I’ve been reading The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker. It restates the case for the strength of the genetic component of our personalities. Rightly or wrongly, reading Pinker’s impassioned prose has made me even more nervous about my own free will. As if to put a few more nails into the coffin, neuroscientists also claim to be able to see the brain making our decisions about three-quarters of a second before we are aware of doing so ourselves.
So perhaps it is time to break out of ingrained patterns by following the advice of the protagonist of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. In the book he decides to make the major decisions of his life by simply rolling a dice. A Guardian article explains how Cockcroft [Rhinehart’s real name] was first inspired to write the book:
“At the time, Cockcroft was studying and teaching psychology, and one summer he was leading a seminar on freedom – Nietzsche and Sartre – and he asked his class at one point whether perhaps the ultimate freedom was not to ‘get away from habit and causality and make all your decisions by casting dice’. His students were either so appalled or so intrigued by the idea that Cockcroft knew immediately that this was something worth writing about.”
Come on, why not? Let’s mix it up, it’ll be fun.
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