The Question

The Question: What will I do?

I argue that this question is, in the general case, the most important question. That is, in particular circumstances in which any particular human may find themselves, other questions may prove to be more important than this question. But averaged over all human circumstances, this is the most important question. Hence, I call it not merely a question, but The Question.

A few arguments may be given for this question’s status as the most important question.

The first argument.

It is always necessary to answer The Question. One cannot avoid doing so. If one decides not to answer The Question, one must then do something other than answer The Question, and the question will arise of what that will be. Hence one will be brought back to it straight away. This is so unless one acts unconsciously, based on instinct or impulse, rather than making a conscious decision to do something. Therefore, at any given time:

1. one asks The Question; or,
2. one, having answered The Question, carries out this answer; or,
3. one acts unconsciously, based on instinct or impulse.

One cannot choose to do (3). To choose is to choose consciously. There is no such thing as unconsciously choosing to do something; in that case one is simply doing, not choosing. Therefore, to choose to act unconsciously is to choose consciously to act unconsciously. Therefore if one chooses to do (3), one is in fact doing (2). Thus, having first become conscious of one’s choice, one is committed to do either (1) or (2) until by accident and without trying to do so, one falls back into (3).

The second argument.

Eventually, we will die. We therefore have finite time in which to do things. By the things we do we will make our life more or less valuable, both for ourselves and for others. We will lead a life that is more or less meaningful to ourselves. We will either make a net positive impact on the world after our death, or make a net negative impact, or make little discernible impact. Presumably we want to lead a life that is as meaningful to ourselves as possible and makes the largest possible net positive impact on the world after our death.

The choices we make will partially determine the value of our lives. There is nothing we can desire that falls out of the sphere of increasing the value of our lives. Our choices are the only thing we can change to increase the value of our lives. The value of our lives, insofar as we can affect this value, will be determined by the quality of our choices. Therefore, the only way that we can obtain anything desirable that we are capable of obtaining, is by choosing well.

We can increase the quality of our choices by thinking about The Question. Hence, thinking about The Question and everything connected with it is an activity of basic importance. We all engage in this activity, because we are required to do so, and engaging in it more fully has the potential to increase the value of our lives, unless we have a satisfactory answer already in our possession, or little potential of improving our choices.

I wish in some future writing to analyze various answers to The Question that are popular in our society. For now, let us consider a variant form of The Question:

The Question. What do I will?

We may also phrase this as, “what do I want?” The two questions “what will I do?” and “what do I will?” are inextricably connected. We can only reasonably choose to do something with some goal in mind, and so in order to choose what to do we must first of all establish what we are after. I suggest that frequently we do not know what we are after, and that especially this must be the case if our desires contradict each other.

  1. Making Choices, and Value « antitheology

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