Saturday, August 6, 2011

Military History And Choice

I think a lot of my writing has to do with choice and freedom. These are issues that really confuse me. They are often spoken of casually. Sometimes they seem to be obvious or self-evident concepts. But I don't know. They confuse me.

Then I was walking home and I was thinking about my education. I was thinking about my background in military history. And how perhaps the most important thing I learned was to think about complex decision making. I was reading Clausewitz and I was forced to think about the way that decisions are made. How do people make complex and difficult decisions? An interesting question. And one that eventually collapses into the need for a theory of choice.

And a cursory glance at the internet shows that there are already theories of choice in existence. Duh. Of course people have already theorized about choice. I'll have to catch up on that literature.

Rational choice theory is one theory of choice that I have a problem with. It was originally developed by political scientists. It is a method of studying history and political decision making. Its fundamental assumption is that all political actors are rational actions, and can therefore be explained. Reading Clausewitz immediately problematizes this idea.

Clausewitz believes that political decision is far too complex and rapid to allow the time required for ratiocination. Instead, political leaders need to rely on intuition: on the ability to quickly make and communicate complex decisions with limited and uncertain information.

Anyways, I think that I need to focus more explicitly on the issue of choice. That is what my undergraduate education really forces me to reflect on.

I think I should reflect more on Clausewitz.

And more particularly, I think I should try to articulate the relationship between habit and intuition. Intuition is something I learned about quite a while ago and really have read and thought about. A bit, but of course not enough. Habit, however, is a newer idea for me. It is one I have also thought about for a while, albeit in different terms. So perhaps that would be a good thing to write about.

I also wanted to write a short piece on the idea of history as the history of thought.

Maybe all of this should just be subsumed in the next section of my essay on mediums.

Also, someone told me at work today that I need to just lose myself in fiction. And I think they are right. Maybe.

I just love nonfiction so much.

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