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Deciding to Deliberate

by: Tomasz Neugebauer

first posted 1998.
updated: August, 2001

page: 3 of 5

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There is an intuition for the view that decisions can be divided into significant and insigificant ones. The insignificant decisions are 'reversible' in that they can lead to exactly the same place as some other option. Say that I am faced with a decision of going to the theatre or going to a café. This could be the first crossroad in our diagram (as I already noted, sitting there and deliberating is always also an option). What our diagram implies is that at some later point in time such as two hours later, the two roads meet again. Imagine that the café is actually right next to the theatre. I decided to go to the café and sat there for exactly as long as the theatre performance, and then came back the exact same way as if I went to the theatre. You can imagine only with much difficulty running into yourself right outside of the theatre, and merging into one person again on your way home. The difficulty is in the fact that even if my café experience lasted exactly as long as the theatre performance, my decision not to go to the theatre had a permanent and significant effect on reality. I could not merge into one outside of the theatre because for the last two hours life was different for me as a result of my decision. Furthermore, my life will be different permanently as a result of this decision. I will never really know what life would have been like had I gone to the theatre. I will not have sat next to the same people, and I would not have had the same thoughts and memories as a result of my choice. Our personalities and lives are a result of our decisions and experiences. For this reason, our choices are permanent and irreversible as well as absolutely significant to the people that we become.

All decisions are significant, even those made without deliberation. This diagram shows an illusory distinction between significant and insignificant decisions


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