I might go out to California

“I might go out to California — I don’t know” from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Call Me The Breeze.

Hannah Arendt has an idea that people form their preferences in common and that we have little idea of what we want until we discuss what we want with others. Of course the relevance to democracy, specifically deliberative democracy, is obvious: we have to refine our preference through discourse. Not only that, we can influence other people by just talking to them about what they think should be done about policy question X.

Of course, construed too broadly, this is obviously wrong. I don’t need to ask anyone if I want a pizza tonight: I do, and its easy to make that decision. But the fact that our most basic and unreflective preferences about sleep, eating, and perhaps sex (though I happen to think sex is a pretty sophisticated preference), does not preclude the fact that our most difficult decisions about who to be, what to value, what to risk, and what to kiss goodbye in an hour of sorrow,  usually need a lot of talking.

I’m getting very clear on this point right now, because, as the title suggests, I’m trying to decide whether to go out to California to study. There is a lot at stake. I would be leaving some people behind, I would have to meet new people. The school is good, but not great, and I might have a better chance if I waited and applied again.

I could of course DO something without ever talking to someone, but I don’t know if I would ever really know what I WANTED to do without speaking to people who are Ph.D.’s already and other people like my parents who enjoy advising me and know me best.

In these interactions, I think it is no exaggeration to say that I’m thinking through the mind of others, and this is exactly why I seek such advisors out, because I can show them issues without having their judgment biased by the emotions and fears that could possibly compromise my own. I’m effectively hijacking a sympathetic and knowledgeable brain to shape my decision in a rational and controlled way.

“Two heads are better than one” is often thought to refer to the power of multitasking that two people can bring as opposed to one. But the statement might be revised to “One had is better than one, when the other brain is not one’s own.” (kind of a shitty wording, and didn’t come out nearly as profound as I first thought, but you get the idea).

The point though is that anyone can TAKE ACTION in the face of uncertainty, but its a whole other thing to be CONFIDENT that one is doing what one wants. Big life choices can result in uncertainty, even after we think about them a lot, and it helps solidify our understanding of our choice to help verbalize the issues involved.


Here is my most interesting point though, which is that knowledge can be triggered by doing something specific. Here is an interesting study which shows that people can predict the results of certain actions if they IMAGINE themselves performing them my hypothesis is that because conceptual reasoning is tied to talking, that TALKING about some problem helps us think about the problem in a different way.



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