A good overview of the series of ‘Can’t Help Yourself’ books, that show the patterns of automatic thinking and habits that have a greater influence in our lives than we think (e.g., Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, Jonah Lehrer’s, Imagine: How Creativity Works, and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business). Quote:
Does this mean we have no “agency,” no capacity to act on our own? Or can autonomy thrive within the prison of self-ignorance? “We have to believe it does,” says Steven Lukes, a professor of sociology at New York University highly admired for his work in moral philosophy. “If we seriously thought that our intentions made no difference to how we behave, we couldn’t go on using the language of ethics. How would we go on living the lives we live?” Or doing what we think is right? “People have free will when they ‘feel’ they have free will,” says Professor Kahneman. “If we didn’t believe in it, we would have no responsibility.”
But of course what one “feels,” as we’ve learned from all these books, could well be — indeed, probably is — an illusion. As Timothy Wilson puts it with haunting simplicity: “We are strangers to ourselves.”
Strangers who can learn how to be friends.