Do we really have a choice?
A dialogue between Niccólo the snake and Charmide and Mickael the deer. Niccolò is secretive and manipulative but justifies himself by saying that it is for the common good. Charmide and Mickael prefer to flee than to fight. Charmide thinks that temperance is the best rule of life; Mickael is wary of the power which always seeks to enslave.
Charmide: ah, here you are, Niccolò! Tell us, is it true that you regret what you did to Eve?
Mickael: why didn’t you leave her if she was bothering you?
Niccolò: dear deer, I see that you spoke with Socrates! It’s true, I regret having made her believe that everything would be easy and I actually thought about leaving but in the end, I thought it would simpler if she was the one leaving me alone.
Charmide: for us, there is no point in remaining in conflictual situations and we prefer to avoid them.
Mickael: even in the unlikely event that we are the strongest, confrontation generates power struggles and domination that we do not like because they always result in the oppression of one or the other.
Niccolò: yet my dear deer, conflict is necessary to determine who has the power and the power is necessary to organize life in a community and impose rules . By avoiding it, you are already deciding to be dominated even if you think you are free. I could have run away or I could have bite because that is how I defend myself but Eve was not threatening me directly so it seemed to me that there was another solution.
Charmide: why didn’t you tell her you didn’t want to see her anymore? That was the easiest way and it didn’t threaten your position.
Mickael: were you afraid of her and the importance she might get?
Niccolò: in truth, she was pitiful and I wanted to help her.
Charmide: you never do anything for nothing, dear Niccolò, we know that.
Mickael: admit that it was a easy way to get rid of her by using your influence.
Niccolò: gentlemen, you do not spare me much! Yet I lost a lot in the process and you can’t deny it.
Charmide: what you lose on the one hand, you gain on the other, you know that. You went to the dark side but your power grew.
Mickael: you yourself say that the balance of power is necessary, you must have known that Eve would fall.
Niccolò: if it had not been me, that would have been someone else. Eve was just begging to know, so I did what I thought was best. But I didn’t think we would all be punished, including you. This is what I especially regret.
Charmide: you have already changed your speech since we met you but what you say comforts me in the idea that one should always avoid drastic choices and prefer moderation.
Mickael: yet you may have been right despite everything, and whatever your motives. You ruined our paradise but you animated our life.
Niccolò: believe me, it was difficult to find the right answer but in the end there was only one possible. Moderation isn’t always the best solution when you can guess that it just defers the problem further.
Charmide: let’s say you’re telling the truth … It seems your choice wasn’t really a choice if it was the necessary one.
Mickael: the only one possible because the only one that allowed the rest.
Niccolò: yet I hesitated for a long time.
Charmide: this does not prove that other choices were possible, but just that you could not make up your mind.
Mickael: in a dilemma, the solution is already there but it does not appear immediately.
Niccolò: you have a lot of common sense, dear friends, I did well to come here.
Charmide : ah, ah, so it was the right choice!
Mickael: and yet I’m sure you hadn’t thought about it this time!
To have a choice, is it an illusion?
For Charmide and Mickael, the choice consists above all in knowing oneself because that is what determines the possibilities. In this sense, it is nature that decides. More precisely, Charmide favors the moderation that corresponds to his character and Mickael is wary of conflicting situations that always suppose a loser.
For Niccolò, the range seems more open but in the end, he too chooses according to his nature since he favors what suits him best.
If choices are illusory, why does prioritizing help?
Is a fear of mistakes a good guide when making decisions?
Want to think a little more? See, for example, Introduction to psychoanalysis where Freud shows how conscious decisions are only the reflection of unconscious motives.
Want to contribute to these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.
Want to know more about the tastes of Niccolò, Charmide and Mickael? Their favorite books are in the domain library.