On decision and the love of wisdom

Someone may have difficulty motivating himself to make decisions. It is interesting to think of what a decision is. The root of the work gives a hint, since it is related to “cutting” or “striking”. Scissors, excision, and incision are siblings of “decision.” I picture it as a sort of “pruning” in the garden of the forking paths, whereby we cut away all the roads we might have travelled for the sake of selecting a single one. If we are to make a decision that is not capricious or arbitrary, we will have allowed reason to inform our pruning. But sometimes we don’t have enough information or sometimes we don’t sufficiently understand (with theoretical reason) the information we have and the result is that our practical reason is incapacitated. Inversely, it also follows that the more clearly we understand the issue in question, the easier the decision. In fact, perfect understanding will converge on a single decision. This is the interesting way in which perfection of knowledge actually limits our choices because it increasingly reveals all of the possible paths except the right one to be mistakes and the only way someone would choose what he knows to be a mistake is by fiddling with the definition of those words. Spinoza thought of freedom as the same thing as necessity. It is a strange idea, but doubtless, this is what he meant. Namely, if I am certain of the correct decision, I am bound to make it.

The interesting question remains as to how we motivate ourselves to care about striving to achieve this certainty, and the only answer is something like “love of wisdom” and this is why philosophy is always indistinguishable from mysticism at its upper limit. By the eye of wisdom we discern the Good and on the wings of love we ascend to it. Wisdom lights the way and love inspires our limbs to travel it. Insight into this connection completes our concept of philosophy with its complement. In other words, “love of wisdom” is at the same time “wisdom of love.”

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Max Leyf says:

    But it is important to include the ultimate value of either (a) making any given decision or (b) refraining from making any decision within the scope of “knowledge” or “wisdom.” To reiterate, we would never do anything we knew to be a mistake. The only reasons we would do mistakes are (1) we lack sufficient insight to recognize a given decision as a mistake or (2) we don’t actually think it is a mistake and instead we secretly think it is good. Eating too much chocolate cake, for instance, can be the result of (1) blindness as to the outcome or (2) improper ordering of relative values (i.e. we value immediate sensual pleasure higher than welfare and wellbeing in body, soul, and spirit).

    This is fascinating to me, and I think it will be of interest any student of psychology: notice in the second case above, if anyone asked us, we would likely deny that we in fact valued sensual pleasure higher. But nevertheless we are being mendacious in some respect and our decision proves this. Now, notice that what we are unwilling to admit to others, we will also likely not admit to ourselves. And it is precisely this “buffer” or “veil” that prevents us from gaining insight into the situation at hand. Remember again that we will always do the right thing provided we really truly in our bones know what it is and so understanding goes hand-in-hand with really psychological transformation. Bona fide understanding is different than telling ourselves or someone else that we understand. I imagine a great deal of psychological development consists in just this gradually dispersion of our inner fogs in the morning light of our understanding.

    In light of the above, maybe Steiner’s idea of freedom as an achievement and not an already accomplished fact will make more sense, and also his contention that “doing” can never really be separated from “knowing.”

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