Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Choices - Which bed do you lie in?

It is important to me that we do have a choice. Even when it is apparent that we are committed to a particular course of action, we do in fact have the opportunity to act in a way that would change our circumstances. Perhaps it is something in our culture that teaches us otherwise.

Imagine a course of events that lead you to being on a small boat going from point A to B. The boat has a pilot whose job it is to ensure that the boat and its passengers arrive at B safely. You realize at some point along the trip that you do not want to go to B, but you are committed to the journey. There is no way to convince the pilot to change course. You have no other choice but to go to B.

The statement that “you have no other choice” is inaccurate and false. There are a great deal of choices available to you – not all of them pleasant.

What do you control in this situation? No much. You control your thoughts and to some extent, your actions. There are several solutions open to you:

Firstly, the easiest solution is to modify your wants. Instead of not wanting to go to B, you can want to go to B. This may seem difficult, but you would be surprised as to how easily one’s wants can be manipulated. Have you ever heard of advertising?

Secondly, you can jump out of the boat. You will most likely die, that is unless you are a fantastic swimmer. Not a pleasant choice; however, it is one available to you.

Thirdly, you could attempt to over-power the pilot and commandeer the boat. This course of action may be successful; but, even if it is not, your situation has changed considerably.

There are several other choices you can actualize, but we do not. Either our need to go to B is too strong to over come or our desire to remain an acceptable member of society out-ways our drive to act. It does not matter why we do not act, simply that we believe we have no choice but to accept what we have. They say, “you have made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” Perhaps instead we could simply lie on the floor.


This is the problem with many philosophical thought experiments; in particular, moral philosophical thought experiments. They do not take into account all the choices that a person does actually have.

1 comment:

emily said...

mmm, as I was reading this the first thing popped into my head was that while there are invariably many more choices available, a persons decision to fight or accept largely hinges on their ethics. I understand where it leaves you feeling that philosophical experiments are thereby stunted, but it makes me sleep better knowing that people just don't run around doing whatever they feel whenever they want. It's an interesting idea though.