Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn
In the eleventh episode of New Girl (FOX) season three, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and her roomies are in a bar and Jess has exactly twenty minutes to decide whether she should remain a teacher in a terrible school or take a better-paid job as a full-time fund-raiser in a museum. She calls her roommates to her rescue, as teaching has always been a passion and a vocation for her. She asks them the following question: “How do you know when you’re on the right path?” The whole episode is about how each of them decided to have the career they have. Winston (Lamorne Morris, 24/7 Tebow vs. Mayweather) tells how he was given a basketball a few days after he was born, how he made a terrible career as a basketball player and how he ended it.
WINSTON: That’s when I decided to stop playing the game of basketball. Jess, walk away the moment you stop loving it. I mean, that’s what I did.
JESS: That’s the thing, you didn’t walk away.
SCHMIDT (Max Greenfield, American Horror Story): You decided nothing.
COACH (Damon Wayans, Jr, Happy Endings): That story contains zero decisions.
WINSTON: I decided to… stop playing the game of basketball when my doctor… told me I had to stop… Okay, o…okay! I’m, I, I… it was my decision… to start… to play the game of basketball.
JESS: You were handed a basketball six seconds after you were born.
WINSTON: Damn, did I even like basketball? I mean, did I ever make any decisions in my own life or are we all just living inside the mind of a giant?
The French sociologist, philosopher and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu developed the theory of social determinism, arguing that our ideas, values, tastes and leanings are socially constructed. The society we evolve in, our family, our schools, our religion, our contry, our tribe, our circle of friends, so many things interfere with our decision-making. Bourdieu gives the example of families where one of the parent is a doctor or in the entertainment industry, and how given the choice, the child would likely walk in the parent’s footsteps. We are all rooted in a system of dispositions (habitus) that command our very perceptions and thoughts. In Masculine Domination, Bourdieu explains the taste of women for taller, stronger men and the overrepresentation of women in particular professional fields such as child care and charities. None of this is genetically justified, those women were not compelled to pick a career over another. It is not a coincidence that so many women preferred to be a stewardess instead of flying the aircraft. For the theorists of determinism, our free will is not that free.