Cause, Effect and Choice

No matter how confusing the world can seem, it is a lawful place. Everything happens for a reason, and every event affects what comes after. This includes our choices. They come from our mental state influenced by our personal history and ripple out into the world, their effects mixing with everything else that is going on. Sometimes this is obvious: we go out for an ice cream and end up having one. Other times, it is not: a car slows down to let us cross the street and narrowly misses a speeding truck a few blocks later. Often it is somewhere in between: we reinforce our ice cream habit and gain a bit of weight over the summer.

There are patterns in this tangled mess of causality. Repeated choices become habits, eating habits affect our health and so on. When the pattern is tangible enough, we make good choices. When it is abstract, knowing may not be enough: impulse overrides reason. Worse, there may be patterns we don’t see. We’d have no way to make good choices then.

What if we are missing some causal patterns? How bad can it be?

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