Can I Turn My “Have to’s” into “Want to’s”?
Last time I said that the real “me” isn’t so much defined by my desires as by my decisions.
Obviously, one can take this too far. It would be self-destructive of me to completely deny my inclinations. I need food and water and sleep; I am a sexual being. And I like Shakespeare. No use denying that. But freedom does not just consist in being free to follow these inclinations; it also means being free to decide against them when they clash with what I perceive to be good or useful.
In an ideal world, my natural inclinations would always coincide with the good and useful. There would be no dichotomy between Aristotle’s three categories of joy, moral duty, and utility. They would be one and the same thing. And it is certainly a worthy goal to learn to “love my fate,” that is, to enjoy doing my duty and being useful.
To achieve this, I might tell myself that I really do not have to do anything. I do not have to spend time with my family, for instance. In fact, I could ditch them right now. But do I really want to? No, because I want them to have a good life. Hence I need to decide that I want to spend time with them, not merely give in because I feel that I have to spend time with them.
On that view, nothing in this life is a compulsion, because I always have the option not to do it. There is always another option, and, last of all, the option of opting out of life completely. If all else fails, I can commit suicide. But if I want to live, then I also want to do certain things that affirm life. I do not have to live. Therefore, I do not have to do anything. I want to live, and therefore I want my particular life. I love my fate.
Like the Romantic ideal of self-realization, I find the ideal of loving your fate appealing. However, it ignores the fact that I am a complex psychological being who will always have a certain ambivalence to it. That is to say, until I have reached perfect moral character (probably not in this life!), I will always have conflicting desires and will never achieve being this single-minded entity that completely loves its fate because it manages to embrace necessity and blocks out all contrary desires.