Determining the Strength of Desire

We are on day two of a series. Feel free to catch up.

When making decisions, we often try to weigh or compare our feelings about the potential outcomes against each other. The desires that seem strongest will dictate our path…right? Isn’t that how it works? You weigh the two outcomes and follow your heart. What could be wrong with that?

Well, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it. But let’s say you have a hard time determining what outcome you feel strongest about. The example I gave yesterday was like this: Say I have to choose between taking a job in California or staying in my current position at NSC. On the one hand, I value warm weather. On the other, I value being close to family. Whichever value I feel strongest about will guide me, yes? But let’s say I’m stuck in that process. What do I do?

Consider Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre suggests that our desires and values have no pre-determined weight. Instead, we determine the strength of our desires and values with our actions.

This is a very different way of thinking. It suggests that we cannot simply put our feelings about one choice on one side of a scale and our feelings about the opposite choice on the opposite side of the scale to see which is heavier. Sartre believes that we invent or create our values through freely choosing a certain outcome.

Now, this makes sense to me now that I’ve had some time to digest it. It makes sense because I often don’t know what I feel strongly about in advance. According to Sartre’s way of seeing, I only know how I feel about something once I’ve decided how I’m going to act on it. This means we have great freedom and great responsibility when making decisions.

More tomorrow.