The Las Vegas of Free Will: CHOICE! ("It's the real thi

Page 1 of 1 [ 8 posts ] 

Supporting Member
Supporting Member

User avatar

Joined: 10 Jul 2007
Age: 56
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,455
Location: Europe

25 Apr 2010, 1:25 am

I was thinking about the social construct which is "choice".

Choice; a value judgement applied to situations in which believe that are free to do, or have, one of two or more things. Most people believe that need free will in order to make a choice, that a choice without free will isn't a "real" choice.

... I started thinking about how "choice", in a culture/society which believes in free will, has a curiously dark side to it though.

Go to a doctor with anxiety and depression and one of the things they may trot out, ( before prescribing the anti-depressants ), is how many people find choice difficult, ... because it involves loss, said my last ever doctor, years ago now, ( loss of an imagined object or future? Yes, apparently ) ... and because people are afraid that they will make the "wrong" choice. It's quite stressful.

I thought this was interesting; the two faces of choice. How it seemed to be both desired and feared. I made a note in my head to think about this in the morning, and turned over to go to sleep ... only to think; choice in the land of free will is actually a gamble ... and the majority of the population, ( in western industrialised countries at least, where most people believe in free will ), is addicted to it.

One of the classic signs of food intolerance is being addicted to the very food which you are sensitive to; ie. you need your "hair of the dog that bit you" every morning in order to wake up and function, whether it is wheat, dairy, egg, orange/citrus juice, or the more obvious addictions sugar, chocolate and caffeine. What if people got addicted to the adrenalin rush of "choice" ( which happens when believe in free will )?

Quite a few would probably burn out early, overdose, ( and breakdown, become incapable of making choices, whatever ), as is the case with any addiction overindulged in, but most people chug along happily with their maintenance dose, plus a bit extra on holidays, at Christmas etc. What if "choice" ( with belief in free will ) was like a drug? I suddenly realised that the expression "Freedom of Choice", ( except for lacking a "the" at the beginning ), looked very like an advertisment for choice.

And what about the stores/supermarkets/warehouse shops: "More Choice than Ever!" "Bigger and Better Choice ... of x, y, z". People pour in, and shamble round the aisles getting their fix of "choice". Runaway consumerism is actually just one gigantic symptom of addiction to "choice". "We" can't seem to get enough of it. Rich people are likely to burn out early, ( too much choice ), so expensive boutiques only ever seem to have about three different dresses, two different shirts, and one handbag.

It's even age regulated. The 10 year old boy walks bravely up to the teacher's desk and says "I want more choice", and the teachers smiles benevolently and says "And you shall have it; whereas this year you only had english, maths, general science, and a bit of history, plus some art/music and gym, next year you will have english literature, english language, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, ... etc a few years later there will also be german, spanish, and chinese, and at sixth form college you will even be able to choose philosophy and psychology ...etc ".

Parents promise their children more choice when they are older, and yet in between "popping into" the local furniture and electrical goods superstore on the way home from Safeways because they notice it has "Biggest Choice Ever" they seem to find it tiring, and sometimes even wish that there wasn't so much of it, or that some one else would make their choices for them.

The oddest thing is that when something that someone has chosen ( supposedly with free will ), turns out to be the stuff of their wildest dreams come miraculously true they say "It was meant to happen" or "I was on autopilot", "I felt drawn to them" or whatever, as if when something so earth shatteringly wonderful happens they think "No, that can't have been my choice, the universe had a hand in that". But when something utterly dreadful happens it usually becomes the stuff of urban myth, ( just desserts ) or sitcom humour.

PS. I found a wonderful site the day before yesterday with dozens of brilliant articles about the non-existence of free will, among other things:



User avatar

Joined: 17 Dec 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 14,316
Location: Omnipresent

25 Apr 2010, 5:05 am

Yeah, free will and choice are odd topics, especially since I don't think people are consistent about them, nor do I think that "free will" matches all of our experiences. I mean, there are always the "big things" that we were unfree in.

I might try to read the articles later.


User avatar

Joined: 4 Jan 2008
Age: 41
Gender: Male
Posts: 7,913
Location: The Landmass between N.O. and Mobile

25 Apr 2010, 7:58 am

I'm typically a proponent of one's "freedom to choose." Whether we're truly free is a whole other argument entirely, though, because we aren't TRULY free. We always have a range of choices, though. I hold to certain religious convictions, for example. However, if I ever decided that I'd rather be a Buddhist, nothing really stops me from doing so. Or if I decided I'd rather be a Pastafarian, nothing is really stopping me.

As to my personal attitudes towards freedom of choice in my life (and how faith plays out it in), I choose to subject my own will to what I believe (or at least hope) God wants. Again, that is something that takes a lot of personal introspection and exploration--and I still don't get it right all the time. Ultimately, my goal is to say that my choices are not my own to make and do my best to live out my life that way.

Supporting Member
Supporting Member

User avatar

Joined: 10 Jul 2007
Age: 56
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,455
Location: Europe

25 Apr 2010, 10:52 am

Thank you very much for your replies. :D

It occurred to me that perhaps my OP isn't actually as clear as I thought it was. :oops: This might be because I haven't had a really good night's sleep for over a week, ( backache followed by bad cold ) and last night I got so excited thinking about this idea that I only slept for three hours. 8O I have since managed to get an extra two hours sleep and am going to have a bash at clarifying, elaborating and expanding my OP so that it is slightly less obscure or over-dense.

Many people find choice difficult, because it involves loss, ( loss of an imagined object or future ), AND because people are afraid that they will make the "wrong" choice. Choice is in fact stressful.

Choice in a culture/society that believes in free will, that is. I am suggesting that if we didn't believe in free will choice would not have the same "load" ( perhaps involving the adrenalin rush of anxiety ) for us as it does now, we would be less likely to attach emotional importance to "having it", the "love-hate" relationship we currently have with it would be less likely to happen.

I imagined what it might feel like the first few times one "did" what those around one called "choice", the first few times that you were encouraged to make what people/your parents were calling "a choice" ... ( within the framework of free will ): and the immense fear of getting it wrong, far more than ever felt when noone was saying anything about "choosing", ... aswell as the natural longing to have both/all, which if expressed will probably have attracted repressive remarks along the lines of "You can't have your cake and eat it" or the deadly " ( as you get older ) you'll learn that you can't have everything" ... and having finally jumped through the hoop as required ... the huge relief if "discover" that you have "won", have made the "right" choice ( which will see immediately in the faces and reactions of those around you and which will not necessarily match your own reaction to the "prize" )... and the painful feelings if it turns out that you have "lost", that what you chose is somehow "wrong", either by your own standards, disappointed by what you actually seem to have chosen, or by others' standards who seem to mock you a little or commiserate with you on your loss, or perhaps offer you a second chance ... ( The biggest wins will be when you and the watchers agree that you have chosen the "right" thing, etc. )

Choice, IF you believe in free will, is like gambling ... and the majority of the population, in western industrialised countries at least, seems to be addicted to it.

For someone to get hooked on gambling there must be certain psychological predispositions but apparently a lot is in the set-up of the game itself; if in the beginning win too much one will think that it is "too easy", and if don't win enough will throw it in in disgust. I suspect that "choice" as structured by society, including our parents and schools, actually sets the game of "choice" up such that a lot of people become hooked, wanting to do it again and again to see if they can keep winning, even if the wins are only small ones most of the times.

Runaway consumerism may actually be one gigantic symptom of addiction to "choice". Most people chug along happily with their maintenance dose, plus a bit extra on holidays, at Christmas etc.

So long as society provides people with a daily dose of their favourite fix, ( or one of them ), they will be happy! ... except that it's got to seem like a "new" choice, other wise it's not a "choice" anymore but just a habit/routine, no fix. So companies, and govts, have to keep coming up with apparently new products to choose from.

( People extol the benefits and joys of "choice" ) and yet they seem to find it tiring, and sometimes even wish that there wasn't so much of it, or that some one else would make their choices for them. ... The expression "Freedom of Choice", suddenly looked like an advertisment for "choice"

The economy comes to depend on this gigantic gambling operation, and so people mustn't be allowed to drop out of it, the product, "choice", must be promoted. But people do get weary of it, like smokers sometimes wish they could give up.

It's even age regulated.

Clever incentive to invest in the game, make it more desirable by making it seem a privilege, by associating it with advancement/progress.



Supporting Member
Supporting Member

User avatar

Joined: 10 Jul 2007
Age: 56
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,455
Location: Europe

28 Apr 2010, 6:58 am

More Thoughts on the Secular God which is CHOICE! ;)

[ Sorry about the layout, but I wrote this in another doc, safer for long posts, and I don't know how to reformat it ].

I was thinking some more about the social construct which is "choice".

I was reminding myself that social constructs by definition don't exist; they
are just labels which we/society applies to things according to certain socially
established rules.

I was thinking how "choice" is oddly enough a label/value judgement about making
value judgements. It "includes" the idea of "judging" in itself so not
surprising if the first experiences of choosing "create" the awareness of others
approving/dispproving at same time.

But I was also thinking about the first time(s) a person hears and understands
the concept of "choice", and it suddenly struck me that the first time that come
across the term/concept, ( whether applied to oneself/one's own
actions/behaviour or another's ), it might be quite a devastating experience,
because by applying the label "choice" to a certain action/process you
automatically give birth to the idea of "no choice", ... and most of one' life
until then will suddenly "look" like "no choice".

Most of one's life will continue to look as if have "no choice" in fact; we apply the word
choice to such tiny bits of our lives. So, that first time, you would go from
being rich, infinitely rich, in something which is neither choice nor "no
choice", simply "being" and "doing",... to a state of "poverty", a life in which
you have a limited, very limited amount of choice, in the midst of a mass of "no
choice", the "no choice" part becoming less and less visible to you, like the
"Third World", something too painful or too depressing or too undesirable or too
insignificant to contemplate or even remain conscious of.

I was reminded of the "Enclosure of the Commons" in England, when all the common
land, on which people used to pasture their animals, from where they gathered
their wood/fuel and their herbs, and hunted rabbits etc,, and took their washing
and play etc, was assigned to various landowners, who thereafter charged the
"common" people fees for its use, or made it available to them according to very
strict rules, such that landowning, which until then had been only marginally
profitable became very profitable indeed, and it became the goal of far more
people than ever before to own land.

The social construct of choice may have had a similar effect, making most people
very poor in "choice", and making it profitable for people to purvey/provide
choice, at a cost. The concept of choice may have meant that most people will
have suddenly experienced a need for a product previously non-existent, such
that would work and work to acquire it.

So I wondered why the concept ever got invented, and when, and by whom.

I think that the Bible describes the event, in Genesis, the time when people
first started believing in "choice", and the consequences of believing in it;
condemned to lives of labour/toil, living by the sweat of our brow, ... and I
think that the social construct of choice is indeed an "abomination", poisonous,
to be trampled underfoot.

But why on earth would humans have ever begun to believe in such a dreadful and
terrible social construct/secular god as "choice"? I think it might have
something to do with addiction.

Until about 17,000 years ago, in 15,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age, the
only opioids which humans consumed in anything but infinitesimal quantities (
present in the blood of animals and in even tinier amounts in spinach of all
things ), were in mother's milk, where it serves the double function of making
sure that the young animal eats enough, and as an antidote to anxiety and pain,
( aswell as helping to keep intestinal transit regular etc ).

At the end of the last ice age however, and in a very restricted geographical
area, the "Fertile Crescent", what is now known as northern Iraq, and its
surrounding area, a new plant emerged, as a result of fairly rare sort of
mutation, in which a plant more than tripled its genetic material; the plant was
an early form of the wheat/rye/barley grass. This new plant contained the
largest protein that we ever eat, called gluten, and gluten contains two food
opioid peptides.

It also contains something called "gliadin", to which all humans alive today
have antibodies, but which 10-15% of the population have elevated levels of, and
which cause a wide variety of auto-immune system responses, the most famous
being celiac disease in which the guts make an an effort to rid the body of the
protein ( with diarrheoa ), before it can do more damage. But celiac disease
may in fact be one of the most "healthy" responses to wheat, because if the body
does not rid itself of the protein it has many other effects in people with
elevated levels of the antibody, chief among them being increased
inflammatory-cytokine production, implicated not only in many different
auto-immune disorders ( thyroid, diabetic, skin disease,
neurological/neuropathies etc ), but also in depression/alienation/withdrawal, a
kind of "sickness response".

I believe that the destructive effects of this grain would have been visible
fairly early on, and that tribes may have tried to stop eating it ... but that
the addictive effect of the opioids in the gluten may have made this impossible;
it was simply too "moreish" ... and people may have been faced for the first
time in the history of humanity with something both addictive, relatively
nourishing, ( unlike tobacco ), and bad for a significant proportion of the
population. And I suggest that this may have created an internal conflict
between the ancient habitual state of "being/doing" with neither choice nor "no
choice" and a "drivenness" to do something which knew was unhealthy, a state of
conflict which created a physical template for the new concept/social construct
of "choice" versus "no choice".

And as soon as the social construct existed it began, as all social constructs
do, to migrate/be applied to very different experiences ( actions/behaviours );
it "spread", to everything.

It is a truly horrible concept, which like the Enclosures, made ( many/most
) people "poor", in something that before then they had never even needed, but
which became an increasingly sought after product/"quality".

I suspect that the greatest damage that the construct does is in spreading the
experience of no choice which people felt around wheat/rye/barley to the whole
of life, so that people feel as if they are "hungry", deprived of "choice", and
will work and kill and abuse to get it. How so much of life seems like a
wasteland of "no choice" as a result.

That's just my latest thoughts on the subject. I must say I didn't expect to
find that the social construct of choice was quite such a blight/poison. But as
soon as I noticed how it "created" "no choice" I realised! ( I was reminded of
Philipppa Pearce's wonderful story "A Dog so Small", and "no dog" ).


Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse

User avatar

Joined: 24 May 2010
Age: 37
Gender: Male
Posts: 41

09 Jun 2010, 1:21 pm

Wow, cool theory. Kind of puts a whole new spin on "Give us this day our daily bread.."

I've often wondered about the nature of free will, and more recently have been thinking about the connection between food, neurotransmitters, mood and behaviour/productivity. How much emphasis society places on morality and choice vs. cause and effect determinism.

Is depression and illness or a weakness of character?
Can you just talk yourself out of feeling bad? How do you determine what is reality as opposed to your perspective that is distorted by your character, upbringing and mood?

Why is it we never seem to be able to talk about this sort of thing in public, but are expected to start with the weather, the world cup or what you intend to do at the weekend?


User avatar

Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Age: 42
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,320

11 Jun 2010, 1:07 am

My 2c on choice:

I saw a documentary a while back which had some people with their minds wired up to show what was happenng in their brains while they made a decision.

Theexperiment had people pressing a button when they judged it was the right time to press it based on the conditions of the experiment: they had to make a judgement. So they were told to press the button at the moment they have made their choice.

The part of the brain which was responsible for makng a decision lit up one minute before they were consciously aware that they had come to a decision. So while they were still ruminating for a whole minute, their mind had already made the decision, and there was the one minute time delay before the decision filtered its way from the persons unconscious mind into the part of their mind they are aware of.

so I found it interesting. Decisions arent the conscious choice we think they are, and we are not aware of the whole cascade of brain chemical influences and unconscious processes which are occuring when a decision is made.

"Caravan is the name of my history, and my life an extraordinary adventure."
~ Amin Maalouf

Taking a break.


User avatar

Joined: 18 Dec 2007
Age: 65
Gender: Female
Posts: 6,766
Location: The Castle of Shock and Awe-tism

11 Jun 2010, 12:00 pm

Choice cuts topic

The issue with free choice is that some have more/easier/safer/happier/etc. choices than others.

As far as |I know I was not born with a rule book or guide to help me with choices once I became aware of my existence, and options available to me, however limited or not.

You pays your money and takes your chances. What happens in Vegas does stay in YOU, however, and you try to learn from making bad choices, often called mistakes. Life is one of those risky endeavours.

Radiant Aspergian
Awe-Tistic Whirlwind

Phuture Phounder of the Philosophy Phactory

NOT a believer of Mystic Woo-Woo