Choice And Change

The word choice obviously plays an important role in the definition of Choice Awareness. In this book, a distinction is made between a true choice and a

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false choice. As already defined in Chapter 1, a true choice is a choice between two or more real options, while a false choice refers to a situation in which choice is some sort of illusion. One example of a false choice is the concept that is called a Hobson's Choice that is, a free choice in which only one option is offered. The "choice" is between deciding on the option or not. The phrase is said to originate from Thomas Hobson (1544 1630), who delivered mail between London and Cambridge by horse. When the horses were not needed for the mail delivery, they were rented out to students and academic staff at the university. Hobson soon discovered that his best (and fastest) horses were the most popular ones and thus overworked. To prevent further exhaustion of his best horses, Hobson devised a strict rotation system, only allowing customers to rent the next horse in line. His policy, "This one or none," has come to be known as a Hobson's Choice, when an apparent choice is in fact no choice at all (Smith 1882).

Another example of a false choice is the prototypical Catch-22, as formulated by Joseph Heller in his novel of the same title (Heller 1961). It considers the case of a bombardier who wishes to be excused from combat flight duty. To do so, he must submit an official medical certificate demonstrating that he is unfit because he is insane. However, according to Army regulations, any sane person would naturally not want to fly combat missions because they are so dangerous. By requesting permission not to fly combat missions on the grounds of insanity, the bombardier demonstrates that he is in fact sane and therefore is fit to fly. Conversely, any flyer who wanted to fly combat missions implicitly demonstrated that he was insane and was unfit to fly and should therefore be excused. To be excused, however, the unwilling individual had to submit a request, and, naturally, he never did. If the reluctant flyer did submit a request to be excused, the Catch-22 would assert itself, short-circuiting any such attempt to escape from combat duty.

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