Free Choice

“Do you think that humans have free choice?” I asked a friend last night after stewing over this topic for a while.

“No,” he replied assuredly. “Did you get to choose what race you were born into? Who your parents are? Who your first friends were? I don’t think so.”

To discuss whether humans have free choice or not, we must first start from the fundamental question: what is an individual? To me, an individual consists of one’s values based on his or her past, experiences, and surroundings. And thus, according to my friend, since a majority of our values are built during our childhood years in which we had no control over, all of our future actions are culturally and societally impacted, indicating a lack of free choice.

But I disagree. I was born into a conservative Chinese family that values tradition—without choice. The concept of “shared parenting,” in their view, is simply absurd. The historically developed gender roles are so finely deep-rooted in their minds that any alternative path is deemed preposterous. Does that mean I naturally have the same views as well?

I actually did, but only for the first few years of my life. As I grew up, I always knew that dad brought home the money and mom took care of the family. But our personal value systems are not set in stone after a certain age. After exposing myself to people outside my family friend circle and going through formal education, the way I viewed the world most certainly changed—giving me the power to make my own informed choices.

Belkin writes, “the single-most-predicative factor of how equal a couple will be…is how equal their friends are,” and despite the lack of choice regarding our birth, we are free to decide how we spend the rest of lives and who those moments will be spent with.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” NY Times. 15 June 2008. Web. 01 Dec 2013.

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One thought on “Free Choice

  1. morganpe2013

    I understand your point about the lack of free choice only being present during early childhood. While I agree that later on in life people are more strongly influenced by people of their choosing than their family, I don’t know that this means our choices are all free. First of all, exposure to the people around us is controlled by many external circumstances that we do not have control over. Additionally, I do not think that the lack of free choice is limited to our family’s restrictions. We constantly receive positive reinforcement when we color within society’s lines. Girls are receive compliments when they help their mothers in the kitchen, and boys are rewarded when they dominate on an athletic field. Some individuals may completely submit to this social acceptance, and continuously follow the norm, and others may completely rebel from any norms or labels thrust upon them. However, in either scenario our choices are impacted by others perceptions of us.

    Reply

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