MONDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2005
The issue of where you choose to live reminds me of something Ayn Rand wrote (my wording): because you are a free entity and your choices expressions of free will, you need to justify your choices (to yourself).
If I choose, for example, to stay in Taiwan rather than to go back to South Africa, I constantly have to justify it to myself in order for me to continue to believe that this is indeed the right choice. Sometimes this is a problem.
I am also wondering: Why do we need to justify it?
Is it not true that it would sometimes be easier if we had fewer choices – if we were less free, as it were? It would be easier to justify our choices, because we would only shrug our shoulders and say, “What do you mean? This was the best choice under the circumstances.” Or better yet: “I had no other option!”
However, if you are a free individual and your choices expressions of your free will, you have to be able to justify to yourself that they are indeed, under the circumstances, the right choices.
My question remains: Why?
A few thoughts from last week that got lost on the way to the notebook:
III. Saturday night at [a wedding banquet] at the Grand Hotel, I was standing outside smoking a cigarette. I was thinking about myself, in my fancy pants and my fancy shirt and my fancy tie and my polished shoes, amongst all the other fancy people.
I thought: There is a Hierarchy of Environments. On the one hand you have an environment where you are absolutely the boss, where you can say what you want, do what you want, look the way you want – your own backyard, in other words. On the other end of the spectrum you have an environment where it is dictated to you how you should look, what you should do, how you should do it and what you should say; an environment where you are for all practical purposes not exactly free. In between there are dozens of other environments.
The environment where I found myself on Saturday night was one where I was in Basic Polite Mode.
TUESDAY, 18 OCTOBER 2005
Earlier I wondered why we need to justify our choices to ourselves. I think I now have the answer.
If you are in a position to make choices every day, you need to believe in your ability to make choices. If you do not believe in it, it is similar to a situation where you have to cycle to work every day, but every time you get on the bike you are unsure of your ability to move the bike forward and keep your balance. Or when you have to do a specific job every day but every day you fear that you are going to mess up and that you will need to suffer the consequences.
So it is with free will and choice. You have to nurture confidence in your ability to make the right choice, or the best choice under the circumstances. That is why you have to justify your choices to yourself – you need to prove to yourself that you are able to function as a free individual. By believing that you have the ability to make good choices most of the time (or the best under the circumstances), you gain the confidence to do it again the next day – to again, when faced with important decisions, make the best choice under the circumstances.
[In a note on Monday, 17 October at 09:26 I mentioned that I believe that “free will is not quite as free as we would like it to be”. Nevertheless, we are usually aware of the extent to which we do have the ability to choose between two or more options. If we have to admit that we have, or that we did have, that ability, we need to justify our choices to ourselves.]