How are decisions made? — Underlying factors and practices
I have made up my mind about this year’s holidays: let’s go to the beach. Last year’s holidays were in the mountains. I am definitely quitting smoking today. I am not so sure this will be a long-lasting decision because it is not the first time I have ever made it. [By the way, let’s focus on the decision-making phrase. Is decision a thing, a thought, an object, right here in front of us, seemingly available, easy to grasp] However, the fact that I make firm decisions feels good itself: through this process, all of a sudden, I get in touch with my inner self. A short while ago, a law was passed, which forbade smoking in public areas. It may have had an influence on me, or it may have convinced me. I cannot exactly assess its impact. Maybe there are tools for this. I only notice that, and that might be a clue, some people quit smoking (they at least decided they would quit, just like me). Supposing the law had authoritatively forced me to do so, should I say that I underwent the decision to quit smoking (and did not make it)? The law was mostly based on sanitary and economic grounds. Smoking is said to be a burden on the health system (cancer, lung diseases, etc.). Wisdom has it that, all prophylactic means should be resorted to in order for tobacco to be forbidden. Absolute interdiction being too stringent, compromise is opted for: individuals remain responsible for their own choices as long as they do not threaten anyone. In such cases, a ban in public areas is enough. It is a cost/freedom ratio. As a supposedly rational individual, I only apparently underwent law and really was instrumental in laying it down. So goes political representation anyway.
I am sometimes surprised at how familiar I am with these conscious or unconscious calculations, when I weigh up pros and cons. A few days ago, I was about to drive through a roundabout and about to give up driving around it. Turning straight to the right would have been much less time-consuming. However daring that would have been safe because there wasn’t anybody around. Simultaneously lucid and frightened, I quickly confronted my taste for risk with my love for rules and fear of sanctions. I concluded that it wasn’t worth the try. Of course there was not anybody around but the police are sometimes in hiding, on the lookout for risky behaviors. On roads and in public areas in general, there are many advisory and restriction signs which prevent us from weighing up risks and profits. We call them “rules” and we trust them, based on the hypothesis that each of us respects them, as in a very serious game.
That makes me think of a decision no one has ever been able to say anything against or even disobey, until recently at least, namely the decision relating to the great natural divide, between the sexes - men on one side and women on the other; XY and XX according to the common pattern. Let us listen carefully… “Decision” rings a bell – halfway through this word, there is a split, there are scissors, and there is a cut. The world was originally divided up between the masculine and the feminine, without any dialogue or rationality, apparently anyway. Apart from a couple of unfortunate exceptions, life has always been ruled by this divide. Medical, genetic, and ethical power splits this initial divide which was long perceived as immutable. I might well then, sometimes, and in a number of special circumstances, choose and change, and that would be my decision, the most unattainable decision.
I agree that I am letting my thoughts free; they are unleashed, in a random way, I agree. I do not even know whether I am playing a role in this or if I am being played with. I should probably reorganize it all; reconstruct it into an argued and convincing whole, following a scientific method. I can also decide I will go to MESHS and listen to the lectures that will be held here from March, 28th to April, 15th 2011. These subjects will surely not be all dealt with while others will be, but I sure will be able to ask all the questions I need to ask and make observations.
Indeed, in this place, and during the Spring in particular, science is very much about exchanges. It is up to me then.