Charlie feels I did not explain things well in my last post. He feels I ought to try again. So I am.

I want to imagine you are choosing one of those tubs of ice cream with a good friend. You must, temporarily, pretend that there are no small containers of ice cream available. You cannot get two single servings that are different. There are only the large sizes suitable for a family, and you must agree on the variety. You must also pretend with me that you and your friend each have favourite ice cream flavours that the other hates.

The decision-making tree will go differently for this scenario depending on whether you are collective or two individuals, and the best choice of action will probably be different also. There are still two basic choices about how to go about this, but they will look very different depending on your perspective. You can either take turns choosing the kind—so that every other time you are happy and the time in between maybe you just go without—or you can pick a compromise variety that neither of you really likes but that you both find acceptable.

If you are individuals, and you go with the compromise variety, you are likely to both be unhappy. The whole time you are eating the ice cream, you will probably be thinking, but my kind would have been so much better. And you are better off taking turns, secure in the knowledge that you will get to have your favourite kind next time even if it is not your turn this time.

If you are a collective though, taking turns will make you unhappy. Even if you get to choose this time, you will be looking at your friend’s ice-cream-less face and it will take all the joy out of eating it for you. Also, food always tastes better shared, and somehow even your favourite kind will begin to seem unsatisfactory without the joy of getting to share. You won’t be able to be happy eating it, because you can’t have your friend’s happiness along with your own happiness in eating it. In that case, you are better off getting the compromise kind: the fun of eating the ice cream together will outweigh the unsatisfactoriness of the ice cream flavor itself. Your friend’s happy, ice creamy face will enhance the taste of your ice cream in some mysterious way that just makes everything better. Compromise, in this case, will be by far the better choice.

In the individual’s world, the ice cream is the point. The joy comes in knowing what you like, in the autonomy of getting to choose, and in your pleasure in your “uniqueness” (although, of course, lots of other people like that ice cream flavour too, but there’s no need to think of that.) In the collective’s world, the joy comes in dong it together. Your shared happiness is somehow greater than your own happiness, and without that happiness in being together, nothing is really that great. I mean, it’s just ice cream. But being with your friend is wonderful.

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