Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2006
What is it like to make a choice? The temptation we easily give way to is to think that it's always the same kind of thing; or that there's one kind of decision-making that's serious and authentic, and all other kinds ought to be like this. In our modern climate, the tendency is to imagine that choices are made by something called the individual will, faced with a series of clear alternatives, as if we were standing in front of the supermarket shelf. There may still be disagreement about what the 'right' choice would be, but we'd know what making the choice was all about. Perhaps for some people the right choice would be the one that best expressed my own individual and independent preference: I would be saying no to all attempts from outside to influence me or determine what I should do, so that my choice would really be mine. Or perhaps I would be wondering which alternative was the one that best corresponded to a code of rules: somewhere there would be one thing I could do that would be in accord with the system, and the challenge would be to spot which it was - though it might sometimes feel a bit like guessing which egg-cup had the coin under it in a game. But in any case the basic model would be much the same: the will looks hard at the range of options and settles for one.
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