3.1 Are we alone at the wheel? The self-knowing individual and free will
Before you read the text below, discuss the following in pairs:
- What do you think 'self-knowing individual' means?
- What is free will?
- Can you think of some advertisements you have seen on television recently that emphasise the idea that people are free to make their own choices? Discuss the advertisements and how much choice the participants actually have.
- From the title 'Are we alone at the wheel? The self-knowing individual and free will', predict what you think the text may be about.
THE SELF-KNOWING INDIVIDUAL AND FREE WILL
A dominant idea in Western democratic societies, including Australia, is that we are largely free to determine our own futures. This idea of individual free will is an idea that is so accepted that we hardly notice it is there anymore. It just seems to be 'natural', 'common sense' or the 'way things are'.
Most people in our society today are not going to stop to question the idea that they possess individual free will because now it is so much a part of the language we use and the texts we consume. For example, in Hollywood blockbuster movies it can be seen in the way that a lone, heroic individual will bravely face whatever hurdles, dangers and threats may come their way. and Inevitably triumph.
The mass media commonly feature stories about individuals who are successful in their field, having overcome otherwise insurmountable barriers to success by resourcefulness and determination. Advertising is constantly telling us to 'just do it!' or to 'chase the dream'.
The 'moral' and messages of these storylines are very clear: our actions are our own. As we control what we might achieve and become in life, so we need to know who and what we are and what we want.
Of course, there are people or institutions that influence our behaviour (parents, the police, schools) or pressure us to act in certain ways (for example, the influences of our peer group and social trends or 'fashions'). If we are not reflective and thinking about ourselves and our lives, we will not be able to recognise the social forces and influences that help us to achieve our individual potential. We must also rcognise those which must be resisted because they are likely to hinder us.
When considering how meaning is made in the texts you have been studying as part of this unit, you will also need to consider how each text encourages the reader or viewer to be self-knowing and to believe that they have free will.
3.1.2 Questions for reflection and discussion
- What positives for society might come from the idea that the self-knowing individual largely determines their own future?
- What negatives for society might come from the idea that the self-knowing individual largely determines their own future?
- What are some other thoughts you have had while thinking about these questions?
Texts: Heaven and hell suite of television advertisements Drink drive brain television advertisement
Watch the three television advertisements in the series Heaven and hell, which highlights the human, criminal and social consequences of speeding. Discuss the following statements with a partner and decide whether each is true or false. Be prepared to explain and support your response.
Last update: 1st December 2014