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Without Guilt & Justice
August 11, 2009 11:33 AM   Subscribe

"Humanity craves but dreads autonomy." – Without Guilt & Justice by Walter Kaufmann argues that decidophobes employ ten strategies in order to avoid indecisive dizziness. He cites Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as an individual who demonstrated autonomy through "the most awesome courage".
posted by ageispolis (30 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm one better than decideophobes. I employ eleven strategies.
posted by The World Famous at 11:36 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Freedom of choice is what you have, freedom from choice is what you want.

We're all DEVO.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Without Guilt and Justice, Kaufman describes people with decidophobia as people who lack the courage or will to sort through the different sides in disagreements to find the truth.

Boy does that sound familiar.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2009


I probably don't want to read this, do I?
posted by doctor_negative at 11:56 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not settling on an exact number of strategies as of yet.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:03 PM on August 11, 2009


Excellent use of the tldr tag. Can someone give me a digest of the 10 strategies?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:17 PM on August 11, 2009


Awesome post. I have my reading material for the night- thanks!
posted by Pragmatica at 12:19 PM on August 11, 2009


people who lack the courage or will to sort through the different sides in disagreements to find the truth. They would rather leave deciding what is the truth to some authority. This might be a parent or spouse. It might be a church or university or a political party. Once the decidophobe has relinquished authority to decide the truth then they will accept as truth anything argued by that authority

Sounds too status quo to be abnormal. If it applies to 99% of the population, can it still be considered a phobia? Maybe The Deciders(TM) really have an indecisiveness phobia, and require an unnatural degree of clarity and purpose.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:24 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe The Deciders(TM) really have an indecisiveness phobia, and require an unnatural degree of clarity and purpose.

That certainly describes a well-known public figure who referred to himself as "The Decider."
posted by The World Famous at 12:26 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sounds too status quo to be abnormal.

That statement is chilling to me, on several levels.
posted by Pragmatica at 12:28 PM on August 11, 2009


I'm with IRFH--I mean, it's interesting to see the condition discussed in depth and given a name, but it reminds me too much of an xkcd strip to be really surprising.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:37 PM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The linked first article is worth reading in its entirety, and the author's argument, definition of decidophobia, and elucidation of the strategies used by these named "decidophobes" is not as simplistic as several of these comments make it out to be.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


*are not
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:20 PM on August 11, 2009


Sounds too status quo to be abnormal.

Logically, however, only Deciders get to choose what is normal and abnormal. I don't think they would want to cast themselves in a negative light, but I'll leave that to others to decide.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:20 PM on August 11, 2009


*make them

dang it. Wish we would could edit.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:21 PM on August 11, 2009


Walter Kaufmann's writing is a model of lucidity and clarity. I read his Faith of a Heretic, Faust, and Nietzsche translations long ago. Great post, it's wonderful to read more of his stuff.
posted by benzenedream at 1:24 PM on August 11, 2009


Excellent article (not sure why you included all those superfluous links in the post, but I suppose it's the usual fear of the "OMG single-link!!" crowd). Too bad the audience is mainly interested in cheap snarking and horsing around, but I found it well worth the read. Thanks.
posted by languagehat at 1:57 PM on August 11, 2009


I accept as truth anything argued by NPR.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:12 PM on August 11, 2009


For those who, like me, are dying to know what the 10 strategies are, here are my results after a quick skim:

"I have considered seven ways of avoiding autonomy: (1) religion, (2) drifting, (3) allegiance to a movement, (4) allegiance to a school of thought, (5) exegetical thinking, (6) Manichaeism, and (7) moral rationalism. It is possible to systematize these seven strategies under two headings: First, avoiding fateful decisions, possibly excepting the one decision not to make any more fateful decisions (methods 1 to 5); second, making fateful decisions, but stacking the cards in some way so that the choice will make itself and there is no possibility of tragedy (6-7)."

"The eighth strategy for avoiding autonomy is pedantry. It plays a central part in the creeping microscopism mentioned earlier; and I have noted previously that as long as one remains absorbed in microscopic distinctions one is in no great danger of coming face to face with fateful decisions."

"The ninth strategy is the faith that one is riding the wave of the future. This, too, is usually part of a mixed strategy and frequently associated with religion, allegiance to a movement, belonging to a school of thought, or Manichaeism. But even if the later Sartre did not succumb to these four lures, he certainly deserves a point for this faith in addition to the point he gets for exegetical thinking, and this is a very telling objection to his later work. Sartre endows Marxism with authority because it is “the philosophy of our time” (1960) and the wave of the future, and this exempts him from any need to see what speaks against it and what speaks for various alternatives..."

"The tenth strategy, finally, often spells total relief, like the first two: marriage. At first glance, it looks quite different from the others and therefore out of place. But it is probably the most popular strategy of all. When getting married, legions of women have echoed Ruth’s beautiful words (which in the Bible are not spoken to a husband): “Your people shall be my people, your god my god.” Henceforth they agree to make no more fateful decisions; they will leave that to their husbands. This pattern is deeply ingrained in many cultures: it is what a woman is expected to do when she gets married; and she is supposed to get married."

"The ten strategies could be arranged in a table as follows:

A. Avoid fateful decisions
1. Strategies involving recourse to authority: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9.
2. Strategies that do not involve recourse to authority and are compatible with going it alone: 2, 8.
B. Stack the cards to make one alternative clearly right and remove all risk: 6, 7.
C. Decline responsibility: 10."
posted by Reverend John at 2:24 PM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


This snarker will go home and read the main article there. I suspect others will do likewise. Looking forward to it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2009


Personally, I think the fact that horsing around and appreciating good content are not mutually exclusive here is one of the best things about MetaFilter. If we had to decide between one or the other, most of us would be lost.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:57 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Been catching a lot on this topic lately (upside of insomnia)
Emotional versus cognitive decision processes (it's a paper).
Decoding The Science Of Decision Making from NPR.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:36 PM on August 11, 2009


This looks fascinating but is of an intimidating size. TL, WRL. His writing is a model of lucidity and clarity but it is not a model of succinct conciseness.

"The tenth strategy, finally, often spells total relief, like the first two: marriage. At first glance, it looks quite different from the others and therefore out of place. But it is probably the most popular strategy of all. When getting married, legions of women have echoed Ruth’s beautiful words (which in the Bible are not spoken to a husband): “Your people shall be my people, your god my god.” Henceforth they agree to make no more fateful decisions; they will leave that to their husbands. This pattern is deeply ingrained in many cultures: it is what a woman is expected to do when she gets married; and she is supposed to get married."

This is what people do when they "swear fealty", and (1970s) marriage is only one example of that. Arguably the modern employment contract is a similar oath of fealty. I'm sure other examples are around.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:42 PM on August 11, 2009


> Personally, I think the fact that horsing around and appreciating good content are not mutually exclusive here is one of the best things about MetaFilter.

Oh, me too—I would never renounce the snark! But there's a difference between, say, a YouTube link to cat antics and a long and thoughtful article about fear of autonomy; there's also a difference between bits of snark interleaved into a good discussion and snark as a replacement for discussion. I found it a little depressing that nobody seemed interested in actually discussing what Kaufmann had to say, that's all. But Durn Bronzefist has made me see that I was jumping the gun. You may pummel me with snarkberries now.
posted by languagehat at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2009


a model of lucidity and clarity [...] Nietzsche translations

As if! Even setting aside the many errors in those translations, the windbaggy didacticism of Kaufmann's Nietzsche footnotes is almost without parallel outside of Pale Fire. I agree he's sometimes got a way with tone, and I'd say that's the main virtue weighing against the inaccuracy and heavy-handed interpretiveness of the translations. But no one could call them "lucid" who's read them against the original text.

I don't know Kauffmann's non-Nietzschean work so well; but this essay, at least on a cursory first reading, honestly strikes me as not so fascinating. It reads like the kind of thing Adorno derided as "wrestling with difficulties" – the endless self-aggrandizing dramatics about the inward struggle, the idea that only "standing alone" is worthy of moral approbation.
posted by RogerB at 6:59 PM on August 11, 2009


For us non-German speaking, English speaking folk, Kaufmann rescued Nietzsche from Nietzsche's sister.
posted by ifandonlyif at 7:37 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice find.

One of the first notes contains the following sentence:

He considered it the ma of autonomy that one’s actions are not prompted by any inclination whatsoever but by a maxim of which one could wish that it might become universal law.

Ma? I'm thinking this is a typo, but maybe there's a usage I'm not familiar with. The meaning of the passage is clear enough, but it's starting to work my nerves that I can't figure out what the intended word is. Any ideas?
posted by BigSky at 9:52 AM on August 12, 2009


Scanning error. See the previous sentence: "Kant still stands in this tradition; and he was autonomous y his own lights." Don't know what the intended word was, though. Seems like you'd want something like "basis," but it's hard to get "ma" out of that.
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on August 12, 2009


After reading most of this, I'm left to ask, what options are still open to the non-decidophobe? Maybe he covers this in the conclusion, but if drifting, marriage, religion, joining a movement, etc etc are all symptomatic, what is left? Attention Deficit Disorder? And if marriage is only decidophobic for females, where does that leave the non-decidophobic male who has decided to get married?
posted by spicynuts at 1:11 PM on August 12, 2009


I did not read the whole article but Kaufman was very clear that only some people go to religion and movements out of decidophobia. He said that others were into religion for other reasons.
posted by nooneyouknow at 4:25 PM on August 12, 2009


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