Pro-choice

So I’ve been trying to synthesize and combine in my mind all the talking we have been doing about biology and environment. One minute I’m likely to think that biology plays a larger role in my behavior, while the next I’m convinced it’s all about my environment. One thing is for sure: the interaction between nature and nurture. What’s frustrating now is that I’m not satisfied with that resolution; the reason I’m left wanting more is because I feel like I have choice, and decisions, and free will in my life and behaviors.

How does choice fit in?

For example: I want to visit my friend Sally who lives a 15 minute drive away. It’s snowing outside, making the roads icy and slippery. My genes, which tell me to be a risk taker, encourage me to visit Sally. My environment (read: Mom & Dad) pressure me to visit her another time, when conditions are safer. What do I tell myself to do – what is my choice? While genes and environment help form my choice, isn’t there some part of each decision we make that is based purely on desire? Don’t we have some say in how our lives unfold? When searching for other ideas on this topic, I fell upon the following quote from a philosophy of genetics website:

“What you want is who you can become. You’re free to do what you want, but you can’t choose your wants themselves (desires and motivations), which are innate and vary from person to person.”

And so now I can hardly articulate my thoughts because I’m so confused…did I really innately want to visit Sally? What if she hadn’t called to invite me over (this example is becoming quite extended), would I have still had the desire to visit her?

Thanks for reading, and sorry to leave you hanging, but still I can’t make sense of it. Were you innately going to find this post pointless, or did you just decide completely for yourself that I answered no questions and solved no mysteries after having read the whole post?

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3 thoughts on “Pro-choice

  1. This was totally what I was talking about with consciousness the other day in class, but wasn’t able to articulate as you did so nicely here. Human beings have the capacity to make decisions through thought and consideration in a way that no other animal (including babies not that they’re not human just they don’t have agency) can because we have the language to think about our thoughts and desires, evaluate them, and determine our own course of action. But then there’s that nagging question of what makes us individuals. The idea of dualism has run into disfavor recently, but don’t we all essentially ascribe to it even if we don’t realize it. I mean what you’re talking about is something essential about you that has nothing to do with genes or environment or other seemingly arbitrary factors, but rather is a product of the mind or the soul or the will. We can’t define that in scientific terms and so we tend to ignore it, but you’d be hard pressed to find an individual who doesn’t at some level believe in it.

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  2. Ok, to make this even more confusing, I remembered reading about consciousness as an after fact, and the proposal that decisions are actually made before we are consciously aware. Some studies suggest that decision making precedes consciousness in which case the existence of our free will becomes debatable. Just another mind boggling approach to consider. You can read more about it here if you’re interested: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/04/mind_decision.

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  3. Thanks for the comments Stephanie and Lauren. It seems like the nature/nurture debate (or in my own words, the nature and nurture interaction altercation) sparks more debates just like it to begin. Can’t decide if that is exciting, annoying, daunting, intriguing…

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