Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Twoots from my Twitter.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
So I am starting to think that either I have a faulty understanding of preference or the entire notion of there being some felt-situation of preference is fundamentally flawed such that "preference" is not indicative of an ontological state of being continually manifest in one's life but rather "points to" a vague set of fungible inclinations routinely jostled about in one's haphazard mucking about through life.
I have spent my life operating under the assumption that if there actually is choice, if some actions carried out by persons are self-directed and volitional, then persons utilize a preferential schema by which they make a choice. For example:
Preferential Schema: Player A prefers steak to chicken.
Resulting actualization of preferential schema in life: Given this preference of steak to chicken, when presented with the option of EITHER steak OR chicken Player A chooses steak.
As you can plainly understand, this shit ain't difficult. To have a preference is to maintain a hierarchy by which choices are made. To prefer A to B is to, when given the option of A or B, pick A.
The question to ask is what to make of situations within which an individual posits a preferential schema yet acts in apparent conflict with this schema. What do we make of persons who profess to prefer steak to chicken yet routinely choose chicken? I think the most charitable explanation of this situation is to posit that, generally, statements of preference are simplifications of a much larger decision-making schema.
Take Player A, for example. Player A professes to prefer steak to chicken. However, let us assume that when presented with the option of either home-cooked Ribeye or professionally prepared saffron chicken Player A chooses the saffron chicken. This choice is not problematic with regard to the living of one's life, but it does bring into question the initial statement "I prefer steak to chicken." given that there exists at least one situation in which a particular manifestation of chicken is preferred to a particular manifestation of steak.
The difficulty is that the above explanation appeals to there being a flaw in the translation of one's ontological state of being to an articulation within language. Said another way, the statement "I prefer steak to chicken" is, in fact, false given that Player A will select saffron chicken over ribeye in some situations. That which is said does not truly mirror reality. In 97% of cases Player A selects steak; in 3% of cases Player A selects chicken. To make the linguistic articulation true one must incorporate the deviations from the Steak > Chicken hierarchy.
However, a complete, coherent articulation of the full preferential hierarchy could get very complicated if there are numerous deviations from the steak > chicken hierarchy. Perhaps a St. Elmo's Prime Rib would be preferred to the saffron chicken. So, then, one need articulate all possible deviations and nuances in order to give a completely true account of one's preferential schema.
The other difficulty is that the notion of preference maintains the assumption that there is a degree to which human beings are deduction machines which operate via If, Then statements. Given the aversion maintained by some to that explanation (I ain't no robot!) how, then, would preference be explained? Do we shift from a conversation of "preference" to "habit"? What would be the ontological distinction between a "preference" to a "habit"? If we take issue with the steak > chicken account of reality, then with what is it replaced?
I really do not know.
It just seems to be the case that the simple explanation of a sensible hierarchy of preference fails, in some cases, to articulate that which actually occurs in life. So given that disparity what do we do? What does it mean to posit a preference if there are deviations from this preference? What is the virtue of a statement purported to mirror reality which is not true in all cases? When we abandon "steak > chicken" and opt for "Generally it tends to be the case that usually I will opt for a steak rather than a chicken except for in situation which deviate from this norm given bla bla bla..." what have we lost? What have we gained?
And what the fuck is "preference" anyway?