Today, we’re going to explore choice. We’re discussing what it is, why it’s essential, and why collectivists do not like it.
What Is Individualism?
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” – Søren Kierkegaard
Individualism is a social theory that values the individual above the needs, wants, and desires of the collective and the state. Politically, it is expressed in libertarianism, minarchism, and anarcho-capitalism. Economically, it is expressed through capitalism.
As a personal philosophy, individualism is about self-improvement through the rigorous pursuit of virtue. The uncompromising pursuit of virtue helps individuals improve their lives by overcoming their vices, doing good, and accomplishing their goals.
There are many pillars of individualism. However, we are focusing on choice and free will. Furthermore, we’re looking at why collectivists oppose options and free will.
Individualism Is A System Of Choice
Choice is the capacity to utilize your actions, values, and volition to pursue a goal or to make a decision. Making choices requires the individual to have the ability to think, value, and act.
Say we have the option to eat healthily or poorly. We have to think about the short-term happiness of eating junk food and the long-term benefits of eating healthy meals. Next, we have to decide what we value: pleasure in the present or a healthy body in the future. Lastly, we have to process our thoughts before acting: will we move our hand towards the junk food or the vegetables?
As you can see, making a choice involves much consideration and doesn’t come easily to an individual. However, there are multiple benefits for any individual who chooses to think, value, and act virtuously.
Choice Allows For Improvement
“According to most philosophers, God in making the world enslaved it. According to Christianity, in making it, He set it free. God had written, not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it.” – G.K. Chesterton
For example, if we love junk food, we have to think about the long-term consequences of eating junk food. Obesity, diabetes, decreased mobility, and tiredness are drawbacks to overeating junk food. By acknowledging the negative drawbacks inherent in eating junk food, we may become annoyed at how eating junk food isn’t consequence-free.
Therefore, when we think we give ourselves the pros and cons of making a choice. Creating a list of possible outcomes for a choice requires submitting to and acknowledging reality. Thinking is not automatic. Thus, many people may avoid the mental energy it needs.
Choice Presupposes Value
When we choose, we make implicit value judgments. Let’s take the junk food/healthy food choice. If an individual decides to eat junk food, she is making explicit and implicit value calls. She is saying that she values pleasure, short-term gains, and fleeting desires. How do we know this? Because junk food tastes good but offers no nutritional value before leading to dire health problems.
However, if an individual chooses healthy food, she is making different implicit and explicit value calls. She is saying that she prefers long-term gains over short-term gains. She values her health and physical abilities instead of simple, sugar pleasure. Since vegetables and similar health food provide clear nutritional value, we can assume the long-term benefits to one’s health and wellbeing.
Choice presupposes value. As individuals, we have a set of beliefs and virtues, and we express those values through the choices we make. When we chose one thing over another, we are making implicit and explicit value judgments.
Choice Means Having To Act
“You say: I am not free. But I have raised and lowered my arm. Everyone understands that this illogical answer is an irrefutable proof of freedom.” – Leo Tolstoy
Ultimately, we can only express our choices through our actions. Ideas without action are no bigger than the brain cells they occupy. Our thoughts and values do not matter until we actively interact with the physical world.
Picking the vegetables over junk food required thinking about the pros and cons of each choice. From there, value judgments were made: is health more important than fleeting pleasures? In the end, the individual chose to eat the vegetables as a reflection of her thought process and value judgments.
When we make decisions, we show the world who we are and what we value. Individualism is about choice because decision gives a precise, linear, and stable means by which to judge other people.
Being a black, heterosexual man tells you nothing about me except my physical attributes. However, you have no idea what my values are, what I do with my spare time, and who I associate with. Only by looking at my choices can you garner a better understanding of who I am as an individual.
Why Do Collectivists Hate Choice?
Choice requires thinking which requires mental energy. Lazy people hate exerting energy. Thus, they avoid activities that require it. Therefore, they avoid thinking.
Most collectivists hate how choices can clearly show what they value and treasure. The man who chooses to sleep with numerous women instead of settling down is making an implicit value call: he prefers easy access to sex rather than creating stable, meaningful sexual relationships. We can judge a man based on this choice. He may dislike our judgments because our judgments may lead us to not associate with him. Thus, he will declare the evils of choice instead of changing his behavior.
Lastly, collectivists hate having to act. They hate having to show, through direct effort and energy, what they want. Lazy, disingenuous, manipulative, and abusive individuals perform hurtful actions. They declare their actions are pre-determined or that society should be to blame for their poor decisions. Weak individuals hate admitting their behavior lacks virtue, sustainability, and intention.
Only Individuals Can Choose
“God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.” – Niccolò Machiavelli
Individualism values free will. The hordes of collectivism do not like free will:
- Nationalists do not want people to choose which local or global businesses to work with.
- Racists do not like individuals choosing who to care for and love.
- Furthermore, socialists do not like individuals choosing where resources go.
Ultimately, free will gives individuals power, and collectivists can not have control over independent individuals.
Next week, we will bring everything together and conclude our series on why people oppose individualism.
- What kind of choices do you make? Good or bad?
- What was the last choice you made that you were ashamed of? That you were proud of?
- Do you believe in free will? Or, do you believe life is pre-determined in some way?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.