Flavin's Corner

10-13-00

The Nature of Choice

"First we must grasp the number of aims entertained by those who argue as competitors and rivals to the death. These are five in number, refutation, paradox, solecism, and fifthly to reduce the opponent in the discussion to babbling--i.e. to constrain him to repeat himself a number of times: or it is to produce the appearance of each of these things in reality. For they choose if possible plainly to refute the other party, or as the second best to show that he is committing some fallacy, or as a third best to lead him into paradox, or fourthly to reduce him to solecism, i.e. to make the answerer, in consequence of the argument, to use an ungrammatical expression; or, as a last resort, to make him repeat."

On Sophistical Refutations, Aristotle, trans. by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge.

"freedom of choice is what you got, then if you got it you don't want it, seems to be the rule of thumb, don't be tricked by what you see, you got two ways to go, freedom of choice is what you want…"

"Freedom of Choice," Freedom of Choice, Devo, by Mothersbaugh/Casale, 1980 WB's.

While certain pedagogic ingrates liken independent thinking to misdirected crowds enthralled with a magician's performance and hold no one as truly capable of freedom of choice, I support all labors of freedom, be they illusory or not. Our presidential debates continue to amuse and inform most Americans, both Israel and the Palestinians remain obstinate, while in Yugoslavia the election is over, Milosevic plays an outmaneuvered Saruman trapped at Isengard, and the crowds in the streets are certainly exultant, though their socio-economic worries are far from over. Always, we choose, though we're not often allowed as many choices as we'd like. The nature of choice concerns the act of choosing and not the choice itself. And, yes, some times incorrect choices are made…

One of my favorite analogies is comparing freedom of choice to a popular restaurant. You enter the restaurant with your gal-pal (or partner, spouse, etc.), are seated with menus in hand, and after assessing the various standard entrees and daily specials, the gal-pal declares everything offered is akin to barnyard fare, the restaurant owner and all patrons are guilty of attempting to maliciously subvert her delicate diet, and by exposing her to this indignity, she's going to whine throughout her entire meal (which will undoubtedly be selected from one of the highest-priced items on the menu, ordered with disdain, and barely consumed). Well, at least she made a choice…

Having previously worked both ends of the "house," including a stint as an assistant manager of a restaurant, I appreciate concerted efforts to feed the hungry. When a balanced menu is presented to a diner, it's hoped something listed will be described as appealing. Mind you, everything on the menu is prepared of the finest ingredients, hard work and an artist's attention to culinary nuance, …and is fit to be served to anyone. I guess it's when the diner denounces the choices and condemns the restaurant that I take true umbrage. The restaurant provides choices for many satisfied customers, but pleasing everyone is sometimes extremely difficult, if not down right impossible. Hey, go elsewhere! Change the rules! Choose! Always…

We are choosy creatures. Even the act of not choosing and acquiescing to indecision, or refusing to commit out of fear or fury, becomes an exercise in choice. Philosophers, theologians, and others who think too much (as opposed to drinking too much), point to our freedom of choice as an essential catholic component of human existence. By making choices we participate in the game of life. Right--back to winners, losers, correct choices and really bad ones…

Sometimes choosing is difficult because of current laws restricting choice, as in matters of sexuality, personal drug use, picking comprehensive medical care or having the right to die with dignity. Sometimes choosing becomes difficult when another is involved, as in the case of a pregnant woman electing to undergo an abortion, though the biological father is against the decision. In such a case male reproductive rights are nonexistent. I'm reminded of the sappy banter between Kirk and Spock in ST2: "…the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… Or the one…" Which was followed in ST3 with: "Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many…" Yeah, it was cool that Kirk risked many lives to resurrect Spock. But, concerning women's reproductive rights, it's the needs of the many women that are important, not a few biological fathers who care, or even the one…

With predictable polarity, Bush and Gore have contrary opinions about abortion, a woman's right to choose, and the legal distribution of the FDA-approved Mifeprex (the French RU 486). The FDA rigorously studied the treatment (erroneously referred to as an "abortion pill," but is actually a three-step regimen of an in-office screening, followed by the administration of two drugs, forty-eight hours apart, mifepristone and misoprostol), and made a ruling making this option available to women, which I believe extends America's dedication to basic human rights. Bush has said: "I think the FDA's decision to approve the abortion pill RU-486 is wrong. . . . As President, I will work to build a culture that respects life." Sure, and when Larry King interviewed a woman on death-row in Texas and asked what she would say to Gov. Bush, Bush later admitted to watching the interview and had the icy tenacity to ridicule the dead woman, pursing his lips, mocking her plea, saying "Please don't kill me…" Pro-Life? 140 executions in Texas say otherwise…

There are many fine restaurants to choose from. Some better than others, but diversity is its own reward. I guess I took her to the wrong restaurant…

Not feeling hungry,

Rick

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