and-death attempt to keep a species adaptably alive.

The inescapable necessity of choice is the hand that nature dealt to mankind. That makes the inescapability of moral choice metaphysically natural. It also draws the line between being human animals and a non-human animals. The inescapablility of moral choice is a metaphorical shining crown on man's head when he chooses to take "ultimate responsibility and blame" for his actions.

It defines the desire to mitigate blame and to diminish credit for proper choices as the epistemology of whining.
* from John Galt's Speech; Atlas Shrugged; Ayn Rand

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