Friday, April 17, 2009

Freedom is the recognition of contingency

For many years I had a strong belief that there are only two categories of people. The categories can be named Good People and Bad People. Some people may have mixed characteristics but at their core everybody is either good or bad. Moreover I was convinced that there are some universally accepted characteristics that define any person to be either good or bad.

Later on I used to think there are some distinct, comprehendible forces which decide how a person will behave in certain situation. For example money will be a force deciding behavior or decisions of some people, for some it might be respect of their peers, for some it could be happiness of some close family member, and so on.

In the last few years, however, I have realized that behaviors of people are simply too complicated to be categorized, modeled, or predicted with some degree of certainty. The happy realization came through experiences some of which are memorable and some haunting.

In fact, as I understand through some readings from economics (which still believes that behavior of people can be descibed as rational and selfish), psychology, and neuroscience (recognizing the connection between these three seemingly unrelated disciplines is an experience in itself) understanding behavior of people is still far beyond the boundaries of human knowledge.

Probably engineers are trained to analyze artificial systems which can be broken down in small parts and their inter-relation can be established comprehensively. This, however, does not apply to natural systems. Ignorance of this very fact has led to many blunders and disasters, consequences of which are being faced by all of us. (More about this later)

Recently I read a quote by Richard Rorty, which exactly reflects my feelings at this point in time; “Freedom is the recognition of contingency”.

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