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Hard Choices Let Us Make Who We Are

In a 14 minute long TED talk by philosopher Ruth Chang, she explores why we should embrace difficult choices instead of agonizing over them. I paraphrase her words below:

In an easy choice, one alternative is clearly better than the other. In a hard choice, one of the alternatives is better in one way, another is better another in another way, but neither is better than the other overall.

Realizing small choices may also be hard, makes big choices seem less intractable. We also shouldn’t think hard choices are hard because we are stupid.

Fear of the unknown rests on a misconception of them. We don’t have full information, but even if we did, hard decisions would still be hard because there’s no best option.

A higher salary for being an investment banker makes that job option better than it was before, but not necessarily better than being an artist. Neither is better than the other, nor are they equally good.

That’s because we try to assign quantities to values. Justice, beauty, and kindness are values, but we assume they have quantities. They may be in the same league of value, but have different kinds of value.

We create reasons for the hard choices we make and thus we make ourselves into the distinctive people we are.

People who don’t exercise their normative powers are drifters. They let the world write the stories of their lives.

So instead of agonizing and fearing hard choices, we should see them as precious opportunities for us to celebrate the human condition.

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