cognitive
d i s s o n a n c e
plays the role of
m e s s e n g e r
ignorant and spiteful
toward the recipient of its
t r a v e l s
the peculiar
f a s h i o n
it walks
a i m l e s s l y
toward the recipient of its
ignorant and spiteful
t r a v e l s

- n.v.

The age-old debate. The alpha and omega. The quintessential question we yearn to know. We want to know, because, we think in light of this, we’d better live our lives. But, here is a wrench in the proverbial gears:

Let’s assume that,

  • Fate is defined as “not choice”
  • Free Will is defined as “choice”

If you’re not willing to make these assumptions, then you should read no further.

Furthermore, if in saying something like, “I love you,” you would agree that you could insert “choose to” before “love you,” and it should not change the content of that message. Essentially, you can do this with anything as long as it is in the first person. When you say, “I am going to work,” you’re saying, effectively: “I am choosing to go to work”. These two statements mean the same thing. Inserting “choosing to,” or “choose to,” does not change the statement you’re making, it is just redundant because the first person casts possessiveness on the direct object via the verb of the sentence.

Okay. If you say, “I think fate exists,” you have immediately negated your statement. If you add those two words, which we previously agreed do not alter the content of a statement at least in the first person, then you’ve said, “I choose to think fate exists.” And to replace “fate,” with “not choice,” you get: “I choose to think not choice (or choosing) exists.” In an attempt to claim that you believe in fate, you condemn fate. You logically contradict yourself.

So, we’re left with free will. It seems that it is must logically conclude that free will exists. However, this is not the case. Let’s use the same scenario that we have previously agreed to and replace free will with “choice”. If you say, “I think free will exists,” you have immediately negated your statement. The statement becomes “I choose to think free will exists,” or, “I choose to think choice exists.” This seems perfectly congruent with logic, until you recognize that there is no choice but to think choice exists. You cannot “choose,” to think that “not choice,” exists so if your only option is to choose to think choice exists, then you didn’t have an option at all. And, in having no option, you had no choice… that we had earlier agreed is equivalent to fate.

Therefore, in having no choice but to choose free will, because you cannot choose fate, then you must be fated to choose free will. The condition of fate, as we agreed upon earlier, is “not choice.” And, if the very fact that you talking in first person necessitates you to choose then you had no option to have free will, which means you are fated. But, talking in the first person negates fate, because of the ability to choose. This shows that you cannot argue fate or free will exists because in arguing for either side, you negate your argument and agree with the opposite.

I had a dream last night. It began with me swimming in a wave pool at a run-down, nasty, filth-infested water amusement park (probably something like Water Country; there are better places to feel and be young, rest assured) and I see a scratch ticket floating in the water.

I picked it up and it must have just fallen in the water because I could still scratch it. So, I did and to my surprise, it had won millions of dollars. I was ecstatic, I thought of all the bills that I could pay down, how I could finally pay off all my college debt and how easy life would be without financial restraint. However, I looked around and saw not too far from my location a group of little kids, maybe 7-10 years old with their parents. All of the little kids had a scratch ticket in their hand except for one kid. Immediately, I felt guilty. But, I rationalized with myself; the money would help me.

As I began to secure the ticket, I heard a voice (presumably of a friend, but I don’t recall looking at my friend, so I couldn’t identify who it was or it was my conscience) say, “Aren’t you going to give it back to him?”

And so — I have presented this question to a few people. And this seems like a pretty decent philosophical dilemma. Why does morality go out the window with scratch tickets?

If you rephrase the story with it being a purse I found, most people would try to return it. If you rephrase it the story with it being a purse that has a scratch ticket in it, most people would try to return the purse with the scratch ticket intact. However, when you can visibly see the owner and you know it’s not yours but it’s a scratch ticket most people rationalize reasons to quantify why they should keep it, when in reality it’s merely greed.

Is that the condition of human morality? And if so, what does that say about us as “rational agents”?

Needlessly, a fun dilemma.

Ignorant Young’un: “So, you’re majoring in English and philosophy, what are you going to do with that?”
Padawan: “Save the fucking world? Duh.”

This is the typical route of conversation being an English and philosophy major. There are a bunch of spin-offs of this as well. Some are nastier than others but they all conclude in the condemnation of English and philosophy as useless majors.

It’s not a surprise. English has no intrinsic job-market appeal and neither does philosophy, of course, unless you want to be an English teacher or a philosophy professor. This is where the conversation usually gets to: Ignorant Young’un“I mean… do you want to be an English teacher?” They usually cannot conceive the idea that someone might want to teach philosophy, so this is the end of the conversation.

Today, however, I will retort Ignorant Young’un‘s claims about my majors and about all of the other English, philosophy, arts and humanities majors. First and foremost, Ignorant Young’un‘s view is narrow and basic. It’s as though by majoring in anything that the only thing you can then do with that degree must have the title of your major in the job description. This isn’t true. Aside from the countless journalistic jobs, the multitude of companies needing social media experts, the expansive amount of people needing documents to be edited by a keen eye and the endless amount of companies that need people that can organize large amounts of information, read them coherently, and then summarize them effectively there is even a more basic point.

And that’s what this entire post is about. Yesterday, I thought about my majors and what they mean to me. So, without further ado, if you take English and break it down into what it is all about you could generate a rather extensive list, but for the sake of the post I will say it’s about this: expressing your thoughts effectively. Philosophy, in this same vain, is about acquiring the ability to effectively think. Therefore, when you combine the two majors, the pursuit of a double major in English and philosophy is really about this: acquiring the ability to effectively think and then being able to express these effective thoughts, effectively.


Thus, I have a question for Ignorant Young’un – what else is this world about, than making your imagination tangible?

Finally, I just wanted to bring this in as a meter of analogy, we hear this nursery rhyme as kids:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never harm me.”

Words, while they say never harm them, are the largest source of hatred but also the largest source of love: because words are a transmission of message. Words may not break bones but words can shatter spirits. And shattering spirits is a way to control but also to liberate. I’m here for the latter.