Making a commitment

“Alice: Would you tell me, please which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.” 

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

When we’re torn between two decisions — careers, graduate schools, marriage partners, creative projects — it turns out that it doesn’t always matter which one we pick. It just matters that we pick.

Ruth Chang, a philosophy professor at Rutgers, affirms what Alice learned long ago. Rather than needing reasons for our actions, Chang argues that we can create reasons for our actions instead. We need only make a commitment:

“When you commit to something, you create your own identity — you make yourself into who you are.

Suppose you spent your whole life never committing to anything, never putting your agency behind something. You drift through life, which most of us do. Well, what’s sad is you’ve never exercised this amazing power you have to create reasons for yourself. When you drift through life you’re never the author of your own life. You’re just something being buffeted around by your circumstances. I think what we’ve missed is that we have this other capacity to commit to things and write the story of our own lives — by committing to people and projects and plans of action that then create reasons for ourselves to live one way as opposed to another.”

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