Friday, December 08, 2006

The Diceman

Can we and should we let chance determine our actions? Consider this hypothetical situation:

Someone has to make a choice between putting their potential actions onto a die or not. At stake is an issue that they understand. This is to say that they know the importance and scope of the issue, and how to act regarding it. It doesn't make any difference what the issue is, so I'm not going to use a specific example. The choice is this:

1) It is certain that the person acts according to a thing's importance, or

2) The person has a 5 out of 6 chance of acting according to a thing's importance

I want to suggest two things about this choice. Firstly, and most simply, that the person should not let chance decide their action here, because this would be to introduce a 1 out of 6 chance that they act incorrectly. This is something they should not do for the same reason that they should not swap a ten pound note for nine pounds fifty: Although this is a material example, and we are talking about chance, the quality of what the person has is nonetheless altered in both cases. All things being equal (and I have to stress this), the chance of ten pounds -no matter how high- is never as good as ten pounds.

Secondly, I want to suggest that the person cannot choose option 2), and what appears as a choice in our situation isn't really a choice at all. If the premise that the person really understands the issue and what to do about it is correct, option 2 is already out of the question. It is not possible, given real knowledge, say that x is true of y, that x not be true of y. For if this could be the case, this is not real knowledge. A person with knowledge cannot be anything but certain regarding it, and cannot fail to know what to do where appropriate: to throw on any issue is to act inappropriately and to negate knowledge, which is impossible.

This last point understood, and since we agree that we always have some knowledge, it is always impossible to surrender your decisions to chance (indeed, insofar as an issue can be a candidate for a throw it is to that extent sufficiently known). So there's something amiss here, as we indeed seem to surrender decisions to chance - the Diceman, for example, claims to have done this very thing.

But the Diceman never surrendered a decision to chance.


Blogger News is Good said...

I agree with you.

At uni, Rob read Diceman and thought it was 'well speshal' (that's what his tattoos said as well). He was fascinated by the idea of surrendering your choice to a dice. In the book, someone even rapes someone because the dice says so!!! Wow!!!

I pointed out that the Diceman decided, in the first place, to allow the dice to dictate their actions. They decided to reduce their decisions to things that may be morally wrong.

Even more annoyingly, in the book, the anti-hero chooses what the dice numbers correspond to. Is that actually not making a choice, when you put "Kill someone" on 1, as you know it is somewhat likely to come up. You cannot say, 'that was not my choice'. You cannot say, 'the dice told me to'. You can only say 'I told myself to, through a dice'.
Even if you accept some randomly generated list from a computer, you have chosen to live by the dice. You have full knowledge it could lead to anything - lying, suicide, pettiness, rape, destruction, Barney the Dinosaur.

The Diceman does not surrender choice in order to display the chaos of this impersonal universe. The Diceman pretends a dice is telling him what to do in order to get sympathy when he's actually decided to please his own stupid desires.
Not only is the Diceman selfishly fulfilling his own desires, he's pretending there's some noble message in it. And that's what sticks in my mouth like a cocktail stick.

You cannot choose to not choose. In this sense, I am thinking of something Sartre said. But that was in French.

5:58 PM  

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