Chybiony zawód – o trudnych wyborach [TED#11]

Wyobrażacie sobie skończyć nieodpowiednie studia? I mieć wykształcenie, w którym nie chcesz pracować? Przykra sprawa, prawda? Autorka tej prezentacji TED’a, Ruth Chang, skończyła prawo, ale zamiast świetlanej karery prawniczki wybrała… filozofię. A w przytoczonej poniżej prezentacji TED’a zajmuje się wyjaśnieniem na czym polegają trudne życiowe decyzje, jak je traktować i jak sobie z nimi radzić. I tłumaczy to świetnie!

Jak zwykle, poniżej, oprócz linku do prezentacji Ruth Chang, podajemy 10 pytań pomagających ci sprawdzić, czy dobrze zrozumiałeś tekst (odpowiedzi na końcu wpisu), a następnie angielski skrypt wystąpienia z trudniejszymi słówkami wyjaśnionymi po polsku.



  • Author, title, link


 Ruth Chang “How to make hard choices”

TED Salon NY 2014               14:20 min


about the author:

Ruth Chang is an American professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, [2] known for her research on the incommensurability of values and on practical reason and normativity.[


  • TRUE/FALSE questions


  1. A donut is something that people often drink for breakfast.   TRUE/FALSE
  2. A charity is a place where donuts are sold.  TRUE/FALSE
  3. The author believes that all problems of choice, even those which seem very difficult, can be easily resolved.  TRUE/FALSE
  4. The author believes that if we cannot quickly solve a difficult choice, it means we are stupid.  TRUE/FALSE
  5. There is no DVD to be bought which would help you in choosing a better option in difficult situations related with choice.  TRUE/FALSE
  6. An expression “it puts you on the cutting edge” may mean “be among the elite, see the newest things”.  TRUE/FALSE
  7. The word “merit” is similar to the word “advantage”.  TRUE/FALSE
  8. When the author says that the two options are “on a par”, she thinks that neither of them is obviously better.  TRUE/FALSE
  9. The expression “it’s nuts” is similar in meaning to the expression “it is normal, it is obvious”.  TRUE/FALSE
  10. When the author graduated from university, her specialization became her profession for life.  TRUE/FALSE



  • English script       (with selected vocabulary explained in Polish)



0:12 Think of a hard choice you’ll face in the near future. It might be between two careers [[[pomiędzy dwoma rodzajami pracy zawodowej]]] — artist and accountant [[[księgowy]]]— or places to live — the city or the country — or even between two people to marry — you could marry Betty or you could marry Lolita. Or it might be a choice about whether to have children, to have an ailing [[[schorowany]]] parent move in with you, to raise [[[wychowywać]]] your child in a religion that your partner lives by but leaves you cold. Or whether to donate [[[podarować]]] your life savings to charity [[[fundacja charytatywna]]].


Chances are, the hard choice you thought of was something big, something momentous [[[przełomowa decyzja]]], something that matters to you. Hard choices seem to be occasions for agonizing [[[dramatyzować]], hand-wringing [[[wahać się]]], the gnashing of teeth [[[zgrzytać zębami]]]. But I think we’ve misunderstood hard choices and the role they play in our lives. Understanding hard choices uncovers a hidden power each of us possesses [[[posiadać]]].


What makes a choice hard is the way the alternatives relate [[[porównanie obu możliwości]]]. In any easy choice, one alternative is better than the other. In a hard choice, one alternative is better in some ways, the other alternative is better in other ways, and neither is better than the other overall. You agonize over whether to stay in your current job in the city or uproot your life [[[przenieść]]] for more challenging work in the country, because staying is better in some ways, moving is better in others, and neither is better than the other overall.


We shouldn’t think that all hard choices are big. Let’s say you’re deciding what to have for breakfast. You could have high fiber bran cereal [[[płatki owsiane z błonnikiem]]] or a chocolate donut [[[ciastko w czekoladzie]]]. Suppose what matters in the choice is tastiness [[[smak]]] and healthfulness [[[pożywność]]]. The cereal is better for you, the donut tastes way better, but neither is better than the other overall, a hard choice. Realizing that small choices can also be hard, may make big hard choices seem less intractable [[[nie do pokonania]]]. After all, we manage to figure out what to have for breakfast, so maybe we can figure out whether to stay in the city or uproot for the new job in the country.


We also shouldn’t think that hard choices are hard because we are stupid. When I graduated from college, I couldn’t decide between two careers, philosophy and law. I really loved philosophy. There are amazing things you can learn as a philosopher, and all from the comfort of an armchair [[[nie ruszając sie z fotela]]]. But I came from a modest immigrant family where my idea of luxury was having a pork tongue [[[ozorki wieprzowe]]] and jelly sandwich [[[kanapkę z dżemem]]] in my school lunchbox, so the thought of spending my whole life sitting around in armchairs just thinking … Well, that struck me as the height of extravagance [[[skrajna ekstrawagancja]]] and frivolity [[[zbytek]]]. So I got out my yellow pad [[[bloczek z karteczkami]]], I drew a line down the middle, and I tried my best to think of the reasons for and against each alternative. I remember thinking to myself, if only I knew what my life in each career would be like. If only God or Netflix [[[sieć TV online]]] would send me a DVD of my two possible future careers, I’d be set [[[to by mi wystarczyło]]]. I’d compare them side by side, I’d see that one was better, and the choice would be easy.


But I got no DVD, and because I couldn’t figure out which was better, I did what many of us do in hard choices: I took the safest option. Fear [[[obawa]]] of being an unemployed philosopher led me to become a lawyer, and as I discovered, lawyering [[[bycie prawnikiem]]] didn’t quite fit [[[nie do końca mi pasowało]]]. It wasn’t who I was. So now I’m a philosopher, and I study hard choices, and I can tell you, that fear of the unknown, while a common motivational default [[[wprawdzie występuje często w praktyce]]] in dealing with hard choices, rests on a misconception of them [[[zakłada pewną błędną przesłankę]]]. It’s a mistake to think that in hard choices, one alternative really is better than the other, but we’re too stupid to know which, and since we don’t know which, we might as well take the least risky option. Even taking two alternatives side by side with full information, a choice can still be hard. Hard choices are hard not because of us or our ignorance [[[ignorancja]]]; they’re hard because there is no best option.


Now, if there’s no best option, if the scales don’t tip [[[waga nie przechyla się na żadną ze stron]]] in favor of one alternative over another, then surely the alternatives must be equally good. So maybe the right thing to say in hard choices is that they’re between equally good options. But that can’t be right. If alternatives are equally good, you should just flip a coin [[[rzucić monetą]]] between them, and it seems a mistake to think, here’s how you should decide between careers, places to live, people to marry: Flip a coin.


There’s another reason for thinking that hard choices aren’t choices between equally good options. Suppose you have a choice between two jobs: you could be an investment banker [[[pracownik w banku]]] or a graphic artist [[[grafik komputerowy]]]. There are a variety of things that matter in such a choice, like the excitement of the work [[[przyjemność z pracy]]], achieving financial security, having time to raise a family [[[założyć rodzinę]]], and so on. Maybe the artist’s career puts you on the cutting edge [[[pozwala ci spróbować czegoś nowego]]] of new forms of pictorial expression. Maybe the banking career puts you on the cutting edge of new forms of financial manipulation [[[manipulacja]]].




Imagine the two jobs however you like, so that neither is better than the other.


Now suppose we improve one of them, a bit. Suppose the bank, wooing you [[[zabiegając o ciebie]]], adds 500 dollars a month to your salary. Does the extra money now make the banking job better than the artist one? Not necessarily. A higher salary makes the banking job better than it was before, but it might not be enough to make being a banker better than being an artist. But if an improvement in one of the jobs doesn’t make it better than the other, then the two original jobs could not have been equally good. If you start with two things that are equally good, and you improve one of them, it now must be better than the other. That’s not the case with options in hard choices.


So now we’ve got a puzzle. We’ve got two jobs. Neither is better than the other, nor are they equally good. So how are we supposed to choose? Something seems to have gone wrong here. Maybe the choice itself is problematic, and comparison is impossible. But that can’t be right. It’s not like we’re trying to choose between two things that can’t be compared. We’re weighing the merits of two jobs, after all, not the merits [[[zaleta]]] of the number nine and a plate of fried eggs [[[talerz z jajecznicą]]]. A comparison of the overall merits of two jobs is something we can make, and one we often do make.


I think the puzzle arises because of an unreflective [[[automatyczny]]] assumption we make about value. We unwittingly assume that values like justice, beauty, kindness, are akin [[[podobne]]] to scientific quantities, like length, mass and weight. Take any comparative [[[związany z porównywaniem]]] question not involving value, such as which of two suitcases is heavier. There are only three possibilities. The weight of one is greater, lesser [[[mniejszy]]] or equal to the weight of the other. Properties like weight can be represented by real numbers — one, two, three and so on — and there are only three possible comparisons between any two real numbers. One number is greater, lesser, or equal to the other. Not so with values. As post-Enlightenment creatures [[[stworzenia korzystające z dorobku Oświecenia]]], we tend to assume that scientific thinking holds the key to everything of importance in our world, but the world of value [[[świat wartości]]] is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers. The stuff of the other world can’t. We shouldn’t assume that the world of is [[[świat rzeczy]]], of lengths and weights, has the same structure as the world of ought [[[świat wartości]]], of what we should do.


So if what matters to us — a child’s delight [[[zachwyt]]], the love you have for your partner — can’t be represented by real numbers, then there’s no reason to believe that in choice, there are only three possibilities — that one alternative is better, worse or equal to the other. We need to introduce a new, fourth relation beyond being better, worse or equal, that describes what’s going on in hard choices. I like to say that the alternatives are „on a par.” [[[być jakoś porównywalnym ze sobą]]] When alternatives are on a par, it may matter very much which you choose, but one alternative isn’t better than the other. Rather, the alternatives are in the same neighborhood of value, in the same league [[[liga]]] of value, while at the same time being very different in kind of value. That’s why the choice is hard.


Understanding hard choices in this way uncovers something about ourselves we didn’t know. Each of us has the power to create reasons [[[konkretne argumenty]]]. Imagine a world in which every choice you face is an easy choice, that is, there’s always a best alternative. If there’s a best alternative, then that’s the one you should choose, because part of being rational [[[racjonalny]]] is doing the better thing rather than the worse thing, choosing what you have most reason to choose. In such a world, we’d have most reason to wear black socks instead of pink socks, to eat cereal instead of donuts, to live in the city rather than the country, to marry Betty instead of Lolita. A world full of only easy choices would enslave [[[przymusić]]] us to reasons.


When you think about it,




it’s nuts [[[to jest absurdalne]]] to believe that the reasons given to you dictated [[[zadecydować]]] that you had most reason to pursue the exact hobbies you do, to live in the exact house you do, to work at the exact job you do. Instead, you faced alternatives that were on a par — hard choices — and you made reasons for yourself to choose that hobby, that house and that job. When alternatives are on a par, the reasons given to us, the ones that determine whether we’re making a mistake, are silent as to what to do. It’s here, in the space of hard choices, that we get to exercise our normative power [[[normatywny, zwiazany z twoimi wartościami]]] — the power to create reasons for yourself, to make yourself into the kind of person for whom country living is preferable to the urban life.


When we choose between options that are on a par, we can do something really rather remarkable. We can put our very selves behind an option [[[możemy pokazać kim jesteśmy]]]. Here’s where I stand. Here’s who I am, I am for banking. I am for chocolate donuts.




This response in hard choices is a rational response, but it’s not dictated by reasons given to us. Rather, it’s supported by reasons created by us. When we create reasons for ourselves to become this kind of person rather than that, we wholeheartedly [[[z całego serca]]] become the people that we are. You might say that we become the authors of our own lives.


So when we face hard choices, we shouldn’t beat our head against a wall [[[walić głową w mur]]] trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be? You might decide to be a pink sock-wearing, cereal-loving, country-living banker, and I might decide to be a black sock-wearing, urban, donut-loving artist. What we do in hard choices is very much up to each of us.


Now, people who don’t exercise their normative powers in hard choices are drifters [[[bezwolni]]]. We all know people like that. I drifted into being a lawyer. I didn’t put my agency behind lawyering [[[nie identyfikowałem się z byciem prawnikiem]]]. I wasn’t for lawyering. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment — pats on the head [[[poklepywanie po głowie]]], fear, the easiness of an option — to determine what they do. So the lesson of hard choices: reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person.


Far from being sources of agony [[[agonia]]] and dread [[[strach]]], hard choices are precious [[[cenny]]] opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition, that the reasons that govern [[[rządzić]]] our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out, and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive [[[konkretny, unikalny]]] people that we are. And that’s why hard choices are not a curse [[[przekleństwo]]] but a godsend [[[błogosławieństwo]]].


Thank you.




  • Answers to TRUE/FALSE questions


True: 5, 6, 7, 8     False: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10




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