Personal Choice and Free Will

At the moment I don’t own a car, but I am thinking of buying a motorcycle. I do have a pedal cycle.

I was thinking about my current personal choices, which are mostly to walk or cycle, and thinking about how they would change if I did get a motor cycle or even a car again. I don’t need a car, public transport is good, but sometimes it would make some choices easier.

I then realised that having done research on thinking, judgement, and decision making, I should check out my reasoning because reasoning is often pretty faulty.

Would owning a car make some decisions easier?

No, definitely not, in fact it would make many decisions a lot more difficult. I need to separate the ease of making the decision and the ease of taking the action after the decision is made. I am confounding the two, a common error of reasoning.

If I had a car it would make the decision to walk much more difficult. The ease of taking the car compared to the ease of walking, if the distance was a mile or more, would mean that my judgement would be biased towards taking the car.

Note, it would not be me making the decision to take the car it would be having the car that would be biasing that decision.

Now I could say that having bias is what makes us who we are, and yes, I agree.

But our free will, our freedom to choose, really lies in the occasional big decisions, the wider judgements we make, which lead to a set of mental values which makes us who we are at a much deeper level. If I get a car I will at one level be then making choices based on subconscious ease of going places, but at another level I will be  losing the value I place in taking time to doing things, in taking exercise, in feeling fit, in feeling part of the landscape.

So I am going to continue to choose to live without a car, because at a deeper value it adds more value to me, and then makes ‘decision’ to walk much easier!

We can link this to the many ways in which society has made things easier, to our cost. It is easier to shop at the supermarket, or now it is easier to shop on line. It is easier to put a ready meal in the oven than to cook real food, so that now we get fat, and don’t have quality time with our family. It is easier to have sex without consequences than it used to be, for reasons of social codes and technology, including instant abortions. It is easier to put old folk in homes than look after them It is easier to make someone redundant than to be creative and find valuable work for them to do,  and so on.

Whenever making things easier seems tempting we should maybe check that it is not making our decisions at a deeper level more difficult.

The really odd thing about ease of choosing is that the easier it is to choose the less we exercise real choice and the more the choices are being made by the conditions we find ourselves in. When we live a life where things are well balanced, then most choices will be pretty evenly balanced, and we can feel what it is like to do one thing or another before we make that decision. If we live an unbalanced life then the decisions are being made by the life we lead, not by us, we are constrained by how we live, we are not free.

Fortunately, taking the motorcycle out will not be so easy that it automatically becomes the choice made, there is all that gear to put on, it is still putting me in all weathers. So I will try it, but I will review the decision and if I feel it is leading to me finding it harder to choose to walk then it will have to go.

If you get confused about making choices, if you find it difficult, why not get in touch, blog here, tell me what you think.

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About Graham Rawlinson

I now have 5 books published as Ebooks http://amzn.to/iOyowj. They feel like part of a life's work, somehow all the different jobs I have had in my life, from postman to psychologist to facilitator of inventions and running a food business, they all build into a way of loving life, the ups and the downs. I hope you like the blogs I write, and then like the books I write. I hope you will want to take some time out of your life to share some thoughts with me. For that, I thank you. Graham
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