Power of Choice

May 26, 2017
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“The good or ill of a man lies within his own will” -Epictetus, a Greek stoic Philosopher. He taught that philosophy is  a way of life and not just a “theoretical”. I believe in this particular statement because it is about the power we have when we make choices, and we know that our choices are good or bad. From a young age, most of the time, we are taught to respect/treat others appropriately. For example most of us have heard from our parents or etc. to “treat others how you want to be treated.” Which is similar to what Epictetus stated, because if we chose to treat others in good way, we are choosing to be good and we would expect to be treated good as well, while if we treat others terribly then we should expect to be treated terribly.

I believe that we all have the ability to understand if our choice(s) will good or bad, except for those who are legitimately insane and cannot do so. One way to put it is let’s say you have a nice plot of land and you know it would make a beautiful garden. You decide to plant different plants and crops such as roses, tulips, tomatoes, something like that. Well you have to choose whether or not to nurture these plants or to just leave them and hope they grow. A good choice: nurture the plants, and most likely they will flourish, or the bad choice: leave them be and let fate decide; they might grow but chances are they would wither and die. This is also similar to school, this essay to be more specifically, I mean we needed the rough draft to be done on Wednesday, and I knew that, and the good choice would’ve been to have it done. The bad choice would have been to procrastinate, and not do it, which is what I did. So, most everyday choices are simply a matter of being lazy or not.

I once read a story about virtues and choice, and the story is an old Cherokee Native American legend, and to summarize it, there are two wolves fighting inside everyone, one represents all that is bad: anger, greed, envy, ego, arrogance, lies, false pride… The other wolf represents all that is good: joy, peace, love, hope, truth, compassion… and the boy asks his grandfather who is telling the story, “Which one will win?” and the grandfather replies with, “The one you feed.” This story, being one of virtues and whatnot really ties in with my belief in that choosing which wolf to feed will show what kind of character you have. I have been asked questions such as, “How will you choose which wolf to feed?” and “Should you feed either one in excess or have a balance?” and I feel that to the first question, you should try and live using the virtues/emotions represented. While the second question I feel that you should try to have a balance, because anything in excess is not always good for you and most of the time you should strive to achieve a balanced life regardless.

Another matter of choice is when someone is in need of help. Certain people no matter what will drop what they are doing to try and help others, these “good samaritans” do not care if they miss a meeting or are late to something, they will just up and help anyone. I found a study done by Darley, J.M. and Batson, C.D. titled, “from Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior” in which they tested their hypotheses: “1. People thinking religious, "helping" thoughts would still be no more likely than others to offer assistance. 2. People in a hurry will be less likely to offer aid than others. 3. People who are religious in a Samaritan fashion will be more likely to help than those of a priest or Levite fashion. In other words, people who are religious for what it will gain them will be less likely than those who value religion for its own value or are searching for meaning in life” (Darley and Batson). Basically they had a bunch of people take some quizzes and afterwards they were told to go to another building in which on the way they would encounter a man who was “in pain.” The subjects were told to go to the building with varying degrees of urgency, from “you have 5-10 minutes” to “you are already late”. The results showed that only 40% of the subjects actually offered help to the victims. 40%, let that one sink in. Not a lot of people are bothered to help others.

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