Representing the Possible Kinds of Deliberation Under Determinism and Chance

The following diagrams are my attempt to graphically represent the possible ways our deliberation and decisions could be related in the face of determinism, chance, and non-chancy indeterminism (e.g. agent causation). There are more variations possible but I think these are the relevant ones. I’d be very interested to know if these diagrams make sense, and what people’s intuitions are about whether you could rationally deliberate while believing you were faced with a decision of each kind.


Dotted/dashed lines represent objectively chancy events.

Tn is the time now, i.e. where the deliberator thinks they are in the decision-making process.

Td is the time at which the decision will be made (this need not be a fixed time).

A, B and C are the options the agent is choosing between.

Black lines are possible paths of deliberation (their height and length don’t represent anything specific).


Figure 1: Non-chancy but indeterministic deliberation leading to a non-chancy decision.

Figure 2: Fully deterministic decision-making.

Figure 3: Non-chancy but indeterministic deliberation leading to a fatalistic decision.

Figure 4: Deterministic deliberation leading to a fatalistic decision.

Figure 5: A deliberation-insensitive chancy decision.

Figure 6: Deterministic deliberation leading to a chancy decision.

Figure 7: Non-chancy but indeterministic deliberation leading to a chancy decision.

Figure 8: Chancy deliberation leading to a chancy decision.


2 thoughts on “Representing the Possible Kinds of Deliberation Under Determinism and Chance”

  1. One the first question: the earlier ones are clear, though they take a bit of work at the start to fill in some gaps in the explanation.

    In particular you don’t say what the vertical axis represents, but it’s clear that it’s taken to represent *something*. On the left side they represent something like the starting point of deliberation, and on the right the end points — perhaps this could be unified by letting the Y axis be different mental states in no particular order. This becomes less clear later on, especially by the point of fig 8 where I’m not entirely confident what the two dotted lines originating from a single point represent, nor why there’s a solid line in the middle.

    From what I can tell, the jaggedness seems unnecessary: would anything be lost if you used only straight lines? Is the jaggedness just a way to represent that reasoning was done? Likewise, in figs 4 and 5, does the criss-crossing represent anything special?

    And on the second question: my intuitions are that I can rationally deliberate when faced with a decision of any kind. I think I’d want to take that as analytic, in fact, but I’d be happy to be given reasons to doubt it.

    1. Thanks Ed.

      I guess I was thinking of the vertical axis as just representing the way that deliberation seems like a kind of meandering process, not something that goes in straight lines, but I didn’t want it to represent anything that was relevant to the point. So you are probably right that I should just use straight lines. I’m thinking it might also be useful to be clearer about whether intersections represent anything.

      I’d also be interested to hear any thoughts on how to represent the difference between a chancy divergence point and a non-chancy but indeterministic one. Of course not everyone thinks that there is a distinction there, so maybe the difficulty of representing it graphically is a symptom of that.

      I might post some updated versions next week.

      On the analyticity thought: that sounds about right, but then I guess I would just rephrase the question: does a deliberative process that appears to have X `shape’ to the agent count as a decision for them? I am tempted to say that if, for example, it appears that your current deliberative process is completely deterministic then it does not even seem to be a decision to you. Of course I don’t think that that claim is going to be obviously true (I expect intuitions to run counter to it) but I’m hoping I can give arguments in favour of it. Or, at the very least, why it might be rational not to think that the complete deterministic process is a decision for you, even if it is also rationally permissible to believe that it is.

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