Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Philosophy of Choice (I): The idea of choice

The Philosophy of Choice - George J. Dance, Nolan Chart:

The Idea of choice 

Choice, according to the (Oxford Canadian) dictionary, means both “an act or instance of choosing between alternatives” and “a range from which to choose.” “To choose” means to “select from a number of alternatives,” “decide,” “like,” and “prefer.”

Human choice is always individual, as only individuals can choose. Human ingenuity has devised many means of collective decision making, but the value of these comes from nothing more than the individual choices of those who propose and agree to them. Libertarians consider the recognition of, respect for, and defense of individual human choice to be the highest political good.

Why the highest good? Because choice appears necessary for so many other things that we consider good. Indeed, it is hard to separate the idea of choice from that of good: If you or I consider something (X) to be good, that is only because you or I have chosen X as a good; believing that X is a good necessarily also means believing that choosing X is good. Whatever we value in life, we value by our own choice, and in valuing it we also value our own choosing, and our own ability to choose.

Choice is valuable not only for you and me, but for everyone. Respecting the choices of our friends, family, neighbors — indeed, of any or all of humanity — seems essential to respecting them as persons. Honoring the choices of other people looks like a necessary part of the idea of morality, and, in turn, of the ideas of social peace and harmony.

Equally, choice seems integral to the idea of justice. Phrases like “he brought it on himself” or “you made your bed, now lie in it” reflect a basic intuition that it is just for people to experience the consequences of their own choices. Similarly, we consider it unjust to hold people responsible for actions they did not choose to commit, or had no choice but to commit.

Choice is also necessary to the idea of liberty or freedom. What libertarian philosophers like Jan Narveson call the “general right to liberty” is nothing more or less than the liberty to decide, speak, and act by one’s own choice.

As well, choice seems essential to human progress and abundance. Without the ability of humans to imagine and act on preferred alternatives, we would literally still be living in caves. All creativity, all advancement, every new idea and invention, exists only because of the power of choice. The market and the price system — an economy directed by nothing more than individual choices — makes those ideas and inventions widely available, empowering us to live without the age-old fears of starvation, poverty, and disease.

Continued - Part II here 

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