Notion of Choice

How did we ever get the notion that choice is possible? For instance, it seems like the concept is deeply ingrained in our society. But of course, that doesn’t make it true — as history points out, many ideas once thought valid, no longer are.

It seems as though a lot of suffering follows from the idea that we’re able to make choices. For instance, we tend to negatively judge others and ourselves for “making poor choices”. But when we look deeper, we can see that no choices were made, people come into this world with a mind full of natural tendencies and preferences which are further shaped by their surroundings.

Perhaps it’s just another odd predicament that life puts us through. We seem to be dropped into the world amongst a sea of confusion. And the understanding we seek isn’t actively discovered, but passively revealed over the course of our lives. For instance, we’re surrounded by the seemingly unimportant, and it’s not until we experience a sudden moment of clarity, that we’re able to recognize the significance of what we’ve seen.

And if choice was possible, wouldn’t we choose to be better than we are? If individuals have the power of choice, wouldn’t the collective whole of society also choose to be the best it could be? But instead, we struggle to improve, as individuals and as a society.


8 thoughts on “Notion of Choice

  1. When we embark on this journey of life, we have to make decisions.. isn’t that true?
    So how do we decide and what do we decide from if there are no choices available to us?
    It all seems a little confusing to me. I get your notion that we are not given the choices, we just act depending on our personalities and the circumstances/situations we are in at a particular point of time.
    But if there are not choices, what do we act on?
    My thoughts are quite muddled on this matter.

    • If we acted as a result of choices, we would sit motionless until we decided to act. But this is not the case — we are driven to act — we have no choice in the matter.

      We are compelled by urges, wherever they come from, to not sit still. For instance, we have urges to eat, urges to communicate (be it verbal or written), urges to befriend certain people, and urges to engage in all sorts of activities.

      Another example: did you choose to write this comment, or were you urged to write it, perhaps by a need for clarity?

      So to answer your first question, no, we do not need to make any decisions, we’re just following our urges, like a raft down a river.

      Does this help at all?

      • Yes, that certainly answers my question. Thank you.
        you have clearly put forward your point and that certainly helps but it raises certain questions as well.
        where do these urges come from? may be from the need of something.. so what are needs? and do we always act on the basis of what we need?
        if it is so, why do we participate in dangerous activities or the immoral ones, of course there is no need for us to act like that?

      • No, it does not seem like urges originate from needs. As you point out, many urges are not based around our survival.

        As for where these urges truly originate, I believe that answer is unknowable. Because we don’t know what life is, we can never know what propels us to participate in this world. We can speculate as to the source, but it’ll only be a fanciful guess.

        Do you disagree with the overall premise: that we’re driven by unknown impulses, unable to decide anything?

      • I agree with nothing. I disagree with nothing. As you have well pointed out we can just speculate..
        Though the idea of unknown impulses is thought provoking and I would have to ponder over it furthermore.
        But thank you for answering my questions and clarifying my doubts.

  2. Excellent post. What are your thoughts, then, in the context of a relationship or parenting? These are, as you describe them, struggles in terms of improving our effectiveness. Would you say that giving this philosophy some daily consideration may improve our communication and reduce our judgment of our loved ones? That is, in realizing that our spouses’ or children’s actions and words (or our own, for that matter) are merely the product of unexplained urges and impulses we can then more easily find happiness in our lives? I’m curious about how your assertions might apply to or affect our daily lives. Thanks!

    • Yes, I’ve noticed that when I apply this philosophy to my everyday life, it makes dealing with people’s actions easier. For instance, even the concept of “forgiveness” becomes mostly unnecessary. I’m not sure it improves our communication, but it certainly reduces the judgement we place on loved-ones and ourselves.

      For example, I’ll experience anger at times, but I’ll immediately calm down and realize the situation was just a perfect-storm of aggravation. I don’t judge myself for it, or anyone involved, and I move on. If I have trouble moving on, I just keep thinking about how we’re not in control of this world, how actions are not a choice, and that life should be a source of enjoyment for me and everyone I interact with, then I let it go.

      So yes, with me as the guinea-pig, I’d say this, as well as my overall philosophy, is a practical method of finding happiness in one’s daily life — at least from my perspective. My entire blog tends to be about the philosophy I’ve developed in order to make life enjoyable for myself.

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